An operational definition defines something (e.g. a variable, term, or object) in terms of the specific process or set of validation tests used to determine its presence and quantity. That is, one defines something in terms of the operations that count as measuring it.
Job production method
Job production involves firms producing items that meet the specific requirements of the customer. Often these are one-off, unique items such as those made by an architect or wedding dressmaker. For an architect, each building or structure that he designs will be different and tailored to the needs of each individual client.
With job production, a single worker or group of workers handles the complete task. Jobs can be on a small-scale involving little or no technology. However, jobs can also be complex requiring lots of technology.
With low technology jobs, production is simple and it is relatively easy to get hold of the skills and equipment required. Good examples of the job method include:
- Painting and decorating
- Plumbing and heating repairs in the home
High technology jobs are much more complex and difficult. These jobs need to be very well project-managed and require highly qualified and skilled workers. Examples of high technology / complex jobs include:
- Film production
- Large construction projects (e.g. the Millennium Dome)
- Installing new transport systems (e.g. trams in Sheffield and Manchester)
The advantage of job production is that each item can be altered for the specific customer and this provides genuine marketing benefits. A business is likely to be able to ‘add value’ to the products and possibly create a unique selling point (USP), both of which should enable it to sell at high prices.
Whether it is based on low or high technology, Job production is an expensive process as it is labor intensive (uses more workers compared to machines). This raises costs to firms as the payment of wages and salaries is more expensive than the costs of running machines.
Batch production method
As businesses grow and production volumes increase, the production process is often changed to a “batch method”. Batch methods require that a group of items move through the production process together, a stage at a time.
For example when a bakery bakes loaves of wholemeal bread, a large ball of wholemeal dough will be split into several loaves which will be spread out together on a large baking tray. The loaves on the tray will then together be cooked, wrapped and dispatched to shelves, before the bakery starts on a separate batch of, for example, crusty white bread. Note that each loaf is identical within a batch but that loaves can vary from batch to batch.
Batch production is a very common method of organising manufacture. Good examples include:
- Production of electronic instruments
- Fish and chip shops
- Paint and wallpaper manufacturers
- Cereal farming
The batch method can be an advantage for businesses that produce a range of products. It is cheaper to produce a number of each item in one go because machines can be used more effectively, the materials can be bought in bulk and the workers can specialise in that task. There are two particular advantages of workers being able to concentrate their skills.
- They should become more expert at their tasks, which will in turn increase productivity (output per worker). This will lower costs, as fewer workers are needed to produce a set amount.
- Better quality products should be produced as workers are more familiar with the task and so can find ways of improving it.
Batch production requires very careful planning to decide what batch will be produced when. Once a batch is in production it is difficult to change, as switching to another batch takes time and will mean a loss of output. Batch methods can also result in the buildup of significant “work in progress” or stocks (i.e. completed batches waiting for their turn to be worked on in the next operation). This increases costs as it takes up space and raises the chance of damage to stock.
Flow production method
Flow production involves a continuous movement of items through the production process. This means that when one task is finished the next task must start immediately. Therefore, the time taken on each task must be the same.
Flow production (often known as mass production) involves the use of production lines such as in a car manufacturer where doors, engines, bonnets and wheels are added to a chassis as it moves along the assembly line. It is appropriate when firms are looking to produce a high volume of similar items. Some of the big brand names that have consistently high demand are most suitable for this type of production:
- Heinz baked beans
- Kellogg’s corn flakes
- Mars bars
- Ford cars
Flow production is capital intensive. This means it uses a high proportion of machinery in relation to workers, as is the case on an assembly line. The advantage of this is that a high number of products can roll off assembly lines at very low cost. This is because production can continue at night and over weekends and also firms can benefit from economies of scale, which should lower the cost per unit of production.
The main disadvantage is that with so much machinery it is very difficult to alter the production process. This makes production inflexible and means that all products have to be very similar or standardised and cannot be tailored to individual tastes. However some “variety” can be achieved by applying different finishes, decorations etc at the end of the production line.
Mass production method
Mass production (also called flow production, repetitive flow production, series production, or serial production) is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly lines. The concepts of mass production are applied to various kinds of products, from fluids and particulates handled in bulk (such as food, fuel, chemicals, and mined minerals) to discrete solid parts (such as fasteners) to assemblies of such parts (such as household appliances and automobiles).
Mass production of assemblies typically uses electric-motor-powered moving tracks or conveyor belts to move partially complete products to workers, who perform simple repetitive tasks. It improves on earlier high-throughput, continuous-flow mass production made possible by the steam engine.
Mass production of fluid and particulate matter typically involves pipes with centrifugal pumps or screw conveyors (augers) to transfer raw materials or partially complete product between vessels. Fluid flow processes such as oil refining and bulk materials such as wood chips and pulp are automated using a system of process control which uses various instruments to measure variables such as temperature, pressure, volumetric throughput and level, providing feedback to a controller that holds a setpoint.
Advantages and disadvantages
The economies of mass production come from several sources. The primary cause is a reduction of nonproductive effort of all types. In craft production, the craftsman must bustle about a shop, getting parts and assembling them. He must locate and use many tools many times for varying tasks. In mass production, each worker repeats one or a few related tasks that use the same tool to perform identical or near-identical operations on a stream of products. The exact tool and parts are always at hand, having been moved down the assembly line consecutively. The worker spends little or no time retrieving and/or preparing materials and tools, and so the time taken to manufacture a product using mass production is shorter than when using traditional methods.
The probability of human error and variation is also reduced, as tasks are predominantly carried out by machinery. A reduction in labour costs, as well as an increased rate of production, enables a company to produce a larger quantity of one product at a lower cost than using traditional, non-linear methods.
However, mass production is inflexible because it is difficult to alter a design or production process after a production line is implemented. Also, all products produced on one production line will be identical or very similar, and introducing variety to satisfy individual tastes is not easy. However, some variety can be achieved by applying different finishes and decorations at the end of the production line if necessary.
The Ford Model T produced tremendous affordable output but was not very good at responding to demand for variety, customization, or design changes. As a consequence Ford eventually lost market share to General Motors, who introduced annual model changes, more accessories and a choice of colors.