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While deciding what manufacturing process your factory will will use is one of the most basic decisions a facility manager will make, it can have long-term effects on how the facility operates – and may impact its success overall.


Process selection can occur as a matter of course when new products are being planned, or could occur occasionally during standard operations due to changes in technology and available equipment. Whenever it has to happen, it’s important to know what your options are:


Continuous Processing: Continuous processing systems produce high volumes of standardized output. This is typically seen among products that require constant production, like gasoline, oil, and even flour and sugar. It can also work for products that are highly similar but not completely identical, like televisions and computers.


The standardized output of continuous processing lends itself to easily standardizes methods and equipment, and the high volumes of output result in a low cost per unit. However, as continuous processing means products are made more for inventory than for customer orders, this approach means you’ll have to keep a lot of wire shelving and warehouse storage handy to hang onto whatever products are produced until orders come in.


Intermittent Processing: Intermittent processing is used when you have to handle a large number of processing requirements, at a much lower volume than continuous processing. This processing type generally occurs when batches of similar products are processed in the same manner in a more limited quality; such as when a canning factory produces a variety of different vegetables that are produced in similar fashion but produce completely different end products.


For the most part, intermittent processing is handled in different batches. Each batch produces a different product in smaller quantities, generally directly for customer order, with enough variety that continuous production would be impractical considering the quantities and production methods needed.


Project Processing: The smallest-quantity form of manufacturing, projects are setup to handle complex jobs consisting of unique sets of activities that must be completed in a small time span. This can range from developing new products, to producing a limited quantity for a special promotion, to even something like a large construction project. Project processing isn’t right for every facility or every job, but if you specialize in small quantities and/or rush jobs, project processing is a good way to maintain the flexibility and output you need.

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