production line

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production line

or

assembly line

a means of organizing PRODUCTION whereby a product is manufactured by passing it through a series of operations, further materials or components being added as appropriate. This method of production is used in, for example, the production of motor cars and electrical products such as television sets.

In planning an assembly line careful attention must be paid to PRODUCTION-LINE BALANCING to ensure that all operations are synchronized so as to produce a preplanned volume of output.

Assembly-line methods usually involve breaking down production operations into many small tasks. This has the benefit of reducing the complexity of each task, reducing the skill demanded of production operatives and reducing training costs. Such lines also create opportunities to use specialized purpose-built machines to undertake particular production or assembly processes (see AUTOMATION, ROBOT). Assembly line methods also facilitate the use of special materials-handling devices like conveyor belts which reduce materials-handling costs. Finally, use of assembly lines serves to reduce stock holdings of raw materials and components between production processes by making it easier to estimate daily production and usage.

On the other hand, assembly lines are vulnerable to breakdowns and disruptions since a breakdown at any point on the assembly line stops the whole production process. In addition, the speed at which the line is operated can cause stress problems for operatives. Finally, the limited and repetitive nature of each operation can lead to worker demotivation. To counter such motivational problems some companies use job enrichment programmes whereby operatives undertake a wider range of activities, or interchange between activities (see JOB DESIGN AND REDESIGN). See PRODUCT-FOCUSED LAYOUT, JUST-IN-TIME (JIT) SYSTEM.

Collins Dictionary of Business, 3rd ed. © 2002, 2005 C Pass, B Lowes, A Pendleton, L Chadwick, D O’Reilly and M Afferson
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