Scales of production

There are four terms used to describe the scale of production in relation to manufacturing a product:

Prototype and one-off production

Prototyping can be used for testing and in user trials. As well as this, bespoke specialist machines and vehicles can be made for a client using one-off production. Specialist workers and production aids are needed. This can produce high-quality and original objects, but they are often expensive to make and buy and highly skilled workers are needed to produce them.

When testing a circuit, a breadboard or stripboard can be used to ensure that the circuit functions correctly without more permanent soldering. If the circuit works after the prototype has been tested, it could be then possible to have the circuit made in larger quantities.

Batch production

Batch production is where many items of the same product are produced, such as mobile phones and TVs. A range of products can be made, particularly ones that are regularly changed, but time is lost when retooling and skilled workers are needed. When a product is made in a batch, it is often far cheaper per product than making just one.

Example

Assume the cost of one piece of circuit board is £3.00. The cost of a sheet of circuit board that can be cut into 100 smaller pieces reduces the price by 25 per cent.

It is possible to calculate the cost of the larger circuit board and the savings made.

£3.00 × 0.25 = £0.75

A saving is made of 75p per circuit board.

Therefore, the cost of the larger circuit board is:

£3.00 - £0.75 = £2.25

£2.25 × 100 = £225.00

Question

When pricing up a project for a simple alarm, it is worked out that a single PCB and components cost £6.50. A supplier provides information about bulk buying; when buying in quantities of 1,000 or more, the price drops by 40 per cent.

How much would it cost to make 2,000 of the alarms and how much has been saved with the bulk buying discount?

Without the discount:

£6.50 × 2,000 = £13,000.00

With the discount:

£6.50 × 0.4 = £2.60

£2.60 × 2,000 = £5,200.00

Therefore, there is a saving of:

£13,000.00 - £5,200.00 = £7,800.00

Mass production

Mass-produced products are manufactured in large volumes, and are often made by automated machinery with assembly line workers used to fit parts together or add standard components, such as switches. Examples of mass production for electronic and mechanical systems include radios, remote controls and cars. Products are kept low cost as a large number are made and bulk materials and components are cheaper to buy. There is, however, a large cost in setting up such an assembly line.

Continuous production

Continuous production takes place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and, in some cases, 365 days a year. It can produce huge volumes of a product at a low cost, such as circuit boards or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), but it is limited to a small range of products, and as with mass production it is expensive to set up.