Scales of production

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

Prototypes and one-off production

There are many ways to produce a prototype - some are rough and look like models, and some function as intended and are well finished. Many architectural models are made from timber lolly sticks, matches or balsa wood. Model-making timber can be shaped easily and glued in place at speed.

A modern, wooden, built-in storage space with cupboards and drawers underneath a staircase.

A custom-made or bespoke product that is made from timber could be based on a customer design specification. Products such as made-to-measure wardrobes or hand-crafted furniture are expensive because each piece of material has been designed and cut for that specific product, involving great skill and time.

Batch production

Batch production is where many items of the same product are produced. An example relating to timber is where a set of chairs is required to match a dining room set.

A carpenter could design the chair, and then cut all the timber at the same time to make the set. The carpenter would then have a kit to start making batches of chairs. If each part of the chair needed to be drilled in exactly the same place, the carpenter would make a drilling jig that would hold the timber while each part was drilled. If a part of the chair needed the same shape profile from a plank of timber, the carpenter would make a designing template so that each part would be shaped the same.

Material costs

Each time a product is made, the materials that are used have had to be bought. If just one product is made, quite often the cost is high because small orders are placed to supply the materials. When a product is built on a large scale, money is saved when compared with the cost of making a one-off product.


If a garden bench was designed and 25 screws were needed to fit it together, it would be possible to visit a hardware shop and buy 25 screws. The screws could be sold at a price per screw or by weight.

If one screw = 7p

7p × 25 screws = 175p or £1.75

If 250 screws were needed:

7p × 250 = 1,750p or £17.50

However, a box of 250 screws could have a set cost of £12.00.

It is possible to calculate the cost difference between the two different methods of purchasing:

£17.50 - £12.00 = £5.50

By buying a larger number of screws in one go, £5.50 has been saved.


A hardware store sells 10 mm bolts at 23p each. A bag of 50 costs £11.00.

If 100 10 mm bolts were needed, would they be best bought individually or as bags, and how much is saved?

Cost individually = 100 × 0.23 = 23

= £23.00

Cost for bags = 2 × 11 = 22

= £22.00

£23.00 - £22.00 = £1.00

The bags would offer the best value, with a saving of £1.00.

Mass production

Mass-produced products are manufactured in large volumes, often on assembly lines where workers fit standard components such as screws and hinges to parts. Examples of mass-produced timber products are mouldings, doors and pencils.

Continuous production

Continuous production takes place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and, in some cases, 365 days a year. There is not generally the demand for a timber-based product to be made using continuous production, but stock sizes of timber and paper can be produced using continuous production methods.