Production techniques and systems

Using computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacture (CAM) in a manufacturing setting

Developments in mass production techniques have led to a variety of production methods being created to improve efficiency by saving time and cutting costs.


The automation of workplaces has led to an increase in skilled workers but a decrease in job opportunities, as machines have taken over the jobs previously done by humans. Automation has streamlined the manufacturing system by increasing production and reducing errors.

Computer aided design (CAD)

Computer aided design (CAD) now has the capability to design new products in 3D, visualise them in a variety of materials and send images around the world for collaboration and consultation. Once production is finalised, these designs are sent to computer aided manufacture (CAM) machines to be formed. Autodesk and Solidworks are common forms of CAD software used.

A designer working on a CAD blueprint is using his pen to point at the design.
Advantages of CADDisadvantages of CAD
Ideas can be drawn and developed quicklyExpensive to set up
Designs can be viewed from all angles and with a range of materialsNeeds a skilled workforce
Some testing and consumer feedback can be done before costly production takes placeDifficult to keep up with constantly changing and improving technology

Computer aided manufacture (CAM)

By using computer aided manufacture (CAM), designs can be sent to CAM machines such as laser cutters, 3D printers and milling machines.

A close-up image of a laser cutter engraving details from a piece of veneer wood.
Laser cutter
Advantages of CAMDisadvantages of CAM
Fast and accurate productionExpensive to set up
Machines can run constantly on repetitive tasksNeeds a skilled workforce of engineers

Flexible manufacturing systems (FMS)

Flexible manufacturing systems (FMS) are a series of different machines producing different parts for a product. The system is flexible because, at any time, machines in the process can be reprogrammed to change their task and production can be changed to produce more or fewer parts without stopping the other areas of the process.

Just in time (JIT)

Just in time (JIT) manufacturing is triggered by a customer order. The correct amounts of materials are ordered in to cover the order, and these arrive just as they are needed by production. This saves money on storage, reduces waste and ensures there is no money wasted producing stock that will remain unsold. There are disadvantages to the system in that, if any part of the product cannot be sourced, clients have to wait for their order to be produced.

Lean manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a Japanese concept, based on minimising costs and maximising efficiency by cutting down on waste and the amount of materials and energy used in production. This is done by adapting designs and making changes to the production process. For example, to reduce waste, a packaging net could be redesigned to include a tessellating pattern or, to improve efficiency, changeover times between production runs could be reduced.