What’s the Difference Between Mass Production and Custom Production?

Custom production process involving metalworking

Production is what makes the world go round. Defined as the conversion of raw materials and resources into finished products, it’s the precursor to consumption. People desire specific types of products. Before they can buy and use a product, though, a company must produce it.

While all production processes involve the conversion of materials and resources into finished products for the purpose of consumption, they can generally be classified as either mass or custom. What’s the difference between mass production and custom production exactly?

What Is Mass Production?

Mass production centers around the production of large quantities of a given product using the same method or methods. It has origins dating back to the Industrial Revolution, during which manufacturing companies would use mass production to churn out thousands upon thousands of finished products. New production processes have since emerged, but the general concept of mass production remains the same: It involves the production of large quantities of a product.

When compared to custom production, mass production is generally faster. Manufacturing companies often use assembly lines with heavy machinery — some of which is automated — to accelerate their production times. Workers are stationed as these assembly lines where they help convert raw materials and resources into the respective product. Regardless, mass production emphasizes speed to achieve large volumes of a finished product very quickly.

What Is Custom Production?

Custom production, on the other hand, centers around the production of smaller quantities of a given product to meet a customer’s specific needs. Customers who buy finished products often have different needs. If a mass-produced product doesn’t meet a customer’s needs, the customer may seek a customized solution. Manufacturing companies use input from customers to custom-produce products.

Because custom production requires customization, it’s slower than mass production. Custom production isn’t performed on assembly lines. Assembly lines follow a specific order of steps, so they are generally used for mass production. Instead, custom production consists of hands-on processes that are performed in workshops. Custom production follows a made-to-order model. Workers customize the product during production so that it meets the needs of the customer who ordered it.

What’s the Difference?

Both mass production and custom production are used to convert raw materials and resources into finished products. Mass production uses a linear method to quickly produce large quantities of a finished product. In comparison, custom production uses a custom method to produce a smaller quantity of products that meets the specific needs of a customer.

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