Manufacturing processes vary according to the type of product manufactured. This article lists the 21 subsectors of manufacturing that are recognized and followed by the U.S. Census Bureau. It discusses the issues unique to the processes of three manufacturing subsectors: Apparel manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, and transportation equipment (automobile) manufacturing, and describes two technological tools to aid in the manufacturing process.
Keywords Apparel Manufacturing; Chemical Manufacturing; Latency; Manufacturing Sector; Manufacturing Subsectors; Outsourcing; Process Analytical Technology (PAT); Product Lifecycle Management (PLM); Supply Chain; Supply Chain Management; Time-to-market; Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
Manufacturing: Manufacturing Processes
In 2006, the manufacturing sector contributed 12.1% of value to the Gross Domestic Product of the United States.
The manufacturing sector, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, includes those establishments that are engaged in the mechanical, physical, or chemical transformation of materials, substances, or components into new products (United States Department of Commerce; Census Bureau, Manufacturing and Construction Division, 2005).
The Census Bureau breaks down the manufacturing sector into 21 broad subsectors, each labeled by a three-number code from its North American Industry Classification System (NAICS):
(United States Department of Commerce Census Bureau, 2007, p. 2-3)
311 - Food Manufacturing 312 - Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing 313 - Textile Mills 314 - Textile Product Mills 315 - Apparel Manufacturing 316 - Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing 321 - Wood Product Manufacturing 322 - Paper Manufacturing 323 - Printing and Related Support Activities 324 - Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing 325 - Chemical Manufacturing 326 - Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing 327 - Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing 331 - Primary Metal Manufacturing 332 - Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing 333 - Machinery Manufacturing 334 - Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing 335 - Electrical Equipment, Appliance, and Component Manufacturing 336 - Transportation Equipment Manufacturing 337 - Furniture and Related Product Manufacturing 339 - Miscellaneous Manufacturing
The Census Bureau breaks down each subsector further, into multiple, more detailed segments with four, five, and six-number NAICS codes. For example, the transportation manufacturing subsector, 336, is further broken down into 52 segments. To illustrate, here are the first five number code segments for Transportation Equipment Manufacturing:
(United States Department of Commerce Census Bureau, 2007, p. 2-3)
336 - Transportation Equipment Manufacturing 3361 - Motor Vehicle Manufacturing 33611 - Automobile and Light Duty Motor Vehicle Manufacturing 336111 - Automobile Manufacturing 336112 - Light Truck and Utility Vehicle Manufacturing
Why are the Census Bureau subsectors for manufacturing relevant to the topic of manufacturing processes? They are relevant because each subsector reflects specific production methods associated with material inputs, production equipment, and employee skills (Census Bureau, Manufacturing and Construction Division, 2005).
For this article’s purposes, we will concentrate on the manufacturing processes of three subsectors within the manufacturing sector:
- Apparel Manufacturing
- Chemical Manufacturing
- Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
These three sub-sectors will provide us with the framework for a discussion of some of their unique manufacturing processes.
In this section, we will define the basic processes for apparel manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, and transportation equipment manufacturing. These are crucial, but general processes; each process may include multiple sub-processes that are unique to the industry or product.
Apparel Manufacturing Subsector
The apparel manufacturing sector consists of establishments that turn fabric into clothing.
Apparel Manufacturing Process
The process of turning fabric into clothing is relatively straightforward and requires five main actions.
Here are the five main actions that constitute the basic process for manufacturing an item of clothing:
- Designing the clothing item
- Creating a pattern for the clothing item
- Purchasing fabric and materials for the clothing item
- Preparing the fabric and materials for construction into the clothing item
- Constructing the clothing item
An apparel manufacturing company may complete all or some of the actions in-house. For example, some companies might also weave their own fabric. Others may purchase patterns, and fabrics. Others might contract out certain facets, such as the design of products, while still others may employ outsourcing for part of the process, such as the pattern-making, or sewing of the clothing item, to one or more persons or organizations outside the company.
Chemical Manufacturing Subsector
The chemical manufacturing subsector consists of establishments that transform organic and inorganic raw materials through a chemical process that allows for the formation of new products.
Chemical Manufacturing Process
The process for manufacturing chemicals requires controlled manufacturing conditions and highly-skilled personnel with a knowledge of chemicals, their melting and boiling points, and reactive properties.
Here is a very general outline of the process for manufacturing a chemical:
- Identify the chemical to manufacture and establish the quantity needed.
- Identify the type and quantities of raw materials required to make the chemical.
- Gather information about the chemical properties of the raw materials, their reactive qualities, their melting and boiling points, and any by-products that will result from the synthesizing and manufacturing processes.
- Create a manufacturing process flow document that details the process, equipment, and safety conditions required.
- Follow the process flow document to manufacture the chemical.
Transportation Equipment Manufacturing Subsector
The transportation equipment manufacturing subsector consists of establishments that produce certain tools that facilitate the transportation of people and products. For discussion purposes, I will focus on the manufacturing process for automobiles.
Automobile Manufacturing Process
Of all the manufacturing subsectors, the process for manufacturing automobiles is probably the one that usually comes to mind when we think of large-scale manufacturing operations or "factory production."
Basically, once an automobile model has been designed, tested for safety, performance, and cost-effectiveness and confirmed for production, the process for manufacturing it includes a series of highly-automated operations.
These operations include:
- The procurement of parts and materials
- The setup of the assembly line in one or more physical or geographical locations
- The assembly of the individual components of the automobile
- The joining of all the individual components into a complete automobile
Manufacturing processes are primarily driven by nine factors:
- Legal regulations
- Safety regulations
- Time-to-market of product
- Availability of raw materials
- Price of raw materials
- Geographic location of raw materials
- Availability of skilled workers
- Wages of workers
- Supply chain
Of course, legal and safety regulations are prominent concerns for every U.S. manufacturer. However, the issues associated with each of the nine factors vary in prominence, complexity or level of difficulty to achieve, depending upon the manufacturing industry or subsector.
Here are some of the unique challenges of the manufacturing processes for the three subsectors that we are focusing upon: apparel manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, and automobile manufacturing. These issues are not all-inclusive, but rather highlight the variety of constraints in manufacturing processes.
Apparel Manufacturing Processes — Issues
The following four issues greatly affect the manufacturing process for apparel:
- Fair labor practices by manufacturers (payment of living wages, avoidance of child undocumented immigrant labor)...
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