Batch Manufacturing: The Right Production Process for You?
Batch manufacturing is one of those few production styles that gives you the freedom to work on unique configurations with little trouble.
There are plenty of different types of manufacturing processes businesses can use to get their products out the other side.
Each one has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to understand them to better know which to apply to your growing business.
One of the most popular and old school methods is known as batch manufacturing.
Batch manufacturing is a style of manufacturing which compiles the different components of a product through step by step processes.
This basically means that the raw materials move through the production line in batches, so that there is a pause between each step as a batch moves through.
That might sound a little abstract, so let’s look at batch production examples.
How about diving into the mysterious and magical world of manufacturing soap?
That should be interesting.
When dissecting the batch process of manufacturing soap there are three main processes that occur:
— Saponification (yes that’s a real word!) ;
— Drying; and
In batch manufacturing the soap will go through each of these steps in batches.
Let's imagine each batch is 10 pieces of soap.
That means that until 10 pieces of soap are saponified (it’s honestly a real word, Google it) there will be no drying done on any of those pieces.
But when all 10 pieces are saponified they will be moved into the inventory to then be picked up again by the next process of drying.
It's certainly seems like a logically sound way of manufacturing, right?
Whether it’s the way you should be doing things is another question.
PRO TIP: Batch tracking is a common practice in the cosmetics industry since most materials and finished goods have a shelf-life. Without using cosmetics formulation production software, they would have a difficult time avoiding stock from spoiling and following the regulations of their industry.
Characteristics of Batch Manufacturing
When implementing batch manufacturing there are a few characteristics which make it both a credit and a burden to itself.
There are both batch production advantages and disadvantages.
First let’s go through the positives.
There must be a reason it’s such a popular form of manufacturing, right?
— Reduces the effect of set up time
Judging the efficiency of a manufacturing process largely comes down to how long it takes. One of the main factors to this is the set-up time for a step. This could be setting up a machine or even a team member having to warm their equipment up.
With batch processes your manufacturing takes out the need to keep setting machinery up over and over again.
This is unlike mass production which does not wait for batches, and processes materials as soon as they are ready.
To bring this to life, let’s imagine it takes 30 minutes to set up the machine for drying the soap. And it takes 10 minutes for the drying process.
Here is how long it takes for a batch of 10 pieces of soap to dry with mass production
(30 minutes for set up + 10 minutes for drying) x 10 batches = 400 minutes
Here is the calculation with batch production:
30 minutes for set up + (10 minutes for drying x 10 batches) = 130 minutes
There is a significant difference between the two and though this is a simplified calculation it does give an idea of the potential benefit. Here’s a video showing how that can work in digestible visual form:
— Permits use of heavy-duty equipment
Processing in batches means that it makes a lot more sense for businesses to utilize machinery which requires long periods of time.
That means more advanced machinery can be used to increase the quality and capabilities of your product.
Let's say you decide to use advanced machinery so that your soap dries more maturely. That means processing times will be too long for mass production, but the advantage is that you now have a superior product.
— Don’t have to make constant adjustments
If your machinery needs to be adjusted every time you use it, then it saves time and brainpower to just keep it in the same settings for as long as you can.
— Get in the flow
It’s natural to consider that people work better when doing the same process for some time. There is even a science to getting in the flow of work.
Processing things in batches means that long stretches of time are spent doing the same thing, rather than constantly stopping and starting.
It’s a simple, but effective work hack.
— Reduce the burden of transportation time
This is basically the same logic as the set-up time. If you have to keep going back and forth between workstations, then you might as well take materials in batches to save time.
— Has space for unique configurations
Working in batches gives the option of configuring the product between the steps so that the bill of materials can be more advanced.
This means that more customization can come into this kind of processing without having to change the entire manufacturing flow.
— Improve production planning and scheduling
Let’s say there is a situation where one team lacks the skills to run an area of production. For example, the weekend team cannot do the saponification process for your soap.
Instead the weekday teams can make sure that there are enough batches of neat soap for them to work with over the weekend. This kind of flexibility is only possible when working with batches of materials.
— Easier to spot mistakes
If there are any batches with problems, you can spot them quickly and make a new batch as a replacement. With other forms of manufacturing issues may not become apparent until the end of the line, so batch processes give an inherent sense of quality assurance to your products.
Batch Production vs Mass Production
So, we’ve covered the beauty of batch processing.
The knowledge that you can improve your scheduling and reduce mistakes in your production is reassuring.
But the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry reported losing about $50 billion a year because of the inefficiencies of batch processing.
Well that bursts the bubble a bit, doesn’t it?
Okay, so let’s look at why this can be the case by highlighting the differences of batch production with mass production, otherwise known as continuous manufacturing.
The first thing to consider is the number of resources that need to be allocated for batch manufacturing. Each batch goes back to inventory between each step, which means that more resources have to be spent on keeping stock.
This can increase your costs, but also throw your inventory control into question.
And even if that stock is soap, which doesn’t take up too much space, you still have to pay for moving it from and to your inventory.
But production does not have to be this way.
With mass production the flow is constant so that all the steps are performed simultaneously. Each piece moves straight to the next step when it is ready, rather than waiting to be part of a batch.
The obvious advantage here compared to batching production is that greater scale can be achieved.
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Batch processing in manufacturing has the flaw of having to wait between each step so that ultimately you cannot make as much of the product as other forms. That sadly means less soap for you.
Whereas with a solid mass production you can, as you’d expect, make products en masse.
The time and movement of stock between the steps in batch production also increases the chances of human error which are less existent in mass production.
Clearly then, there are downsides to batch manufacturing which must be accounted for when choosing which manufacturing process to implement.
You must consider if the advantages such as extra customization and saved time on setting up are worth the manufacturing cost of the method.
But a lot of it comes down to the specifications of your processes.
The disadvantages to batch manufacturing which has been highlighted here may not apply to the same extent to your business.
Modelling manufacturing processes and mapping them out against each other is a good starting point on deciding if batch manufacturing is right for you.
Master Batch Manufacturing Process
Weighing up the benefits and deciding on a manufacturing process is one thing, mastering it is another.
Especially if you, being a growing manufacturer, are working with small-batch manufacturing.
Each process you implement can have dramatic ripple effects on your business, which is why you always need to investigate the details.
Each process you implement can have dramatic ripple effects on your business. This is why you always need to investigate the details and know all the nitty-gritty details behind what is manufacturing.
Ideally, you can use Katana's batch tracking system to draw all this information together.
Then you can make sure that your batch manufacturing model is implemented to its maximum potential.