A factory, manufacturing plant or a production plant is an industrial
site, often a complex consisting of several buildings filled with machinery
, where workers manufacture
items or operate machines which process
each item into another. They are a critical part of modern economic production
, with the majority of the world's goods
being created or processed within factories.
Factories arose with the introduction of machinery during the Industrial Revolution
, when the capital
and space requirements became too great for cottage industry
or workshops. Early factories that contained small amounts of machinery, such as one or two spinning mule
s, and fewer than a dozen workers have been called "glorified workshops".
Most modern factories have large warehouses or warehouse
-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line
production. Large factories tend to be located with access to multiple modes of transportation, with some having rail
and water loading and unloading facilities. In some countries like Australia, it is common to call a factory building a "Shed
Factories may either make discrete product
s or some type of continuously produced
material, such as chemical
s, pulp and paper
, or refined oil products
. Factories manufacturing chemicals are often called ''plants
'' and may have most of their equipment – tank
s, pressure vessel
s, chemical reactor
s, pumps and piping – outdoors and operated from control room
s. Oil refineries
have most of their equipment outdoors.
Discrete products may be final good
s, or parts and sub-assemblies which are made into final products elsewhere. Factories may be supplied parts from elsewhere or make them from raw material
s. Continuous production industries typically use heat or electricity
to transform streams of raw materials into finished products.
The term ''mill'' originally referred to the milling of grain
, which usually used natural resources such as water or wind power until those were displaced by steam power
in the 19th century. Because many processes like spinning and weaving, iron rolling
, and paper manufacturing were originally powered by water, the term survives as in ''steel mill'', ''paper mill'', etc.
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[[Max Weber considered production during ancient times as never warranting classification as factories, with methods of production and the contemporary economic situation incomparable to modern or even pre-modern developments of industry. In ancient times, the earliest production limited to the household, developed into a separate endeavor independent to the place of inhabitation with production at that time only beginning to be characteristic of industry, termed as "unfree shop industry", a situation caused especially under the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh, with slave employment and no differentiation of skills within the slave group comparable to modern definitions as division of labour
According to translations of Demosthenes and Herodotus, Naucratis
was a, or the only, factory in the entirety of ancient Egypt
. A source of 1983 (Hopkins), states the largest factory production in ancient times was of 120 slaves within 4th century BC Athens. An article within the New York Times article dated 13 October 2011 states:
... discovered at Blombos Cave
, a cave on the south coast of South Africa where 100,000-year-old tools and ingredients were found with which early modern human
s mixed an ochre
Although The ''Cambridge Online Dictionary'' definition of factory states:
The first machine is stated by one source to have been traps used to assist with the capturing of animals, corresponding to the machine as a mechanism operating independently or with very little force by interaction from a human, with a capacity for use repeatedly with operation exactly the same on every occasion of functioning. The wheel
was invented c. 3000 BC, the spoked wheel c. 2000 BC. The Iron Age
began approximately 1200–1000 BC. However, other sources define machinery as a means of production.
Archaeology provides a date for the earliest city as 5000 BC as Tell Brak (Ur ''et al.'' 2006), therefore a date for cooperation and factors of demand, by an increased community size and population to make something like factory level production a conceivable necessity.
Archaeologist Bonnet, unearthed the foundations of numerous workshop
s in the city of Kerma
proving that as early as 2000 BC Kerma was a large urban capital.
was first made in the Persian Empire
some time before 350 BC.
In the 3rd century BC, Philo of Byzantium
describes a water-driven wheel in his technical treatises. Factories producing garum
were common in the Roman Empire
. The Barbegal aqueduct and mills
are an industrial complex from the 2nd century AD found in southern France. By the time of the 4th century AD, there was a water-milling installation with a capacity to grind 28 tons of grain per day,
a rate sufficient to meet the needs of 80,000 persons, in the Roman Empire.
The earliest proper factory milling installations appeared in the Islamic world
from the 8th century onwards. The large population increase in medieval Islamic cities, such as Baghdad
's 1.5 million population, led to the development of large-scale factory milling installations with higher productivity to feed and support the large growing population. A 10th-century grain-processing factory in the Egyptian town of Bilbays
, for example, produced an estimated 300 tons of grain and flour per day.
Both watermills and windmill
s were widely used in the Islamic world at the time.
[Adam Lucas (2006), ''Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology'', p. 65, Brill Publishers, ]
The Venice Arsenal
also provides one of the first examples of a factory in the modern sense of the word. Founded in 1104 in Venice
, Republic of Venice
, several hundred years before the Industrial Revolution
, it mass-produced
ships on assembly line
s using manufactured parts
. The Venice Arsenal apparently produced nearly one ship every day and, at its height, employed 16,000 people.
One of the earliest factories was John Lombe
's water-powered silk mill
, operational by 1721. By 1746, an integrated brass mill
was working at Warmley
. Raw material went in at one end, was smelted
into brass and was turned into pans, pins, wire, and other goods. Housing was provided for workers on site. Josiah Wedgwood
in Staffordshire and Matthew Boulton
at his Soho Manufactory
were other prominent early industrialists, who employed the factory system.
The factory system began widespread use somewhat later when cotton spinning
is the person credited with inventing the prototype of the modern factory. After he patented his water frame
in 1769, he established Cromford Mill
, in Derbyshire
, England, significantly expanding the village of Cromford
to accommodate the migrant workers new to the area. The factory system was a new way of organizing workforce
made necessary by the development of machines which were too large to house in a worker's cottage. Working hours were as long as they had been for the farmer, that is, from dawn to dusk, six days per week. Overall, this practice essentially reduced skilled and unskilled workers to replaceable commodities. Arkwright's factory was the first successful cotton spinning factory in the world; it showed unequivocally the way ahead for industry and was widely copied.
Between 1770 and 1850 mechanized factories supplanted traditional artisan shops as the predominant form of manufacturing institution, because the larger-scale factories enjoyed a significant technological and supervision advantage over the small artisan shops. The earliest factories (using the factory system
) developed in the cotton and wool textiles industry. Later generations of factories included mechanized shoe production and manufacturing of machinery, including machine tools. Even more later generations of factories included ones that supplied the railroad industry included rolling mills, foundries and locomotive works, along with agricultural-equipment factories that produced cast-steel plows and reapers. Bicycles were mass-produced beginning in the 1880s.
The Nasmyth, Gaskell and Company's Bridgewater Foundry
, which began operation in 1836, was one of the earliest factories to use modern materials handling such as cranes and rail tracks through the buildings for handling heavy items.
Large scale electrification
of factories began around 1900 after the development of the AC motor
which was able to run at constant speed depending on the number of poles and the current electrical frequency. At first larger motors were added to line shaft
s, but as soon as small horsepower motors became widely available, factories switched to unit drive. Eliminating line shaft
s freed factories of layout constraints and allowed factory layout to be more efficient. Electrification enabled sequential automation
using relay logic
further revolutionized the factory concept in the early 20th century, with the innovation of the mass production
. Highly specialized laborers situated alongside a series of rolling ramps would build up a product such as (in Ford's case) an automobile
. This concept dramatically decreased production costs for virtually all manufactured goods and brought about the age of consumerism
In the mid - to late 20th century, industrialized countries introduced next-generation factories with two improvements:
# Advanced statistical
methods of quality control
, pioneered by the American mathematician William Edwards Deming
, whom his home country initially ignored. Quality control turned Japanese factories into world leaders in cost-effectiveness
and production quality.
# Industrial robot
s on the factory floor, introduced in the late 1970s. These computer-controlled welding arms and grippers could perform simple tasks such as attaching a car door quickly and flawlessly 24 hours a day. This too cut costs and improved speed.
Some speculation as to the future of the factory includes scenarios with rapid prototyping
, and orbit
Historically significant factories
* Venetian Arsenal
* Cromford Mill
* Lombe's Mill
* Soho Manufactory
* Portsmouth Block Mills
* Slater Mill Historic Site
* Lowell Mills
* Springfield Armory
* Harpers Ferry Armory
* Nasmyth, Gaskell and Company
also called the Bridgewater Foundry
* Baldwin Locomotive Works
* Highland Park Ford Plant
* Ford River Rouge Complex
* Hawthorne Works
* Stalingrad Tractor Plant
Siting the factory
Before the advent of mass transportation
, factories' needs for ever-greater concentrations of laborer
s meant that they typically grew up in an urban setting or fostered their own urbanization
. Industrial slum
s developed, and reinforced their own development through the interaction
s between factories, as when one factory's output or waste-product became the raw materials of another factory (preferably nearby). Canal
s and railways
grew as factories spread, each clustering around sources of cheap energy, available materials and/or mass markets. The exception proved the rule: even greenfield
factory sites such as Bournville
, founded in a rural setting, developed its own housing and profited from convenient communications systems.
curbed some of the worst excesses of industrialization
's factory-based society, a series of Factory Acts
leading the way in Britain. Tram
s, automobiles and town planning
encouraged the separate development of industrial suburbs and residential suburbs, with laborers commuting between them.
Though factories dominated the Industrial Era, the growth in the service sector
eventually began to dethrone them: the focus of labor in general shifted to central-city office towers or to semi-rural campus-style establishments, and many factories stood deserted in local rust belts
The next blow to the traditional factories came from globalization
. Manufacturing processes (or their logical successors, assembly
plants) in the late 20th century re-focussed in many instances on Special Economic Zone
s in developing countries or on maquiladora
s just across the national boundaries of industrialized states. Further re-location to the least industrialized nations appears possible as the benefits of out-sourcing
and the lessons of flexible location apply in the future.
Governing the factory
Much of management
theory developed in response to the need to control factory processes. Assumptions on the hierarchies
of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled laborers and their supervisors and managers still linger on; however an example of a more contemporary approach to handle design applicable to manufacturing facilities can be found in Socio-Technical Systems (STS)
A shadow factory is one of a number of manufacturing sites built in dispersed locations in times of war to reduce the risk of disruption due to enemy air-raids
and often with the dual purpose of increasing manufacturing capacity. Before World War II Britain had built many shadow factories
British shadow factories
Production of the Supermarine Spitfire
at its parent company's base at Woolston, Southampton
was vulnerable to enemy attack as a high-profile target and was well within range of ''Luftwaffe
'' bombers. Indeed, on 26 September 1940 this facility was completely destroyed by an enemy bombing raid. Supermarine
had already established a plant at Castle Bromwich
; this action prompted them to further disperse Spitfire production around the country with many premises being requisitioned by the British Government.
Connected to the Spitfire was production of its equally important Rolls-Royce Merlin
's main aero engine
facility was located at Derby
, the need for increased output was met by building new factories in Crewe
and using a purpose-built factory of Ford of Britain
in Trafford Park Manchester
[Pugh 2000, pp. 192-198.]
Image:Herten - Zeche Ewald 12 ies.jpg|Zeche Ewald in Herten, exterior (2011)
Image:Herten - Zeche Ewald 14 ies.jpg|Zeche Ewald in Herten, interior (2011)
File:Fox Brothers, Coldharbour Mill, Uffculme - geograph.org.uk - 97156.jpg|Coldharbour Mill textile factory, built in 1799.
File:Adolph Menzel - Eisenwalzwerk - Google Art Project.jpg|Adolph von Menzel: ''Moderne Cyklopen''
File:New Lanark buildings 2009.jpg|New Lanark mill
File:Workers in the fuse factory Woolwich Arsenal Flickr 4615367952 d40a18ec24 o.jpg|Workers in the fuse factory, Woolwich Arsenal late 1800s
File:Airacobra P39 Assembly LOC 02902u.jpg|The assembly plant of the Bell Aircraft Corporation at Wheatfield, New York, United States, 1944
File:River Rouge tool and die8b00276r.jpg|Interior of the Rouge Tool & Die works, 1944
File:Hyundai car assembly line.jpg|Hyundai's Assembly line (about 2005)
File:Apmisc-MSFC-6870792.jpg|alt=A large horizontal rocket with USA painted on the side inside of a manufacturing facility|First stages of Saturn V rockets being manufactured at the NASA Michoud rocket factory in the 1960s
File:NASA SSPF factory panorama.jpg|Space station modules being manufactured in the Space Station Processing Facility
File:ThyssenKrupp_Duisburg_016.jpg|A ladle pouring molten steel into a Basic Oxygen Furnace for secondary steelmaking, inside a steel mill factory in Germany
File:At_Boeing's_Everett_factory_near_Seattle_(9130160595).jpg|Airplanes being manufactured at the Boeing Everett Factory assembly line
* British shadow factories
* Company Town
* Factory farm
* Factory system
* Industrial robot
* Industrial railway
* Industrial Revolution
* List of production topics
* Plant layout study
* Software factory
* Powerhouse (instrumental)
* Needham, Joseph (1986). ''Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Part 1''. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.
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* Price, Alfred. ''The Spitfire Story: Second edition''. London: Arms and Armour Press Ltd., 1986. .
* Pugh, Peter. ''The Magic of a Name – The Rolls-Royce Story – The First 40 Years''. Cambridge, England. Icon Books Ltd, 2000.
* Thomas, Dublin(1981). "Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826–1860: pp. 86–107" New York: Columbia University Press.
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* McDonald, G (2000) Business ethics: practical proposals for organisations Journal of Business Ethics. v 25(2) pp. 169–85