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Facility where goods are made, or processed

A factory, also known as a manufacturing plant or a production plant, is an industrial location, usually a complex of numerous buildings loaded with machinery, where employees create products or operate machines that transform each item into something else. They are an important aspect of contemporary economic production, as factories produce or process the bulk of the world's commodities.

When the money and space needs for cottage industry or workshops grew too enormous, factories formed with the advent of machinery during the Industrial Revolution. "Glorified workshops" were early enterprises with tiny quantities of machinery, such as one or two spinning mules, and fewer than a dozen people.

The majority of contemporary industries feature vast warehouses or warehouse-like buildings that store the heavy machinery utilized in assembly line operations. Large industries are often located near various modes of transportation, with rail, highway, and water loading and unloading capabilities available. A manufacturing building is commonly referred to as a "Shed" in various countries, such as Australia.

Chemicals, pulp and paper, and refined oil products are examples of distinct items that are made in factories. Chemical plants are sometimes referred to as factories since the majority of their equipment — tanks, pressure vessels, chemical reactors, pumps, and piping – is located outside and controlled from control rooms. The majority of the equipment used in oil refineries is located outside.

Discrete products can be finished things or components and sub-assemblies that are assembled into finished goods somewhere else. Parts may be sent in from other factories or manufactured from raw materials. Streams of raw materials are often transformed into final products using heat or electricity in continuous production sectors.

The term mill originally referred to grain milling, which relied on natural resources such as water or wind power until steam power took over in the nineteenth century. Because various activities such as spinning and weaving, iron rolling, and paper production were once powered by water, the phrase is still used today in steel mills, paper mills, and other places.


Max Weber believed that manufacturing in ancient times could never be classified as factories since the techniques of production and the current economic condition were incomparable to modern or even pre-modern industrial advancements. In ancient times, household production evolved into a separate endeavor independent of the place of inhabitation, with production at the time only beginning to be characteristic of industry, dubbed "unfree shop industry," a situation exacerbated especially during the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh, with slave employment and no differentiation of skills within the slave group comparable to modern definitions of division of labor.

According to Demosthenes and Herodotus' translations, Naucratis was a, or the only, factory in all of ancient Egypt. According to Hopkins (1983), the highest industrial production in ancient times was 120 slaves in Athens in the 4th century BC. According to a story published in the New York Times on October 13, 2011,

According to one source, the first machine was traps used to aid in the capture of animals, corresponding to the machine as a mechanism operating independently or with very little force by human interaction, with the ability to be used repeatedly with exact operation on every occasion of functioning. The spoked wheel was developed around 2000 BC, while the wheel was invented around 3000 BC. Around 1200–1000 BC, the Iron Age began. Other sources, on the other hand, define machinery as a means of production.

As per archaeology, the oldest city was Tell Brak in 5000 BC (Ur et al. 2006), which is a date for collaboration and determinants of demand, as evidenced by an increasing community size and population, making factory level production a plausible need.

Before 350 BC, the watermill was invented in the Persian Empire. Philo of Byzantium recounts a water-driven wheel in his technical treatises from the third century BC. Garum factories were ubiquitous throughout the Roman Empire. The Barbegal aqueduct and mills are a 2nd century AD industrial complex in southern France. By the fourth century AD, the Roman Empire had a water-milling facility capable of grinding 28 tons of grain per day, enough to feed 80,000 people.

The development of large-scale factory milling installations with higher productivity to feed and support the large growing population 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 grain-processing mill in the Egyptian town of Bilbays, for example, produced 300 tons of grain and flour each day in the 10th century. At the period, both watermills and windmills were commonly employed throughout the Islamic world.

The Arsenal of Venice is also one of the earliest instances of a factory in the modern sense. It began mass-producing ships on assembly lines using manufactured parts in 1104 in Venice, Republic of Venice, some hundred years before the Industrial Revolution. The Venice Arsenal reportedly built approximately one ship every day and employed 16,000 people at its peak.

Industrial Revolution

John Lombe's water-powered silk mill in Derby, which was operational by 1721, was one of the first. Warmley, near Bristol, had an integrated brass mill by 1746. At one end, raw materials were poured in, melted into brass, and then transformed into pans, pins, wire, and other items. On-site housing was provided for the workers. Other early manufacturers who used the factory method were Josiah Wedgwood in Staffordshire and Matthew Boulton at his Soho Manufactory.

The factory system began widespread use somewhat later when cotton spinning was mechanized.

Richard Arkwright is credited with creating the first modern manufacturing prototype. He created Cromford Mill in Derbyshire, England, after patenting his water frame in 1769, greatly enlarging the settlement of Cromford to accommodate the migrant laborers who had recently arrived in the region. The factory system was a new form of organizing the labor, necessitated by the development of machinery too large to fit within a worker's cottage. Working hours were the same as they were for the farmer, i.e., from dawn to dark six days a week. Overall, this strategy reduced skilled and unskilled labor to commodities that could be replaced.

Because larger-scale factories had a major technological and supervisory advantage over tiny artisan shops, mechanized factories superseded traditional artisan shops as the primary kind of industrial institution between 1770 and 1850. The cotton and wool textile industries were the first to build factories (using the factory system). Mechanized shoe manufacture and machinery manufacturing, including machine tools, were added in later generations of factories. Rolling mills, foundries, and locomotive works, as well as agricultural-equipment companies that made cast-steel plows and reapers, were among the factories that supplied the railroad industry. Beginning in the 1880s, bicycles were mass-produced.

After the invention of the AC motor, which could operate at a constant speed dependent on the number of poles and the current electrical frequency, large-scale electrification of enterprises began about 1900. Larger motors were first installed on line shafts, but as modest horsepower motors became more readily accessible, industries began to use unit drive. Eliminating line shafts liberated manufacturers from layout limitations, allowing for more efficient manufacturing layout. Using relay logic, sequential automation was made possible by electrification.

Assembly line

With the invention of mass manufacturing, Henry Ford further changed the factory model in the early twentieth century. Highly specialized laborers would construct a product such as a car (in Ford's instance) beside a series of rolling ramps. This notion significantly reduced the cost of production for practically all produced items, ushering in the age of consumerism.

Industrialized nations launched next-generation factories in the mid- to late-twentieth century, with two improvements:

  1. Advanced statistical quality control methods, pioneered by American mathematician William Edwards Deming, who was first neglected by his native nation. Japanese factories have become world leaders in cost-effectiveness and product quality because to quality control.
  2. In the late 1970s, industrial robots were brought to the manufacturing floor. Simple chores like fastening a car door may be done swiftly and perfectly 24 hours a day with these computer-controlled welding arms and grippers. This, too, resulted in cost savings and increased efficiency.

Rapid prototyping, nanotechnology, and orbiting zero-gravity facilities are among the possibilities for the factory's future.

Siting the factory

Prior to the invention of mass transportation, industries required ever-higher concentrations of laborers, which meant that they either grew up in or encouraged their own urbanization. Industrial slums grew and reinforced their own growth as a result of industry interactions, such as when one factory's output or trash became the raw materials for another factory (preferably nearby). As industries proliferated, canals and railways grew, each concentrating around sources of cheap energy, readily available materials, and/or huge markets. Even greenfield industry sites like Bournville, which were established in a rural location, created their own housing and benefited from handy communications infrastructure.

Factory Acts in the United Kingdom led the way in regulating some of the worst excesses of industrialization's factory-based society. Trams, autos, and urban planning all supported the establishment of distinct industrial and residential areas, with workers traveling between them.

Though factories dominated the Industrial Era, the rise of the service sector finally dethroned them:[verification needed] the concentration of labor migrated to central-city office buildings or semi-rural campus-style facilities, and many factories in local rust belts sat abandoned.

Globalization was the next blow to conventional manufacturers. In the late twentieth century, manufacturing processes (or their logical successors, assembly plants) re-focused in many cases on Special Economic Zones in developing nations or maquiladoras just across national borders of industrialized states. As the benefits of outsourcing and the lessons of flexible placement apply in the future, more re-location to the least industrialized nations looks to be conceivable.

Governing the factory

Much of management theory arose from the necessity to regulate production processes. Assumptions about the hierarchies of unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled laborers, as well as their supervisors and managers, persist; nevertheless, Socio-Technical Systems provides an example of a more current approach to handling design relevant to industrial facilities (STS).

Shadow factories

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

As a high-profile target, the production of the Supermarine Spitfire at its parent company's site at Woolston, Southampton, was susceptible to enemy assault and well within range of Luftwaffe bombers. An enemy bombing strike on September 26, 1940, entirely destroyed this factory. Supermarine had already constructed a facility in Castle Bromwich, prompting them to distribute Spitfire manufacturing around the country, with several facilities requisitioned by the British government.

The production of the equally important Rolls-Royce Merlin engine was linked to the Spitfire; Rolls-main Royce's aero engine facility was in Derby, and the need for increased output was met by building new factories in Crewe and Glasgow, as well as using a purpose-built Ford of Britain factory in Trafford Park, Manchester.


Further Resources



BBC News
November 5, 2018
BBC News
Michelin is pulling out of Dundee, which means the city is losing its largest industrial employer.
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