A factory or manufacturing plant is an industrial site, usually
consisting of buildings and machinery, or more commonly a complex
having several buildings, where workers manufacture goods or operate
machines processing one product into another.
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
mules, and fewer than a dozen workers have been called "glorified
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, highway and water
loading and unloading facilities.
Factories may either make discrete products or some type of material
continuously produced such as chemicals, pulp and paper, or refined
oil products. Factories manufacturing chemicals are often called
plants and may have most of their equipment – tanks, pressure
vessels, chemical reactors, pumps and piping – outdoors and operated
from control rooms. Oil refineries have most of their equipment
Discrete products may be final consumer goods, or parts and
sub-assemblies which are made into final products elsewhere. Factories
may be supplied parts from elsewhere or make them from raw materials.
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.
Reconstructed historical factory in
Žilina (Slovakia) for production
of safety matches. Originally built in 1915 for the business firm
Wittenberg and son.
1.1 Industrial Revolution
1.2 Assembly line
2 Historically significant factories
3 Siting the factory
4 Governing the factory
5 Shadow factories
5.1 British shadow factories
7 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
Entrance to the
Venetian Arsenal by Canaletto, 1732.
Interior of the
Lyme Regis watermill, UK (14th century).
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
endeavour 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,
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
"In African Cave, Signs of an Ancient
Paint Factory" – (John Noble
... 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 humans mixed an ochre-based paint.
Although The Cambridge Online Dictionary definition of factory states:
a building or set of buildings where large amounts of goods are made
using machines 
... the utilization of machines presupposes social cooperation and the
division of labour
— von Mises 
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
According to one text the water-mill was first made in 555 A.D. by
Belisarius, although according to another they were known to Pliny
the Elder and
Vitruvius in the first century B.C. By the time of the
4th century A.D. mills with a capacity to grind 3 tonnes of cereal an
hour, a rate sufficient to meet the needs of 80,000 persons, were in
use by the Roman Empire.
Venice Arsenal 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 lines using manufactured parts. The
Venice Arsenal apparently produced nearly one ship every day and, at
its height, employed 16,000 people.[verification needed]
See also: Industrial Revolution
Cromford mill as it is today.
One of the earliest factories was John Lombe's water-powered silk mill
at Derby, operational by 1721. By 1746, an integrated brass mill was
Warmley near Bristol. 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
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 was mechanized.
Richard Arkwright is the person credited with inventing the prototype
of the modern factory. After he patented his water frame in 1769, he
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 labour
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 1820 and 1850 mechanized factories supplanted traditional
artisan shops as the predominant form of manufacturing institution,
because the larger-scale factories enjoyed a significant technological
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.
Factories that supplied the railroad industry included rolling mills,
foundries and locomotive works. Agricultural-equipment factories
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 shafts, but
as soon as small horsepower motors became widely available, factories
switched to unit drive. Eliminating line shafts freed factories of
layout constraints and allowed factory layout to be more efficient.
Electrification enabled sequential automation using relay logic.
Main article: Assembly line
Automation with industrial robots for palletizing food
products like bread and toast at a bakery in Germany.
Henry Ford 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
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
Quality control turned Japanese factories into
world leaders in cost-effectiveness and production quality.
Industrial robots 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, nanotechnology, and orbital
Historically significant factories
Highland Park Ford plant, c. 1922
Portsmouth Block Mills
Slater Mill Historic Site
Harpers Ferry Armory
Nasmyth, Gaskell and Company also called the Bridgewater Foundry
Baldwin Locomotive Works
Highland Park Ford Plant
Ford River Rouge Complex
Siting the factory
A factory worker in 1940s Fort Worth, Texas, United States.
Before the advent of mass transportation, factories' needs for
ever-greater concentrations of laborers meant that they typically grew
up in an urban setting or fostered their own urbanization. Industrial
slums developed, and reinforced their own development through the
interactions between factories, as when one factory's output or
waste-product became the raw materials of another factory (preferably
nearby). Canals 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
Regulation curbed some of the worst excesses of industrialization's
factory-based society, a series of
Factory Acts leading the way in
Britain. Trams, 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:[verification needed]
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 Zones in developing countries or on maquiladoras 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
Governing the factory
Much of management theory developed in response to the need to control
factory processes.[verification needed] 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 a term given to dispersed manufacturing sites 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
Main article: 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
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 engine, Rolls-Royce's main aero engine facility was
located at Derby, the need for increased output was met by building
new factories in Crewe and
Glasgow and using a purpose-built factory
Ford of Britain
Ford of Britain in
Trafford Park Manchester.
Zeche Ewald in Herten, exterior (2011)
Zeche Ewald in Herten, interior (2011)
Coldharbour Mill textile factory, built in 1799.
Adolph von Menzel: Moderne Cyklopen
New Lanark mill
Workers in the fuse factory, Woolwich Arsenal late 1800s
The assembly plant of the
Bell Aircraft Corporation
Bell Aircraft Corporation at Wheatfield, New
York, United States, 1944
Interior of the Rouge
Tool & Die works, 1944
Assembly line (about 2005)
First stages of
Saturn V rockets being manufactured at the NASA
Michoud rocket factory in the 1960s
Business and economics portal
British shadow factories
List of production topics
Plant layout study
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Look up factory in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Factories.
"Mill". Encyclopædia Britannica. 18 (11th ed.). 1911.
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Workshop to the Modern Factory". European History Online. Mainz:
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Aspects of workplaces
Culture of fear
Divide and rule
Fit in or fuck off
Kick the cat
Kiss up kick down
Queen bee syndrome
Safety and health
Aspects of corporations
Aspects of jobs
Aspects of occupations
Aspects of organizations