Definitions

factory

factory

[fak-tuh-ree, -tree]
factory, place of production characterized by wage labor, the use of machinery, and the division of labor. The large-scale use of machinery differentiates factory production from simple manufacture, and the division of labor sets it apart from even the most elaborate handicraft establishments. Standardized goods are produced and sometimes sold more cheaply by the factory system, and occasionally the goods are better than those made by artisans. The factory system makes possible huge increases in output per man-hour though at the same time division of labor deprives individual workers of much of their sense of creativity. However, in the 19th and first half of the 20th cent., the factory system gave rise to serious social problems, some of which persist. The tedious routine of assembly line work resulted in boredom and frustration among the workers; this could reduce productivity and product quality. The concentration of large plants and factories in urban areas also helped create urban congestion, pollution, slum dwellings and traffic jams. To minimize these problems, employers have attempted to increase productivity and quality of product by introducing robots to perform some of the tedious operations, by introducing systems that reduce the tedium of assembly line work, and by involving workers in the plant management. Since the 1960s, the closing of factories in urban areas in the United States has reduced environmental pollution and other social problems associated with factories, but has also created decreased employment opportunities for unskilled workers. Since the 1960s, factory production has been globalized, creating goods that are assembled in more than one country. Global production has also induced multinational corporations to move their factories out of industrial countries to areas with lower overhead and cheaper labor. Because of the importance of factories to an area's economy, local governments in the United States have offered subsidies to encourage companies to build or maintain factories in their areas. In 1988, Congress passed legislation requiring large employers to provide notice before closing a plant. See automation and division of labor.

See J. Tann, The Development of the Factory (1970); R. Linhart, The Assembly Line (1981); D. Gordon et al., Segmented Work, Divided Workers: The Historical Transformation of Labor in the United States (1982); D. Hounshell, The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the U.S. (1984); D. Noble, Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation (1985); M. Kranzberg, By the Sweat of Thy Brow (1986). See also bibliography under Industrial Revolution.

Structure in which work is organized to meet the need for production on a large scale usually with power-driven machinery. In the 17th–18th century, the domestic system of work in Europe began giving way to larger units of production, and capital became available for investment in industrial enterprises. The movement of population from country to city also contributed to change in work methods. Mass production, which transformed the organization of work, came about by the development of the machine-tool industry. With precision equipment, large numbers of identical parts could be produced at low cost and with a small workforce. The assembly line was first widely used in the U.S. meat-packing industry; Henry Ford designed an automobile assembly line in 1913. By mid-1914, chassis assembly time had fallen from 1212 man-hours to 93 man-minutes. Some countries, particularly in Asia and South America, began industrializing in the 1970s and later. Seealso American System of manufacture.

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