A factory (previously manufactory) is a large industrial building where goods or products are manufactured. Most factories are large warehouse-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line production.
History of the Factory
The World's first factory was the Venice Arsenal (founded 1104) in Venice, Italy, where, several hundred years before the Industrial Revolution, ships were mass produced on assembly lines using manufactured parts. The Venice Arsenal apparently produced nearly one ship every day and, at its height, employed 16,000 people.
In more recent times, factories were built in the late 18th century in British colonies and were simply buildings where a large number of workers gathered to perform hand labor, usually in textile production. This was more efficient for administration and distribution of raw materials to individual workers.
Inventions such as the steam engine and the powered loom gradually led to the development of the industrial factory of the 19th century, where precision machine tools and replaceable parts allowed greater efficiency and less waste.
Henry Ford further revolutionized the factory concept in the early 20th century, with the innovation of mass production. A product such as an automobile was built by highly specialized workers situated alongside a series of rolling ramps. 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, Japan introduced next-generation factories with two improvements. The first was advanced statistical methods of quality control, pioneered by the American mathematician William Edwards Deming, who was ignored in his home country. This technique turned Japanese factories into world leaders in cost effectiveness and production quality. Second, the Japanese introduced industrial robots to the factory floor, 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 was yet another improvement to cost and speed.