Mass production is the creation of many products in a short period of time using time-saving techniques such as assembly lines and specialization. It allows a manufacturer to produce more per worker-hour, and to lower the labor cost of the end product. This in turn allows the product to be sold for a lower cost.
Prior to the wide-spread adoption of mass production techniques, a craftsman built a product from start to finish. This meant that he had to know all aspects of the assembly of the product, including the creation of the individual parts. A cabinetry craftsman, for instance, would have to be able to cut and finish the individual pieces, piece them together, affix the hardware and create whatever decorative effects such as marquetry or inlaid work the finished piece might require. Using mass production techniques, one worker might be responsible for cutting the boards, another for finishing them to size, a third for building the shelving hardware, and so on.
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Mass production began during the Industrial Revolution, but took a great leap forward with the innovation of the assembly line, a conveyor that moved the product from one workman to another, with each individual adding their specialty part to the growing whole. On an assembly line, each worker only had to know how to affix or adjust one specific part, and therefore could keep only those tools and parts necessary for his particular task on hand.
Assembly lines brought a great decrease in time to a finished product, yet was attended by a number of less pleasant consequences. Over-specialization meant that individual workers had less marketable skills, which effectively enslaved them to a particular line. Mass production also led to increased incidence of repetitive stress syndrome; the repeated motions of doing the same task hundreds of times a day led to many workers living in pain much of the time. Increasingly, mass production assembly work is being taken over by special-purpose robotics, freeing many workers from the often backbreaking labor, yet resulting in less manufacturing jobs for the workers to compete for.