Section 2 - Technical Factors

In this section you will study:


Mass Production



Emerging Technologies


There are varying definitions for Mechanisation. Both are given here.

Refers to the replacement of human (or animal) power with mechanical power of  some form. The driving force behind mechanization has been humankind's propensity to create tools and mechanical devices. Machines  capable  of  carrying  out  multiple  operations either all at once or as a sequence as the material passes through the machine.

Mechanisation refers to that stage in the development of tools, where they pass from being an extension of the operator, to a point where the tool becomes a device and is controlled by the operator.
The most common form of mechanisation that has impacted on our current society is portable power tools.

The benefits include:
More housing joints can be created over a period of time than by using a hammer and chisel. The router can maintain constant settings and keep the width and depth of the housing joints constant.

Greater accuracy can be maintained so that all the joints are tight fitting.

Templates can be used with a router so that time in setting-up and marking-out is kept to a minimum.

Advantages of mechanisation:
Ideal for mass production lines.
Unskilled labour can operate the machine once it is set up.
Can do repetitive work quickly.

Disadvantages of mechanisation:
Skilled labour required to setting up the machine operations.
Initial setting up complicated and time consuming.

Industrial Specialisation:
This is where an industry decides to concentrate on the main aspects of their production and out­ source others. They may also rely on 'off the shelf components for their products instead of manufacturing themselves.
There are many advantages in such a system.

  1. All capital may be invested in the production of the specialized area.
  2. The ability to become a leader in that specific aspect of production, with other businesses then relying on them.
  3. The advantage of being able to use the 'just in time' practice of not investing in smaller componentry and needing to store it, until they are ready for it.
  4. With the investment in specialized equipment, they become able to manufacture more customer specific 'one-off' items.

Many large businesses are tending to concentrate more on the core function operations and reducing the amount of staff and resources devoted to support functions.

Support functions such as accounting, marketing, recruitment, staff training, transport and building security are contracted to specialised firms Many government organizations have also followed this trend. This process is called outsourcing.

Labour Specialisation.
Labour can specialise into broad jobs such as selling, farming and manufacturing and within those jobs, it can specialise further into processes.

The "manufacturer" may in fact work on a given task on the assembly line, manufacturing a part for a specific brand of refrigerator.

The aim of division of labour is to increase output.  It succeeds in doing this, by encouraging workers into that aspect of the work for which they have the greatest aptitude.

Mass Production:
Mass production is the large-scale production of goods in factories.
Originally, very small numbers of products were made by craftsmen in home workshops,

But, the increasing demand for consumer goods following the industrial revolution, meant that larger numbers of products needed to be manufactured in a more efficient way.

Some of the advantages include:

  1. efficiency of production: less time is taken to produce goods
  2. 'economies of scale': cheaper to make products in large quantities
  3. workers only need to be trained in one or two tasks.

Disadvantages include:

  1. boredom for the workers
  2. occupational overuse syndrome (repetitive strain injury)
  3. low job satisfaction for workers
  4. large stock piles of finished goods waiting to be sold
  5. difficult to change the product's design quickly to respond to changing styles and consumer demand.

These disadvantages have led to a change in direction for manufacturers to try and be more responsive to changes in the marketplace.


Machines and robots which replace human judgement and perception i.e. senses.
Machines similar to mechanisation in that they can do multiple operations with the difference being that they are computer programmable.

Automation and society
Over the years, labour leaders, business executives, government officials, and college professors have argued the social merits of automation.

The biggest controversy has focused on how automation affects employment. There are other important aspects of automation, including its effect on productivity, economic competition, education, and quality of life. These issues are explored here.

Impact on the individual
Nearly all industrial  installations of automation,  and in particular robotics,  involve   a replacement of human labour by an automated system.
Therefore, one of the direct effects of automation in factory operations is the dislocation of human labour from the workplace.

As automation has increased, there has developed a shortage of technically trained personnel to implement these technologies competently.

Advantages commonly attributed to automation include higher production  rates and increased productivity, more efficient use of materials, better product quality, improved safety, shorter workweeks for labour, and reduced factory lead times.

Higher output and increased productivity have been two of the biggest reasons in justifying the use of automation.

A main disadvantage often associated with automation, worker displacement, has been discussed above.

Despite the social benefits that might result from retraining displaced workers for other jobs, in almost all cases the worker whose job has been taken over by a machine undergoes a period of emotional stress.

In addition to displacement from work, the worker may be displaced geographically. In order to find other work, an individual may have to relocate, which is another source of stress.


A more common definition of multiskilling is where labour organisation is structured so that workers possess a range of skills appropriate for use on a project or within an organisation.
A multiskilled worker is an individual who possesses or acquires a range of skills and knowledge and applies them to work tasks that may fall outside the traditional boundaries of his or her original training.
This does not necessarily mean that a worker obtains or possesses high-level skills in multiple technology areas.

Advantages of multiskilling

Workers who are able to perform a large number of tasks can fill in for other workers, increasing workforce flexibility.


Knowledge of various tasks can increase the understanding of other tasks and improve coordination.

Positive effects on innovation

The processes of improving design concepts are easier because of the individuals' 'multi' knowledge.

Employment security

A multiskilled workforce is not as threatened if skills become obsolete because of new technology.

Project efficiency
Through the increased level of multiskilling, work can be reorganised so that it can be performed most efficiently. Multiskilled workers carry projects through, sometimes all the way from start to finish often taking 'project ownership'.

Competitive market

Cost saving are passed onto the customer, through the decrease of labor cost due to reduction of turnaround time and number of workers involved.

Management effectiveness

Multiskilling is most valuable in the areas of management. Here it effects the reduction of product completion time (e.g. reduced subsequent production line delays), the decrease of project planning time (e.g. only one employee has to learn the details of the project), and the cutback of administration costs (e.g. faster completion of pay claims and materials billing).

Current and Emerging Trends

Since the introduction of particleboard between 1950 and 1960, the development of manufactured boards has continued to the point where, today, mass produced furniture is constructed almost entirely from pre-finished panels.
Manufactured boards have had a significant effect on the design and manufacture of a wide range of furniture and joinery items.

They are used in kitchen cupboards, cabinets in other domestic and commercial work areas, shop fittings, counters, shelving, displays as well as domestic and office furniture.