A system for making items in huge quantities, where manufacturing is no longer dependent upon the skills of individual craftsmen.
Craft-based manufacturing of any kind has a ceiling on the number of goods that it can produce. The goods themselves may be beautifully made, but the number of expert workers is the limitation; people can only make so many things if they are doing everything for themselves.
Mass production mechanises the basic and repetitive tasks of production, and divides work into simple, repetitive and repeatable tasks. No longer does a master craftsman labour to make one item from start to finish. Instead, work is broken down into simple tasks and each given to a worker with the item passing to the next person for the next task. Each job is simple, so mechanical aids and tools can be used in place of expertise.
Marc Brunel (1769-1849) was a French engineer who fetched up in England after the French Revolution. His block-making machines are a typical example of mass production in the period. They let unskilled labour make the blocks and pulleys needed in their thousands by the Royal Navy – blocks were a vital part of ship’s rigging.