Manufacturing is a field of engineering that generally deals with different practices of manufacturing; the research and development of tools, processes, machines and equipment. It also deals with the integration of different facilities and the systems for producing quality products (with optimal expenditure) by applying the principles of physics and the study of manufacturing systems; such as the following:
Manufacturing engineers work on the development and creation of physical artifacts, production processes, and technology. The manufacturing engineering discipline has very strong relationship with mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, electrical engineering, electronic engineering, computer science, materials management, and operations management. Their success and/or failure directly impact the advancement of technology and the spread of innovation. It is a very broad area which includes the design and development of products. This field of engineering first became noticed in the mid to late 20th century, when industrialized countries introduced factories with:
1. Advanced statistical methods of quality control were introduced in factories, pioneered by the American mathematician William Edwards Deming, whom his home country initially ignored. The same methods of quality control later turned Japanese factories into world leaders in cost-effectiveness and production quality.
2. Industrial robots on the factory floor, introduced 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 cut costs and improved speed.
Prefabrication is the practice of assembling components of a structure in a factory or other manufacturing site, and transporting complete assemblies or sub-assemblies to the construction site where the structure is to be located. The term is used to distinguish this process from the more conventional construction practice of transporting the basic materials to the construction site where all assembly is carried out.
The term prefabrication also applies to the manufacturing of things other than structures at a fixed site. It is frequently used when fabrication of a section of a machine or any movable structure is shifted from the main manufacturing site to another location, and the section is supplied assembled and ready to fit. It is not generally used to refer to electrical or electronic components of a machine, or mechanical parts such as pumps, gearboxes and compressors which are usually supplied as separate items, but to sections of the body of the machine which in the past were fabricated with the whole machine. Prefabricated parts of the body of the machine may be called ‘sub-assemblies’ to distinguish them from the other components.
Fabrication as an industrial term refers to building metal structures by cutting, bending, and assembling. The cutting part of fabrication is via sawing, shearing, or chiseling, using a laser, plasma torch, or water jet). The bending is via hammering (manual or powered) or via press brakes and similar tools. The assembling (joining of the pieces) is via welding, binding with adhesives, riveting, threaded fasteners, or even yet more bending in the form of a crimped seam. Structural steel and sheet metal are the usual starting materials for fabrication, along with the welding wire, flux, and fasteners that will join the cut pieces. As with other manufacturing processes, both human labor and automation are commonly used. The product resulting from (the process of) fabrication may be called a fabrication. Shops that specialize in this type of metal work are called fab shops. The end products of other common types of metalworking, such as machining, metal stamping, forging, and casting, may be similar in shape and function, but those processes are not classified as fabrication.
Fabrication comprises or overlaps with various metalworking specialties:
- Fabrication shops and machine shops have overlapping capabilities, but fabrication shops generally concentrate on metal preparation and assembly as described above. By comparison, machine shops also cut metal, but they are more concerned with the machining of parts on machine tools. Firms that encompass both fabrication work and machining are also common.
- Blacksmithing has always involved fabrication, although it was not always called by that name.
- The products produced by welders, which are often referred to as weldments, are an example of fabrication.
- Boilermakers originally specialized in boilers, leading to their trade’s name, but the term as used today has a broader meaning.
- Similarly, millwrights originally specialized in setting up grain mills and saw mills, but today they may be called upon for a broad range of fabrication work.
- Ironworkers, also known as steel erectors, also engage in fabrication. Often the fabrications for structural work begin as prefabricated segments in a fab shop, then are moved to the site by truck, rail, or barge, and finally are installed by erectors.
Now, not all Manufacturing, Prefabrication & Fabrication work is practiced the same way or at the same level. Smaller companies, or sole proprietorships, may function without large factory floors or sophisticated robots and electronics. But, the essence of Manufacturing, Prefabrication & Fabrication still exist; and the quality of the work is only determined by owner(s) of the company.
If you wish to know more, you can go to Wikipedia.com for more details and the history of Manufacturing, Prefabrication & Fabrication.