<NOBR>Classroom Activity</NOBR>

Manufacture a CD Crate

Throughout history, people have attempted to fulfill their basic needs. When the pioneers needed household items, they simply built their furniture or made their clothes. In contrast, Henry Ford organized a huge factory to build his Model T-cars, including an assembly line with hundreds of workers and materials from across North America.

Modern manufacturing occurs in a variety of areas, not just the factory. Look around for simplified examples of manufacturing. For example, copied papers that are assembled into a booklet; sewing a dress; and assembling and painting a toy model car. These are simplified production lines, used by individuals to build dozens of simple products.


Building a CD crate will show you the difference between a custom-built product and a mass-produced product. To manufacture a product, companies first identify a need. In this case, the need is something in which to store compact disks. Engineers then identify ways in which CDs can be stored. A design is developed and tested. Once the design is accepted, the product must be manufactured. But how?

The product can be custom or mass produced. In this activity, you will custom produce a crate, while comparing it to ways in which the product could be mass produced.



Design for End of CD Crate

1. In a custom setting, all pieces are made one at a time, by hand. Cut wood or Styrofoam pieces to required dimensions.

2. Once cut, check pieces for quality—no cracks, splits, etc.

3. Assemble all pieces and attach with nails, staples, or glue.

4. Crate is finished. Again check for quality.

5. Put decoration on both ends of crate.

In a custom-built setting, a second crate is not started until after the first crate is finished.

In a mass production setting, wood or Styrofoam could arrive precut or be cut on-site. For this example, the pieces are cut on-site. The tools needed for production are the same as above.

In manufacturing, each individual on the production line has a specific responsibility.

Person 1 - cuts the slats

Person 2 - cuts the ends

Person 3 - attaches the side slats to the ends, forming the start of a crate

Person 4 - attaches the bottom slats to the started crate, finishing the crate

Person 5 - attaches the decoration and checks for the quality of the product.

Because each person is doing only one part of the job, the assembly of the product goes much faster. They can concentrate on getting only one job done, instead of moving from one step to the next.

If 1,000 CD crates were being produced, who do you think would get the job done faster? Individuals or the production line?

(Activity provided by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.)