Job shop manufacturing: a manufacturer’s best friend

Job shop manufacturing is a process which most growing manufacturers adopt early on. We explain what the process is and how you can make use of it.

Glasses manufacturer working within a job shop manufacturing set-up and measuring material for production.
Last updated: 03.03.2022

Framed by Karl uses a job shop manufacturing set-up. In the foreground, an employee prepares material whilst in the background at another workstation an employee shapes a product.

Every day is Christmas in Santa’s workshop. Well, surely that’s Father Christmas’ approach to management to get his workforce meeting those massive quotas. All ready for that one day of the year.

He must operate his not-for-profit business this way since the items are so diverse it’d be impossible for him to incorporate assembly lines.

So, how the heck does Santa do it?

If you don’t know how he does it, don’t worry, you’re not a cotton-headed ninny muggins. Let us tell you all about the world of the job shop manufacturing process.

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What is job shop manufacturing? 

Job shop manufacturing characterizes itself as a shop that has tools, machines, and facilities that have a similar kind of function or performance. The separated workstations perform different tasks during a product’s manufacturing process.

The final products come produced in small batches (of varying quantities). Customers customize their orders to meet their specific needs.

This means a business will produce a small volume of products that are not standardized.

The level of personalization offered by this process means shop floors have a unique setup and process steps. Products produced by a company may not go in the same direction. Meaning items will move differently to the next process and may even return to the same workstation several times. All this depends on the product’s manufacturing requirements.

Job shop manufacturers can sell their wares via a wholesaler, directly to customers, and more traditionally, produce parts for other businesses.

Business owners who use this type of process usually use a Just in Time (JIT) workflow to fulfill customer orders. Job shop manufacturing is also sometimes referred to as Arrangement by Function.

A job shop manufacturing example

A stacked pile of inventory, packaged and loose, on display showcasing the fruits of a job shop manufacturing production.

The fruits of a diverse selection of items were produced in a job shop manufacturing environment.

There is a huge list of businesses that use job shop manufacturing. However, for our example, we’re going to look into the world of producing eyeglasses.

Framed by Karl is a business that makes and sells customizable eyeglasses made from wood. They achieve this by:


Glasses manufacturer measuring and planning production with material and tools.

At Framed by Karl, glasses are customized by the customer. Job shop manufacturing allows manufacturers to personalize each individual item because of their unique setup.

The customer chooses from a range of stock frames to have their own personalized glasses. During this stage, they also have the option to select the particular type of wood they want to have. The company will collect the customer’s measurements for the items blueprint so production can begin.

Along with different variations for customers to choose from, they can even decide if they would like hinges before placing the order.

Preparation of material and cutting

Once the order is made, the materials get prepared from the company’s inventory. Then begins the cutting of the material as per the requirements of the customer’s order.

Glasses manufacturer following the outline of glasses sketched onto a piece of wood.

An employee carefully cuts the material into the desired shape. This workstation will be specific to this step of the manufacturing process. Workstations are divided in job shop manufacturing to avoid clutter and backlogs.


Once the materials cut and prepped, it then enters the shaping process. This is where the woods bent into the desired shape and are placed inside a tool that puts pressure on the frames. After an ‘X’ amount of time, the frame holds its rough final form.


Once the frame is ready the product goes through varnishing. It will have one coat of varnish applied, then removed after 30 minutes to avoid warping the wood. This process takes place several times across multiple days.

Glasses manufacturer cleaning glasses which are reaching the end of the manufacturing process.

At Framed by Karl, the glasses go through a varnishing process several times. It is not unusual in job shop manufacturing for products to go through a process several times.

Final product

The frames will go through their final stages of polishing before completion.

Glasses manufacturer using a tool to carve joints into the glasses.

The final touches being applied on an order, bringing the item to completion after going through the relevant processes of the job shop manufacturing.

This meticulous approach to work allows for complete customization of a customer’s order. Having the workstations separated this way allows for the product to be easily transported to the next process. Although, having the options for personalized items means the items won’t go through the same order.

If you’d like an alternative example of job shop manufacturing, you can watch another explanation here and have flashbacks to your high school years.

But, the complicated work-flow of job shop manufacturing looks like this:

Illustration showing the workflow of products within a job shop manufacturing set-up.

As you can imagine, or even experienced yourself, this type of workflow can be very sporadic. Meaning that job shop manufacturing comes with its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

PRO TIP: But before we delve into that we have something beneficial for you. Are you a scaling business manufacturer who wants to overhaul their productivity? Check out our must-have guide to answering the question of what is manufacturing.

So, shall we proceed?

Advantages of job shop manufacturing 

1. Customize product design

This manufacturing process allows customers to personalize their orders. This makes items unique and allows the customer to be a part of the process.

2. Easily adaptable to change

The workstations and machines being divided means if the shop floor needs to be rearranged or the process changes, this can be quickly and easily done. Unlike other manufacturing processes which require a reconfiguration of the entire company layout.

3. Better use of resources

All your resources can be efficiently utilized to fulfill orders by being able to focus on each product.

4. Flexibility

The erratic nature of the workflow means you have the option to prioritize certain operations.

5. Floor-level monitoring of products

The movement of the products going through their individual processes means you can easily track their development.

6. Highly skilled workers

For this type of manufacturing process to work properly, you’re going to need employees who’re highly skilled in the craft your business is specialized in. This means you can leave workers to continue their tasks and their skill level will ensure that they deliver a quality product, in a timely manner.

7. Lower Investment

You buy the relevant tools and machines. You store them in the most effective places for your products to pass through during manufacturing. That’s it, you’re set up! If you need more things to meet customer demand and finish products, you just purchase more. The installation of any new workstations shouldn’t disrupt the current workflow.

Job shop manufacturing is the perfect process for any modern manufacturer. Most businesses even find their roots with it. However, that isn’t to say that this process isn’t without its flaws. Ones that a small business owner should be aware of to avoid these risks themselves.

Disadvantages of job shop manufacturing

1. Difficult to schedule

The randomness and inconsistency of orders can often lead to a backlog of orders. Something which is an accepted issue among other job shop manufacturers. You might have a few orders come in or a load at one time, meaning that a schedule may need to be constantly changed to focus on and meet orders.

2. Difficult to organize

Because items pass through different processes, it can be challenging to organize your production flow. Some orders can be relatively straightforward, whilst others can have a huge bill of materials (BOM) which will be costly for your resources.

3. Material handling costs

Transporting, storing, damage. These are just a few types of costs that affect your business whilst using job shop manufacturing. In lean manufacturing, this is known as ‘muda’ (waste) and it’s categorized as an action that doesn’t add value to the customer’s sale.

A very simple example would be ‘transport’. Moving the item around the shop floor costs resources but doesn’t add value.

4. High production lead time

Because items are customizable you have to wait until you receive the customer’s order. Then you’ll have to generate a manufacturing order before you can begin production.

5. High levels of work

The workload can be intensive if you receive a high amount of orders. Though, the opposite is also a disadvantage too. Low to no orders mean resources aren’t being fully utilized. Nevertheless, both can be stressful to experience.

The disadvantages of a job shop perhaps appear daunting. Even though you can run the risk of encountering these types of issues, there are ways in which you can avoid these.

How can scaling manufacturers use job shop manufacturing?

Image of a job shop manufacturing shop floor. It is filled with tools, products, materials, and different workstations.

As previously mentioned, one of the biggest issues a business owner finds with this process is that it’s difficult to organize. How some managers get around this is by tracking their key performance indicators. These KPIs can be their lead time, machine utilization & capacity, worker assignment, and inventory.

How you decide to monitor your business’s progress is down to you. Though you should be aware of the responsibilities that will fall on you as an owner or manager. Responsibilities, which will help you in eluding any of the disadvantages mentioned.

Manufacturing lead time

One of the major disadvantages of running a job shop is the long lead time. However, if you take the time to calculate your manufacturing lead time, you can avoid keeping your customers waiting and keep them happy.

Production scheduling

Your production scheduling needs to be on point! Not only should it be pitch-perfect, but it should also be dynamic too. Your schedule needs to fully utilize your resources, in a workshop that has already been designed to maximize efficiency.

One way of achieving a smooth production schedule is by managing your job shop manufacturing layout. Your shop floor workstations and inventory should be positioned in places for convenience.

You can do this by arranging your orders into runners, repeaters, and strangers:


Items that have a low turnaround and make up for most of your orders


Products that come through regularly as runners but not at a similar frequency.


Products that aren’t ordered as much as runners or repeaters.

Arranging your workshop with the complexity of your orders into consideration means you can prioritize orders as soon as they come in. Runners first, repeaters second, and strangers last.

This approach can help you avoid cluttering your shop floor and to minimize your backlog.

Another step you can take is to have the most used tools and material near or on the shop floor to speed up production too.

Supply chain management

This will also fall under production scheduling and your manufacturing lead time will affect your supply chain management.

Avoid hiccups by mastering supply management, to get all the materials you need, and your products shipped out for on-time deliveries.

The high mix and low volume of products mean manufacturing times change with each order. An item with low direct labor hours but a big BOM will take up most of your time with supply management as you gather the materials for construction.

Having no forecast means time available depends on your quote to the customer. The production time starts immediately once receiving the order. This means a lot of manufacturers who want to scale up from spreadsheets use inventory management software.

But what if there was a product that did so much more than assist with inventory management?

Katana cloud manufacturing software

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Job shop manufacturing and ERP manufacturing software

“Most managers react to the confusion in their job shops in one of two ways. Either they turn to outside vendors for the latest in automation technologies and production control software—an expensive response that seldom delivers the promised benefits—or they throw up their hands.” – Article from Harvard Business Review, 1989.

This was obviously written a lifetime ago, but there’s still some truth in there. Most ERP systems are developed in mind for large corporations and an employee number with 3 or more digits!

However, times have changed, and cloud manufacturing software like Katana is here, to do way more than just handle your inventory.

Katana offers you the chance to monitor your business from one easy-to-read dashboard. You can get an overview of the manufacturing order’s progress from the overhead view, all color-coded to make reading the information easier.

Our Smart Manufacturing Software offers you:

Autonomous inventory management

There’s nothing worse than having to manually input your recent inventory movements. No wait, there is! To make those updates, realize there’s a mistake and then have to manually correct those errors. We eliminate that annoyance by updating and saving inventory movement automatically as soon as you commit material into production. The same goes for if you want to allocate the material elsewhere or even make new products instead.

Also, our software integration means your e-commerce and accounting software can be linked to your Katana account. Making your sales, inventory management, and accounting even more streamlined, with access from one piece of software.

Product screenshot of Katana highlighting items and products.

Floor-level management

You’re able to prioritize tasks, track employees’ progress and monitor production times. Being able to check on material availability will help you decide if you need to make orders or not, which means you’ll be able to easily calculate your product’s manufacturing lead time.


Time to ditch Excel. Excel is okay in the beginning. But, as your business grows, its inefficiencies quickly surface. This means your business will not be able to scale up the longer it stays lost in the spreadsheets.

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If you’re just starting up or you’re already deep into the world of manufacturing your unique products, mastering job shop manufacturing is key to your business’s survival and growth.

With the information provided above, you should now be able to identify other businesses that use this process and figure out the steps you need to take to make your business a success.

However, if you’d really like to excel, move away from those spreadsheets and invest in smart job shop software. Applying it to your job shop manufacturing process will take you to the next level.

Until next time, happy manufacturing.

Katana ERP

Katana Team

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