Manufacturing products can be a great industry to get into. But should you get into craft manufacturing or industrial manufacturing? Both are very different in the way they operate and who they are targeted at. This post explains the differences between the two.

Man vs Machine

Craft manufacturing involves making products primarily by hand. There may still be some electric tools involved, but the majority of the process is manual – whether it’s kneading dough by hand, carving wood with a chisel or inserting beads onto a necklace with one’s fingers. Startup costs can be lower for a craft manufacturing business, because you don’t need such expensive tools. However, you may be more limited by the precision and speed you can deliver.

Industrial manufacturing involves making products primarily using machinery. Humans may still be required to push buttons or even position components on a conveyor belt. However, the manufacturing is mostly automated by machinery. You’ll need to invest more money upfront to acquire this machinery. You can source specialist machines such as Excitech woodworking machinery online. The benefit of such machinery is more precision and greater speed.

Artisan vs Mass Production

Craft manufacturing typically takes an artisan approach. High quality materials/ingredients are used to create products that may all be individual from one another. This could be an artistic choice to make each one slightly different – offering a rewarding sense of variation to the manufacturing process and making each product its own unique piece of art (as is common with bead jewellery). Alternatively, products could each be uniquely tailored to individual clients (as with wedding cakes).

Mass production is meanwhile preferable when it comes to industrial manufacturing. Huge batches of identical products are created so that every client receives the same product. Larger batches makes it easier to make back the cost of machinery and pricing of such products can be made cheaper. There are growing instances of artisan and mass production fusing: machines like laser cutters and 3D printers can now be programmed to produce individual bespoke products, which has disrupted the craft manufacturing market. 

Skilled vs Unskilled Labour

A big difference between craft manufacturing and industrial manufacturing is the talent involved. To manufacture craft products, a certain level of craft skill is required. Not everyone can hand-bake a cake or hand-carve a chess set. This makes it much harder to hire employees for a craft manufacturing business as they often must be trained up or already skilled. And this skill requires a greater wage. As a result, it’s harder to build a team and expand such a business.

Industrial manufacturing meanwhile relies on unskilled labour. While certain skilled staff may be required to handle logistics and maintain machinery, operating the machinery is something that can be learnt quickly. Finding employees is much easier. Such employees also don’t need to be paid as highly. As a result, large teams are easier to fund.

Niche vs General Market

The market for craft products is a lot more niche. It tends to be people who want a more rustic, unique or environmental alternative to what is widely available on the market. Such products have to be priced higher because each one requires more time to make. Therefore the market for these products has to be wealthy or passionate enough to pay more.

Industrially manufactured products are typically made in bulk and therefore need to have a more general appeal. Being able to produce more products faster also allows these products to be priced lower, making them affordable to a greater number of people. Marketing for these products may not have to be as finely targeted because of this.