Workforce Essentials

Manufacturing 101

Manufacturing 101 provides a broad overview of the manufacturing process and industry. Manufacturing involves a wide range of processes that are used to turn materials into products. Many organizations work together in a supply chain to produce a product. Products start out as designs and are then produced from materials and assembled to create the final product.

The manufacturing industry is a vast, diverse network of organizations that offers a wide variety of career opportunities. After taking this class, users will have a foundational understanding of the manufacturing industry and the various activities that are required to create a product. This will prepare them for further learning about specific manufacturing processes and considerations, as well as pursuing a career in manufacturing.

  • Difficulty Beginner

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 12

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Manufacturing
  • Product Lifecycle
  • Supply Chain
  • Review: Introduction to Manufacturing
  • Development and Design
  • Materials
  • Part Production
  • Assembly
  • Other Manufacturing Tasks
  • Review: The Manufacturing Process
  • Manufacturing Careers
  • Career Pathways
  • Describe manufacturing.
  • Describe the product lifecycle.
  • Describe the manufacturing supply chain.
  • Describe the development and design stages of manufacturing.
  • Describe materials for manufacturing.
  • Describe production processes used in manufacturing.
  • Describe the assembly stage of manufacturing.
  • Describe other important manufacturing tasks.
  • Describe the different career opportunities in manufacturing.
  • Describe different pathways that can lead to manufacturing careers.
Vocabulary Term

additive manufacturing

AM. The process of successively layering materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. Additive manufacturing allows for rapid prototyping, mass customization, and increased part complexity.

adhesive bonding

The joining of two or more materials using adhesive substances such as pastes, gels, and tape. Adhesive bonding can be used to join similar and dissimilar materials.


A chemical substance used to bond two or more materials together. Adhesives are made of nonmetallic materials.


A material created by intentionally mixing two or more substances, one of which must be metal. Alloys combine the desirable properties of the base materials.


A lightweight metal that is silvery white in color. Aluminum resists corrosion and is a good conductor of electrical and thermal energy.

aluminum oxide

A very hard ceramic material composed of aluminum and oxygen. Aluminum oxide is used in abrasives, cutting tools, and electrical insulators.


Additive manufacturing. The process of successively layering materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. AM allows for rapid prototyping, mass customization, and increased part complexity.


A program that prepares individuals to enter the workforce in a specific field or area. Apprenticeships involve traditional instruction as well as work-based training.


A person who assembles parts. Assemblers perform mechanical fastening, adhesive bonding, and welding tasks.


The process of joining components together into a larger or completed part. Assembly methods include mechanical fastening, adhesive bonding, and welding.

assembly line

An arrangement of workstations used to mass-produce products in stages. Assembly lines often use conveyors to move large products between stations.

associate's degree

An academic credential awarded by community colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools upon completion of the lowest level of undergraduate studies. Associate's degrees typically require two years of study.


The use of self-regulated equipment, processes, or systems that meet manufacturing requirements with limited human intervention. Automation is an efficient means of performing manufacturing processes.

bachelor's degree

An academic credential awarded by colleges or universities upon completion of undergraduate studies. Bachelor's degrees typically require four years of study.


A friction-reducing device that allows one moving part to glide past another moving part. Bearings operate using a sliding or rolling mechanism.


A forming operation that shapes a material, usually sheet metal, by straining it around a straight axis. Bending operations compress the interior side of the bend and stretch the exterior side to create an angle in the material.


The shell that provides the structure for a machine. The body of a car is attached on top of the chassis.


The stage in the automobile manufacturing process that occurs after a vehicle's structural shell has been joined together. The body-in-white stage allows for inspection before the vehicle is painted.


A cylindrical threaded fastener with a head that usually mates with a nut. Bolts typically have blunt ends.


A material that occurs in addition to the primary product of a chemical reaction. Byproducts are sometimes harmful to the environment.


A common nonmetallic element that is very strong and has high resistance to heat. Carbon fibers are often used in composites.


A hard, brittle material that can withstand high temperatures and resist corrosion. Ceramics include traditional materials such as brick and clay, as well as advanced ceramics used as abrasives, cutting tools, or electronic components.


Validation that an individual has achieved a certain level of expertise in a specific area. Certifications may be awarded by a school, a professional organization, or another governing body.


The frame of a machine. The chassis of a car is made of metal and supports the body.


Computer numerical control. A combination of software and hardware that directs the operation of a machine. CNC machines use mathematical data to direct machine movements.


A material composed of two or more unlike materials that are bonded together without losing their individual properties or characteristics. The materials in composites are generally layered or suspended in one another.

computer numerical control

CNC. A combination of software and hardware that directs the operation of a machine. Computer numerical control machines use mathematical data to direct machine movements.

computer-aided design

CAD. A computer software program that aids in the automated design and technical precision drawing of a part, product, process, or building. Computer-aided design software is used to create a virtual model of a part.


The gradual deterioration of a material due to atmosphere, moisture, chemicals, or other agents. Corrosion weakens materials and can cause them to fail.


The process of creating the specifications for a part. Design involves defining product requirements and creating prints and prototypes for a part.


A tool that contains a recess that provides space to shape or shear material when forced against it. Dies are typically attached to the lower portion of a press.


The desired measurement of a part or part feature. Dimensions include the length, width, and height of a part or feature.

directed energy deposition

DED. An additive manufacturing process in which focused thermal energy is used to melt materials as they are fed or blown through a nozzle. Directed energy deposition is often used with powdered or wire metal.


The movement of parts from manufacturers to customers. Distribution requires products to be packaged so that they are protected during shipping.


PhD. An academic credential awarded by universities upon completion of the highest level of graduate studies. Doctorates typically require four years of additional study after earning a bachelor's degree, but some may require less after earning a master's degree.


The final customer for whom a product or service is intended. The end-user is the customer whose demands are translated into the product design.


A person who designs processes, machines, parts, or other technically complex components or features. Engineers are responsible for designing a part, including creating the exact specifications for that part and deciding how best to build and finish the part.


A forming operation that forces materials through a small opening in a die. Extrusion is a continuous process that can create parts with a uniform cross section.


A device that holds objects together or locates them in relation to one another. Fasteners can be threaded or non-threaded.


A slender, thread-like reinforcing material used in composites. Fibers are often added to a component or material to improve its strength and toughness.


A manufacturing process that uses punches and dies to shape, bend, or separate material. Forming is a traditional manufacturing process and includes methods such as stamping, rolling, and extrusion.


A round or cylindrical mechanical component with teeth that is used to transmit power. Gears are designed to mesh with one another and can alter the speed, torque, or direction of mechanical energy.


A machine that uses an abrasive to wear away at the surface of a workpiece. Grinders commonly use abrasive grains bonded into a wheel shape.


A machining operation that uses an abrasive to cut and shape the surface of a workpiece. Grinding commonly uses abrasive grains bonded into a wheel shape to remove small amounts of material from a workpiece.


The examination of a part during or after its creation to confirm that it adheres to specifications. Inspection allows manufacturers to identify and correct product defects.


A person who examines a part with various tools and techniques to determine its conformance to specifications. Inspectors fulfill important roles in ensuring the quality of a manufactured product.


A naturally abundant and commonly used metal that is very strong. Iron is the main ingredient in steel.

machine guards

A shield or cover over hazardous areas on a machine. Machine guards prevent accidental contact with body parts and prevent debris, such as chips, from exiting the machine.

machine operators

A person trained to run a specific machine. Machine operators are responsible for safely and efficiently setting up, running, and maintaining their particular machine.


The process of removing material from an existing object to create the desired final shape of a product. Machining, or subtractive manufacturing, operations include grinding and metal cutting.


Any activity that contributes to the care and upkeep of machines or equipment. Maintenance can involve monitoring equipment for problems or fixing a machine after it breaks down.

maintenance technicians

A person who performs tasks related to the upkeep of machines and equipment. Maintenance technicians monitor equipment and make repairs when necessary.


A fluid conductor that consists of a solid block with multiple integrated channels. Manifolds are designed to conduct fluid in confined spaces.


The process of changing materials into finished products on a large scale. Manufacturing involves many processes that cause physical, mechanical, or chemical changes to materials.


The stage in the automobile manufacturing process during which the body and chassis are attached to one another. The marriage stage typically involves lowering the body onto the chassis and bolting it in place.

master's degree

An academic credential awarded by universities upon completion of the lowest level of graduate studies. Master's degrees require at least one year of additional study after earning a bachelor's degree.

mechanical fastening

The joining of two or more materials with devices called fasteners. Mechanical fastening uses threaded fasteners like screws and bolts as well as non-threaded fasteners like rivets, clips, and pins.

metal cutting

A machining operation that uses a cutting tool to remove metal from a workpiece in the form of chips. Metal cutting operations include milling, drilling, and turning.


A hard, strong material that conducts electricity and heat. Metals include steel, aluminum, iron, bronze, and others.


A metal cutting operation that uses a rotating multi-point tool to remove metal from the surface of a workpiece. Milling is used to produce a variety of workpiece shapes and features, including contours, slots, and flat surfaces.


A machine that uses a rotating multi-point cutting tool to remove material from a workpiece. Mills, or milling machines, may be manually operated or automated.


A representation of a specific part or product. Models are usually three-dimensional and can be physical or digital.


A manufacturing process that involves pouring heated liquid into a reusable cavity, or mold, that shapes the material as it solidifies and cools. Molding is a traditional manufacturing process and includes methods such as injection and transfer molding.


The use of a product by the customer. Operation ends when a product can no longer serve its intended purpose and must be disposed.

original equipment manufacturers

OEMs. An organization that provides parts and equipment to the supply chain. Original equipment manufacturers supply parts that are used in finished products.


A flexible, rubber-like ring that is used to create a mechanical seal in fluid components. O-rings are usually located in a groove and compressed between two or more fitting components.

personal protective equipment

PPE. Any clothing or device worn to minimize exposure to hazards and prevent injury. Personal protective equipment may include eye and ear protection, safety footwear, gloves, and other devices.


A fossil fuel that provides the raw base for many plastics. Petroleum byproducts go through a chemical reaction called polymerization to become plastics.


A synthetic polymer created from petroleum byproducts. Plastics can be molded and hardened into a variety of shapes.


Programmable logic controllers. A processor-driven device that uses logic-based software to provide electrical control to a machine or process. PLCs are used in factory automation.


A lightweight material that generally has high corrosion resistance, a high strength-to-weight ratio, and a low melting point. Polymers include plastic, rubber, and other natural or synthetic materials.

powder bed fusion

PBF. An additive manufacturing process that uses adhesives, heat, or light to bond areas in a container of powdered plastic, metal, ceramic, or other material. Powder bed fusion processes include binder jetting, selective laser sintering (SLS), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

power transmission

The movement of energy from a source to an output device that performs work. Power transmission can be performed with many different mechanical components, including gears, belts, and chains.


A series of automotive components that generate and deliver power. Powertrains include the engine, transmission, and other components.


A machine with a stationary base and an upper ram that moves up and down to cut and shape sheet metal. Presses use a die set that consists of upper and lower parts to stamp, bend, and shear metal.


A document containing all the instructions necessary to manufacture a part. Prints includes part drawings, dimensions, and notes.


An item that a company makes or provides for a customer. Products include any goods that result from a process, such as manufactured parts and refined materials.

product lifecycle

The series of stages a product goes through from conception to the end of its useful life. The product lifecycle includes design, production, distribution, and operation stages.


The process of manufacturing a finished product for a customer. Production includes many manufacturing processes as well as quality assurance efforts.

programmable logic controllers

PLCs. A processor-driven device that uses logic-based software to provide electrical control to a machine or process. Programmable logic controllers are used in factory automation.


A person responsible for writing a computer program. Programmers develop programs that allow CNC machines, PLCs, and robots to perform automated tasks.


A computer-based series of commands that contains all pertinent instructions and information for the completion of a specific task. Programs are used by CNC machines, PLCs, and robots.


A preliminary model of a part used to evaluate the look and performance of a design. Prototypes are used to determine the specifications for the final part.


A tool used with a die to shape or penetrate sheet metal when it is lowered onto it. Punches are typically attached to the upper portion of a press.

real time

The near-instantaneous interval of time that computers require to process data. Real time is virtually the same as actual time because computers process data nearly immediately.

research and development

The process of analyzing customer and market demands and generating product ideas to satisfy them. Research and development takes place before product designs are created.


A raw polymer, usually in the form of liquid, beads, or pellets, that is not yet molded into its final shape. Polymer resins can be used in composite materials.


A mechanical device that can be programmed to perform a variety of complicated, repetitive tasks. Robots are used to automate manufacturing processes.


A natural polymer that is extracted as a sap from tropical trees. Rubber is an elastic material.


A computerized re-creation of a physical space and activity. Simulations are used to duplicate real-world situations in order to evaluate behavior under various conditions.

smart factories

A manufacturing facility with a flexible system that can autonomously run an entire production process. Smart factories integrate automation, data, and analysis into manufacturing processes.

smart manufacturing

Technologically integrated manufacturing that creates and uses data in real time to address the needs of the factory, supplier, and customer. Smart manufacturing is an advancement of traditional manufacturing automation.

spark plugs

A device that provides the electrical discharge used to ignite gasoline in an internal combustion engine. Spark plugs contain aluminum oxide insulators.


A description of the essential physical and technical properties of a part or product. Specifications outline important information, including finished part dimensions and how the part must respond to forces acting upon it.


A forming operation that uses dies and punches to shape or separate sheet metal into parts. Stamping can be performed on a press.


A metal consisting of iron and carbon, usually with small amounts of other elements. Steel is the most common metal used in manufacturing.

subtractive manufacturing

The process of removing material from an existing object to create the desired final shape of a product. Subtractive manufacturing, or machining, operations include grinding and metal cutting.


An organization that provides a product to another organization. Suppliers often pass products in a chain that ends with a manufacturer, who passes them on to the customer.

supply chain

A network of organizations that exchange resources such as materials and information to deliver products to customers. Supply chains consist of a manufacturer, its suppliers, its distributors, and its customers.


Manufactured or produced through deliberate processes rather than having a natural origin. Plastics are synthetic polymers.

thread rolling

A forming operation used to produce threads by forcing hard dies into a solid blank or workpiece. Thread rolling produces stronger threads than thread cutting.

Tier 1

The group of suppliers that provide major systems and modules to manufacturers. Tier 1 suppliers produce parts like powertrains, seating and lighting modules, and exhaust systems.

Tier 2

The group of suppliers that provide parts and components to other members of the supply chain. Tier 2 suppliers produce parts like mechanical power components and electronics.

Tier 3

The group of suppliers that provide materials and small parts to other members of the supply chain. Tier 3 suppliers produce parts like bearings and fasteners.

traditional manufacturing

The process of creating a part by shaping or removing material from a workpiece. Traditional manufacturing processes include metal cutting and forming.


A machine that uses a combination of gears and other mechanical components to change the speed or torque of mechanical energy. The transmission is a major part of a car's powertrain.


A metal cutting operation that guides a single-point tool along the length of a rotating cylindrical workpiece to remove material. Turning is commonly performed on a lathe.


Existing on or simulated within a computer program or system rather than physically existing. Virtual representations of real-world objects can be used to test and refine part designs.


The joining of two or more materials, usually metals, using heat, pressure, or a combination of energy sources. Welding fuses materials together permanently.


A part that is in the process of being manufactured. A workpiece may be subject to machining, grinding, welding, or other operations.