Disadvantage 1: Standardized product
The first disadvantage of mass production is that it produces large quantities of identical products. To get the benefits of scale, companies may produce standard items. Rather than reading to change over machines or retool the production line, it is easier and cheaper to continue to produce standardized items.
The model T is a classic example of this – no variety in the vehicle nor choice for customers. While companies have recognized that customers may want some variety, and thus the extremely limited variety of the all-black Model T may now be an extreme case, mass production does encourage limited variety.
This is in comparison to more bespoke or small batch production where a greater variety of items can be produced. While mass manufacturing encourages a very limited set of items or choices, bespoke manufacturing allows much more individual-specific customizations. Somewhere between the two extremes would be some level of small batch production – some economies of scale coming from producing in batches, but also more levels of variety in the products offered.
Disadvantage 2: Potential for over-production
Another limit to mass production is the possibility of overproduction, both of components as well as finished products. Prices often fall as volumes increase, and so there is a danger that companies over-estimate production volumes to try and get greater economies of scale. Should demand be lower than anticipated, this risks a large amount of unsold goods. Components may be wasted, and the end products may need selling off at a steap discount.
Disadvantage 3: High fixed costs to establish
Another disadvantage of mass production is the high tooling costs associated with setting up large production lines. The capital required may pose a barrier to smaller firms from being able to establish the production environment to be able to produce their goods in large quantities. Indeed, even if you were to partner with a large company to produce the goods, the tooling required for mass production may still require substantial upfront investments.
Disadvantage 4: Long lead times to get the product to market
Finally, mass manufacturing is typically associated with long lead times to get the product to market. Planning is required for all stages of the production line – considering the best approach to manufacture the product as well as to assemble the item.