The Phenomenon of Industry: Basic Concepts and Mechanisms

Nurten Müge Ayla, Cansu Sicimli

The definition of industry is hard to contain to just a few words or a singular concept. It pertains to anything from mechanized production in factories and agriculture to “exchange of goods and services that goes beyond the local economy.” It also consists of a commercialized society with a population that resides closely together in large towns and cities, resulting in high literacy rates and rationality, more innovations in science, and more advanced political systems (Bruce, S., & Yearley, S., pp 151, 2006). Capital is also a huge player in an industrial society as individuals strive to earn said capital through unique means, painting not just the economy, but the urban space through innovation and growth (Bruce, S., & Yearley, S., pp 27, 2006). White and blue-collar labor is another defining characteristic as it displays the economical distinctions within the population as well as the spatial. Blue-collar workers are typically tied to any type of manual labor, consistent with the implications of union membership (Bruce, S., & Yearley, S., pp 21-22, 2006). White-collar workers, on the contrary, adhere to non-manual labor work consistent with that of office or desk jobs that are considered very routine (Bruce, S., & Yearley, S., pp 318, 2006). The population, therefore, is prone to being split due to the locational and social differences these different types of labor provide.

Concepts such as Fordism, assembly lines, Taylorism, and Post-Fordism are also major contributors to the industry as well as the urban environment. Fast, efficient production, popularized by Henry Ford through his concept of Fordism, led to the commercialization of many goods, shaping not only production, but way of consumption and our lifestyles. One major contribution that pioneered this change was Ford’s model T cars, which became available to most as costs and time in production significantly dropped due to the use of assembly lines and Taylorism methods. The affordability of vehicles instigated a huge shift in spatial dynamics, as more began taking to the roads rather than traveling by foot  (Bruce, S., & Yearley, S. pp 295, 2006) (Jessop, 1992) (Kincheloe, 1995) (The Model T). Post-Fordism mostly followed suit but, on the other hand, also expanded the categories of the consumer base, increasing variety in our everyday lives (Lather, 1991, pp. 32 as cited in Kincheloe, pp. 82; Murray, 1992, pp. 272 as cited in Kincheloe, pp. 82). Modes and means of production, or the way things are produced, the process of obtaining the raw materials it takes to produce them, and the social relations between workers and owners, also weigh heavily on the structure of the urban space as they determine its spatial configurations to meet the fast-pace, changing environment (Bruce, S., & Yearley, S. pp 189-190, pp 200-201, 2006).

One major problem to note is the ever-changing modes of production, especially with the constant advancements in technology. This shift to mechanization is prone to not only causing a rift between the different labor classes, but could also lead to the elimination of certain job fields as mechanization becomes the preference over human labor. This also begs the question, if most jobs become mechanized, will residing in cities and/or near workplaces be even necessary for most? Will we even need to plan for urban spaces and industrial zones with the consideration of people living or working there? Or will it be better to move all residential districts away from industrial zones so as to not interfere with the physical expansion of the industry? In addition, with the global pandemic introducing us to more methods of remote working, it has become evident that humans are not as necessary in the physical work space as we thought, even for white-collar labor. The mechanization and digitalization of labor is overtaking the world rapidly and we need to rethink our solutions to the problems of the current urban environment in a way to homogenize with technology if we wish to create solutions that are sustainable and long-lasting.

Delving into the production process allows us to examine the problems within the urban and industry from a different angle. Production refers to the transformation of inputs into outputs. Inputs include capital (or investments into factories, equipment, and supplies), labor (human effort, both physical and mental), materials (raw substances, finished and semi-finished goods), natural resources (energy, air, water, and land), and outputs include products, by-products or services (Black, 2000). The production process differs depending on the product as well as the techniques and technologies being used, but as a synthesis of different perspectives, the basic mechanisms involved in the production process can be summarized as design, manufacturing, warehousing/distribution, and waste management. The design process refers to transforming brief (definition of the expectations of all parties involved regarding the project’s outcome) into the final design. It consists of research, concepting, consolidation, detailing, prototyping and refinement stages (Wieslaw et al., 2020). Different facilities such as R&D centers, research labs, design studios, offices, and workshops can support the design process. However, these spaces are not well-integrated with the industry in the current situation. They are not sufficient to respond to the needs of different stages of the process.

Following the design process, the manufacturing process refers to the production of goods that converts raw materials, parts, and components into finished goods. It can include a variety of machinery, tools, equipment and several levels of automation using computers, robots, and cloud-based technology (Zhou et al., 2018). There are three significant types of manufacturing depending on the type of product, product variety and production quantity: Low-quantity manufacturing (job-shop production), medium-quantity manufacturing (batch or cellular production, high-quantity manufacturing (mass production). Each type requires a different plant layout such as fixed position, process (functional), cellular (group technology) and product (line) layout. Plant layout is a mechanism that involves knowledge of the space requirements for the facilities and their proper arrangement. (Kiran, 2019). The internal program of the manufacturing facilities (factories) is designed so that continuous and steady movement of the production cycle takes place, but they are not presenting new arrangements for the advancements in technology.

The last contributing elements to the production process are the warehousing /distribution and waste management stages. Warehousing/distribution refers to the storage and movement of goods through purchasing, processing, and selling from a supplier to an end-user who further processes and distributes. Logistics, the process of coordinating the movement of materials, goods and people within a network, is an important term for this stage supported by warehouses, distribution and fulfilment centers (Jaller & Pineda, 2017). Waste management refers to all the activities required to manage waste (reduction, recycling, treatment and disposal) from the point of its generation to its handling (Staniškis, 2001). The lack of a central logistics network and waste management strategies in industrial areas lead to problems in the current situation.

So, each mechanism involved in the production process has its own spatial requirements and the current situation is not responding to the needs of all parties involved in the production process.  As architects and planners, we should address the problems in the existing system and question, how the internal programs in industrial facilities should be updated for further integration between different mechanisms involved in the production process? Can designing connective spaces as an interface between the different processes overcome the scarcity of non-industrial uses (recreation, education, social facilities) in industrial areas? As the industry transforms, how can industrial spaces adjust to the new reality?


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