£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 14 November 2022 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more
Skip main navigation


This article describes the concept of standardisation. You will also reflect upon, and discuss how standardisation is being used in your own work.
© Luleå University of Technology
The concept of standardisation is closely connected to the division of labour. To explain this concept, we will look at an example involving someone called Eli Whitney.

Whitney had received a contract to manufacture ten thousand muskets for the American army at the end of the 18th century. To succeed in this task, he used interchangeable parts (components) in the manufacturing of muskets. (Whitney was not the first person to use interchangeable parts in manufacturing. But he helped make the concept popular.)

Whitney created muskets that consisted of five separate parts. Each with around ten different possible component designs but designed in such a way that regardless of design, any part belonging to one of the five categories could be combined with any part from each of the other four categories.

Managing to create components that could be combined without having to customise specific components to match with each other, led to huge advantages into the production process. Significantly reducing the need for customization facilitated mass production.

Example visualised with rifles, showing different designs, compatible components and multiple combinations

A summary

Put simply, standardisation means creating common standards to reduce the need of having to spend time and resources on specific solutions within a process.

What are some examples of standardisation that you can think of? Are there cases in which standardisation would not work?

Write your answer in the comment section and discuss your ideas with other learners.

© Luleå University of Technology
This article is from the free online

Exploring Sustainable Production Systems

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education