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What is a Production System?

This step introduces the basics of production systems, their components and what systems are usually made up of.

A production system transforms input to output. Meaning, it’s the systems that manufacture a product consisting of whatever components is needed to make it a reality.

Let’s take a closer look at how input and output work with a system:

black box with input and output

The black box in the picture represents the production system itself. On the left we have what goes into the system (input) and on the right is what comes out of the system (output).

Input goes into the system. When going through the system, it becomes transformed in some way making the output different than what came in, resulting in something with different characteristics. Of course, a system may have more than one input and output.

There are usually five types of ways of transforming input into output:

  • Separating – One item enters and two or more exit. Example: A wooden plank is cut into two.
  • Putting together – Several items enter and one exits. Example: Wooden planks that are glued together.
  • Detaching – And item enters and exits shaped differently, alongside waste. Example: A block of wood is shaped with a lathe.
  • Forming – An item enters and exits in a different shape, without waste. Example: A piece of metal is shaped by hammering the object.
  • Quality adaptation – An item enters and exits with different characteristics. Example: Surface treatment of a metal object.

It is not always easy to directly understand what happens in the black box – often we simply accept that it’s there. Further on in this activity we will examine what might happen within the production system black box. This is a large part of understanding production systems.



Components are simply the parts that together make up a larger system.

If we take this FutureLearn course as an example of a system, all of the steps are components and so are all of the learners taking the course. The content-steps of the course and learners then work together towards the goal of enriching everyone’s knowledge.

Components can be material, digital, and nonmaterial alike. An idea or organisation can also be a component of a system, so components can sometimes be difficult to define.

It is when the components of this course are assembled into a system that we achieve the goal. And the components only work in the context of the other components.

Give some examples of systems and list some of the components they are made up of. Try thinking of both material and nonmaterial components that make up some systems that you are familiar with. Are some components more important than others?

Please share your answer in the comment section, and discuss with other learners.

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