What is the name of the profession of creating factories/production lines?

Actually, I did a bit of some “sailing in the night” here, and I self-whooshed. I’ll own this.

Your back of the napkin math is right. I saw “a few thousand tonnes” and brainfarted that into “a few thousand kilograms”. So mea culpa there. I gave a bit more (kinda meaningless) precision.

And of course more energetic is not the same thing as more explosive. In fact, most of my reaction was based on my initial misreading. I hereby banish myself back to remedial reading school for at least a few minutes.

Depending on how you define large that is my job. I’ve built several small national scale facilities but I haven’t built something like the new New Belgium brewery in North Carolina. I get called an industrial engineer sometimes but I prefer to call myself a Booze Engineer.

I’ve also been working on hand sanitizer the last couple of months including standing up a new manufacturing plant and I’m the only engineer aside from the MEP team.

Its expensive especially when you start looking at the raw ingredients. Most small “manufacturers” start off hiring other people to do the manufacturing for them and they focus on the sales side. Then once they grow they can get a loan or other funding to build their own factory. In the booze world we typically build small facilities first and then grow every 3-5 years. I’m building a pilot scale facility right now that will develop recipes that they will then send to co-packing to do scale manufacturing before they fund a full scale facility on their own.

Bourbon corn runs about 70% starch and we can convert about 90% of the starch to fermentable sugar with about 90% efficiency in the fermenter before 1 pound of sugar makes 1/2 pound of ethanol. Working backward, we would need 1,045,454 pounds of ethanol or 2,090,909 pounds of fermented sugar, or about 3,687,670 pounds of corn. It would take about 500 acres of corn to grow that much corn depending where you are in the country. We get about 4 bbls per acre so that 500 acres would make 2,000 53-gallon barrels at 125 proof or about 66,250 gallons of pure ethanol or 699,445 pounds. That third difference is going to be losses in the distillation process since even the best distilleries don’t do more than about 85% but high proof distilleries or refineries can get that loss down below 3% so the first number is probably best for this conversation.

ETA: Ethanol doesn’t explode it deflagrates so its not a good comparison to explosives any how.

I’ll bet that ten thousand tons of ethanol deflagrating would still ruin someone’s day, though.

It’s just corn. What’s the worst that could happen?

Don’t they still have “efficiency experts” like that dude from Cheaper By The Dozen?

Without a doubt. Of course making it happen would be a hell of a trick too.

Without going into details, there are industrial engineers in the aforementioned “industry.” The rest, is, as already mentioned. . . “no comment.”

Now, getting either a 2.3E6 kg payload of weapons-grade booze or a 4.4E6 kg of Orville Reddenbacher to a target site, in order to deliver a 10 kT TNT equivalent has two problems:
A) You’re going to need to completely redesign a delivery system to convey this weapon of mass consumption, and
B) Those design engineers would sure as hell would want to be there for “delivery”.

Tripler
I can imagine the warhead swelling up like a Jiffy-Pop pan on re-entry.

There are a few shows that are essentially “factory porn”, where the manufacturing processes for different products are shown, such as jelly beans, pencils, surfboards, etc. Here are a couple I know of that I see all the time. Check your TV/streaming provider to see if you have access. I enjoy watching these shows to see all the creative solutions they came up with to manufacture different products.


What I find interesting when I watch those shows is how few people are shown. There is a tremendous amount of automation in these factories.

You can also learn a lot if you watch a few episodes of Shark Tank. Some of the people who come on the show have some little gadget that they invented and want to sell in the US but are having produced in China or elsewhere, and they will talk about some of the issues involved. Like if you find a factory in China to make your gadget, they send you a sample that looks good, so you authorize them to make 10,000 more. But then when you get the shipment, you find that quality varies and many of the pieces are unsellable. So what now? You’ve sunk your capital in getting these goods made, so they’re ready for the Christmas season, or for some big trade show. Just saying “outsource production to China” is really oversimplifying what’s really a very complex process.

Almost certainly multiple factories.

These days, it rarely makes sense to do the manufacturing in-house, unless that manufacturing IS your core business. But with Barkbox, I’m guessing they’re more of a intellectual property/marketing type business (i.e. they think up/design cute toys and market them to dog owners). So it makes sense that they’d outsource that to someone else- otherwise they have to deal with all the headaches of sourcing raw materials/components, manufacturing them, warehousing them, etc… None of which is in their dog toy design and marketing wheelhouse. And likely none of which they can do cheaper or better than having someone else do it.

Plus, it gives them a lot of flexibility. If they want to make a solid rubber toy like a “Kong”, they can design it and outsource it to a plastic/rubber casting outfit. If they want to do a stuffed toy, they can have someone do that. Or anything in between. Or even stuff like rawhide chews by some other manufacturer.

Now if your particular business is making say… fish food like @Dallas_Jones describes, then you have some other options. You can do it yourself, if you think you can do it cheaper or better. Or you can contract it out to other producers. Lots of microbreweries do this when they get to a certain size, or if they start marketing it somewhere else. That’s what Samuel Adams did- when they got above a certain size, they contracted other large commercial breweries to brew and package their beer. Kona Brewing in Hawaii did it when they expanded to the mainland- they contracted with Widmer Brothers to produce their beer stateside.

Similar setups abound in the food production business- it’s particularly common in things like condiments (barbecue sauce comes to mind)- someone schemes up a nifty recipe, then contracts with one of these companies to produce X bottles to that recipe.

Basically there’s a lot of specialization in today’s business world. Almost any aspect of a company’s operations can be outsourced in some fashion- payroll, IT, production, etc… The big question is whether it’s cheaper and better to do it that way. The pendulum is starting to swing sideways in IT; some stuff is being brought in-house that used to be outsourced, but other things are being implemented as “Software-as-a-Service”, which is sort of like outsourcing, but sort of not. The in-house/outsource debate is one of those critical business decisions that owners/execs have to make.

Thanks all for your interesting answers! I do watch shows like “How It’s Made” and those are fascinating, but it always leaves me wondering how people come up with the process in the first place. Just the idea of figuring out what to outsource and what not to outsource seems mind-boggling. And yes it’s interesting to see how few people are involved on the floor, but it’s also very interesting to think about who decides when a human is needed over a machine.

I did find some info that BarkBox toys are made in China, so you guys are right on that.

Regarding the Barkbox company the OP mentioned, I’ll bet that not all of the toys and dog accessories they offer are original. If you look, for example, at the Alibaba website, you’ll see all sorts of dog toys that are available in wholesale quantities. Some of the companies like Barkbox that offer regular boxes of related stuff just package other people’s goods. Sometimes companies will pay a company like Barkbox to include something they want to test market.

Or if you see on Alibaba that a company like “Hangzhou Tianyuan Pet Products Co., Ltd.” makes a dog toy something like what you want to offer, you can contact them to see if they’ll do a custom job for you.

Don’t forget system engineering. I think of it as starting in the design phase to make sure all the requirements are met and identifying problems before they make it to the construction phase. All the other engineers work with the system engineer at all phases of the development and build. System engineering is mostly associated with documentation, but does quite a lot of modeling as well including extensive linear programming for logistics and production.

It’s been done before.

And instrumentation engineering. There is a lot more to a manufacturing line than just the production and conveying machinery.

All of the sensors, weigh-in transit, sorting eyes, that is what really makes the production line keep moving. If you watch some shows, like “How it is Made” you will see this in action. Little puffs of air sorting out bad product, color sensors to sort tomatoes, all the dot printers labeling the product, It is quite amazing how smart a system can seem to be with the proper sensors and feed back. Humans are now only needed to monitor, adjust, and when the system goes down to engage asses and elbows to get it back up and running as soon as possible. Down time is very expensive, that is really the only reason to keep humans on site.

In many production lines now humans are just the monitors watching the machines and intervening when needed.

I say this on a regular basis, but I would pay Mr. Roger’s production company big bucks for all the Picture-Picture videos put on DVD or streaming. I watched them as a kid, and watched them with my kids. Captivating.

This is my job, to get the machines back up and running. I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to convince people that the company makes more money if I am watching Youtube videos than if I have tools in my hands.

Do you also do the PM’s?

Yep. And as I keep telling the newbies, the goal of your job is to not have to do a damn thing. The basics of that is to catch everything on a PM and to stay two steps ahead of the operators. It is easier and quicker to tighten a loose nut than to reweld the bent frame. Or to implement a better idea to make it more idiot proof, no matter the advancements in idiocy education.

Thats an excellent mainance philosophy. In my experience the most difficult aspect would be staying two steps ahead of the operators.

As a contractor that isn’t ussually called until after three shifts of maintance guys have tried their hand at the problem I’ve learned to appreciate the ones who know their shit.