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factory, place of production characterized by wage labor, the use of machinery, and the division of labor. The large-scale use of machinery differentiates factory production from simple manufacture, and the division of labor sets it apart from even the most elaborate handicraft establishments. Standardized goods are produced and sometimes sold more cheaply by the factory system, and occasionally the goods are better than those made by artisans. The factory system makes possible huge increases in output per man-hour though at the same time division of labor deprives individual workers of much of their sense of creativity.

In the 19th and first half of the 20th cent., the factory system gave rise to serious social problems, some of which persist. The tedious routine of assembly line work resulted in boredom and frustration among the workers, which can reduce productivity and product quality. The concentration of large plants and factories in urban areas also helped create urban congestion, pollution, slum dwellings, and traffic jams. To minimize these problems, employers have attempted to increase productivity and product quality by introducing robots to perform some of the tedious operations, by introducing systems that reduce the tedium of assembly-line work, and by involving workers in the plant management. Since the 1960s, the closing of factories in urban areas in the United States has reduced environmental pollution and other social problems associated with factories, but has also created decreased employment opportunities for unskilled workers.

In the late 20th cent. factory production became globalized, producing goods that are assembled in more than one country. Global production has induced multinational corporations to move their factories out of already industrialized countries to areas with lower overhead and cheaper labor. Because of the importance of factories to an area's economy, local governments in the United States have as a result offered subsidies to encourage companies to build or maintain factories in their areas. Congress also passed (1988) legislation requiring large employers to provide notice before closing a plant.

The first factory was probably a silk mill that opened in 1721 in Derby, England, and the proliferation of factories in Britain in the 18th and 19th cent. is the hallmark of the Industrial Revolution. Broadly speaking, large-scale factory development has moved historically and geographically from the production of fabrics in Great Britain in the 18th and 19th cents., to the manufacture of motor vehicles by Henry Ford and others in the United States in the 20th cent., to the production of computer-related goods in China, Vietnam, and other Asian countries in the late 20th and 21st cent.

See automation and division of labor.


See J. Tann, The Development of the Factory (1970); R. Linhart, The Assembly Line (1981); D. Gordon et al., Segmented Work, Divided Workers: The Historical Transformation of Labor in the United States (1982); D. Hounshell, The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the U.S. (1984); D. Noble, Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation (1985); M. Kranzberg, By the Sweat of Thy Brow (1986); J. B. Freeman, Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World (2018).

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A building or group of buildings containing machinery and other facilities for the manufacture of goods.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in Russian, zavod). (1) An industrial enterprise with mechanized production processes, which manufactures primarily means of production.

(2) An enterprise for the breeding of pedigree animals (for example, konnyi zavod, “stud farm”).



an industrial enterprise based on the use of machines, characteristic of large-scale machine production. In Soviet political economy, the term fabrika (“factory”) is synonymous with zavod (“plant”) and is usually used for enterprises in light industry and the extracting industries, such as textile mills and ore-dressing and agglomeration enterprises.

The rise of the factory was a result of the industrial revolution of the last third of the 18th and first quarter of the 19th century. The first factory in Russia, the Alexandrov Manufactory, was founded in 1799. Historically, factory production was preceded by capitalist manufacture. The appearance of the machine and the development of the machine system marked the transition from the manufacturing workshop to the factory. The cooperation of workers performing part of the total work, based on a division of manual labor, was transformed in the factory into the cooperation of machines performing part of the total work, and the cooperative nature of the labor process became a technical necessity dictated by the means of labor (seeCOOPERATION, LABOR). With the transition from manufacture to factory production, capitalism created an adequate material and production basis, and capitalist industry entered a stage of large-scale machine production, which constitutes the basis for consolidating the capitalist mode of production.

“The transition from the manufactory to the factory,” wrote V. I. Lenin, “signifies a complete technical revolution, which does away with the craftsman’s manual skill that has taken centuries to acquire, and this technical revolution is inevitably followed by the most thoroughgoing destruction of social production relations, by a final split among the various groups of participants in production,... an intensification and extension of all the dark apsects of capitalism, and at the same time by a mass socialisation of labour by capitalism” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 3, p. 455).

On the one hand, the capitalist factory is a social productive force that creates the opportunity to raise labor productivity and efficiency; on the other, it acts as the productive force of capital, which capital uses to exploit hired labor and obtain surplus value. The development of factory production has become characteristic of and the basis for the real subjugation of labor to capital, and it constitutes a factor in the increasing intensification of the labor of workers, who become a mere appendage of the machine. It fosters the creation of an industrial reserve army and the exacerbation of the basic contradiction of capitalism between the social character of production and the private-capitalist form of appropriation.

Factory production constantly changes as the means of labor are developed. Major advances have occurred in factory production as a result of contemporary scientific and technological progress—electrification, the transition to machinery with numerical program control, the appearance of production-line manufacturing, and the introduction of modern automated machinery, automatic transfer machines, and computers. The industrialization of agriculture, construction, and transportation leads to the spread of factory-production methods in these sectors. As a traditional form of enterprise, the factory or plant is being increasingly replaced by a complex of enterprises, to which the factory belongs as a production component; this reflects the processes of concentration and centralization and the socialization of production.

Highly developed, large-scale machine production in all the corresponding sectors of the national economy serves as the material-production basis for a socialist society. The socialist factory is based on public ownership and cooperative labor, that is, the labor of employees who are free from exploitation and who perform their work in the interests of the whole society. The planned organization of production on a scale that covers the entire national economy creates possibilities for the fullest possible use of the advantages of large-scale machine production. Such production becomes a universal form of social production in all branches of the national economy in the process of creating the material and technical basis for communism.


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1, chs. 11–13; vol. 3, ch. 27. Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd éd., vol. 23; vol. 25, part 1.
Marx, K. “Nishcheta filosofii.” Ibid., vol. 4.
Lenin, V. I. “Razvitie kapitalizma v Rossii.” In Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 3.
Tugan-Baranovskii, M. I. Russkaia fabrika v proshlom i nastoiashchem, 7th ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1938.
Liashchenko, P. I. Istoriia narodnogo khoziaistva SSSR, 4th ed., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1956.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(industrial engineering)
A building or group of buildings where goods are manufactured.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


(Brit.) works A building or group of buildings for the production or manufacture of goods.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a. a building or group of buildings containing a plant assembly for the manufacture of goods
b. (as modifier): a factory worker
2. Rare a trading station maintained by factors in a foreign country
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005