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Handmade Vs. Factory Made: Tales Of Time And Cost

Once upon a time, everything was made by hand. Now, in the 21st century, we couldn't sustain anything like our lifestyles without machines. We explore where these world overlap, looking at both time and cost.

After the Industrial Revolution, mass production of goods led to mass consumption in a necessary way. With factory made goods now accessible and affordable across the country and around the world, the quality of life vastly improved for countless people, elevating our agrarian culture to a global commercial one. In the modern world, there is room for both factory made and handmade, where artisanal can live beside industrial. Check out the differences between the two approaches below.

Though handmade might seem always like the better bet, cost is a major factor in modern consumption. The cost of crafting all the elements that go into modern life is impossible — not at the scale modern society demands. A 20 to 24 piece set of handcrafted silverware costs approximately $426, whereas a factory made set costs only $20. Similarly, handmade plates can run $40 per plate, or $3.50 when purchased at a mass-marketed store. At that price, you can afford to break a few without worry of breaking the bank for a replacement.

Besides being cost-effective, factory made items are also time-effective. While the high quality of proper craftsmanship cannot be discounted, one cannot ignore the length of time it takes for one person to personally make an item. For example, it would take a skilled seamstress or tailor using an old-fashioned hand loom approximately five-and-a-half hours to make a pair of jeans. Considering that 520 million pairs of jeans are sold each year — in the U.S. alone — it would take 1,000 seamstresses and tailors, working 12 hours a day for 365 days each year, for 652 years, to equal the factory output of one year of jeans.

Factory made mass production does not just affect the time it takes to create something, but also to maximize the time allotted to produce. For instance, the harvest window for corn in the U.S. is roughly 60 days. Currently, it takes about 290 man-hours to harvest and shuck 1 hectare of corn by hand. (1 hectare is equal to 2.47 acres.) That doesn’t seem so impossible… until you consider that there are 39 million hectares of corn grown in the U.S. each year. Corn is a foundational ingredient in not only our food processing but also in our livestock feed, and is an agricultural keystone in our economy. To harvest what is necessary to keep the corn industry sustainable would simply not be possible without the heavy lifting of machinery and automation.

The good news is we don’t have to choose between the two approaches. There is room in our world for both the necessity of factory made items and the artisanal craftsmanship of handmade items. Being selective about where our time, money, and energy is channeled can help both sides of the production industry thrive together.

Andy Kerns is Content Manager at Digital Third Coast on behalf of Bid On Equipment

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