I mentioned that I have factories in my fantasy world (in Fast ideas follow-up) and thought I should probably clear some of that up.
First off, the benefit of factories is that while everyone is working, there are people around taking care of the little things. Like what? Well, cleaning up, bringing supplies to the workers, managing, handling suppliers, perhaps maintenance or other repair of the equipment, all those thing that those of us outside that industry would never think about as necessary, but are part of the normal work day. So when I’m working on all those economy things (like Grain Into Gold or Pockets), I usually give a worker 7.5 hours of work in a 10 hour day. In a factory, there are a bunch of other people around, so the workers are actually doing 10 hours of work in a day. So as long as you can pay some kids to sweep the floor and deliver supplies, then you will be saving money instead of having the craftsmen do those little jobs. But that’s the economics of the things.
So how do they work? Well none of my cultures utilize assembly lines. Even in factories, a craftsman makes the entire item. For the most part, interchangeable parts don’t exist, though the dwarves have achieved this in many of the things they do (at least within the clans - between the clans, parts are still not uniform). But there are some circumstances where the casting of metal parts do bring most cultures near to this. Why do I mention of all this? Because you need to forget what you think about when you picture a factory.
So what is a factory like? They are all different. A brewery is a factory because they are using huge tanks to brew beer that is mostly standardized - consistent quality. A brick making factory has the craftsmen making the bricks with teams of guys bringing in the clay, hauling off the bricks to the kiln, firing the kiln, and stacking the bricks. Ceramics factories (like where they would make plates, pitchers, and steins) work mainly the same way except that it takes extra time to craft a pitcher compared to a brick. A sawmill is a factory (under this weird explanation) because you have lumberjacks bringing in the trees, “craftsmen” operating the machinery, and other guys handling the drying of the lumber. Now a grist mill by comparison would likely not be a factory, because the miller is probably dealing with customers, determining the scheduling, running the milling, managing the staff, etc. all by himself.
An enchantment factory has enchanters working on the magic, while all sorts of servants and apprentices bring them the items they need. Each has his own “workstation” which is typically a granite work table. In the enchantment factory, they can have appropriate guards to protect the workers, the raw materials, and the product. They can also share some of the magical equipment and tools that are probably hugely expensive, but if you have five guys all using the same expensive tool, it doesn’t turn out to be as expensive. I mainly use enchantment factories for those cities that have massive armies and can afford to have a factory churning out low powered magical items for the officers and special operatives. Don’t believe there should be enchantment factories? Think about the cost of a single cruise missile or low light goggles in the modern world.
I’m not suggesting that every small town will have a factory, but in the major cities, greed for profits will find efficiencies where they exist. Any time a guy can get a bunch of people working for him and make a boatload of money, he’s going to do it.