A factory or manufacturing plant is an industrial site, usually consisting of buildings and machinery, or more commonly a complex having several buildings, where workers manufacture goods or operate machines processing one product into another.
Factories arose with the introduction of machinery during the Industrial Revolution when the capital and space requirements became too great for cottage industry or workshops. Early factories that contained small amounts of machinery, such as one or two spinning mules, and fewer than a dozen workers have been called "glorified workshops".
Most modern factories have large warehouses or warehouse-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line production. Large factories tend to be located with access to multiple modes of transportation, with some having rail, highway and water loading and unloading facilities.
Interior of the Lyme Regis
watermill, UK (14th century).
Max Weber considered production during ancient times as never warranting classification as factories, with methods of production and the contemporary economic situation incomparable to modern or even pre-modern developments of industry. In ancient times, the earliest production limited to the household, developed into a separate endeavour independent to the place of inhabitation with production at that time only beginning to be characteristic of industry, termed as "unfree shop industry", a situation caused especially under the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh, with slave employment and no differentiation of skills within the slave group comparable to modern definitions as division of labour.
According to translations of Demosthenes and Herodotus, Naucratis was a, or the only, factory in the entirety of ancient Egypt. A source of 1983 (Hopkins), states the largest factory production in ancient times was of 120 slaves within 4th century BC Athens. An article within the New York Times article dated 13 October 2011 states:
"In African Cave, Signs of an Ancient Paint Factory" – (John Noble Wilford)
... discovered at Blombos Cave, a cave on the south coast of South Africa where 100,000-year-old tools and ingredients were found with which early modern humans mixed an ochre-based paint.
Although The Cambridge Online Dictionary definition of factory states:
a building or set of buildings where large amounts of goods are made using machines
... the utilization of machines presupposes social cooperation and the division of labour