The products you use, from the clothes that you wear to the pots that you cook with to the chairs you sit in come a long way before they arrive in a store near you or on your doorstep after a trip through the postal system. The ability to cheaply ship products and raw materials around the world has truly globalized production. From the harvesting and mining of raw materials to the sale and distributions of the final products, here’s how your stuff gets to you:
Raw Materials: Raw materials include cotton, oil, wood, or iron ore–anything that gets processed into a final product. The raw materials for a single product could come from all over. For example, when manufacturing a button down shirt, the cotton for the shirt might come from one location, while the oil for the plastic in the buttons might come from another. In fact, the cotton and oil might come from several different locations.
Manufacturing: Products are produced in factories through a combination of machine and manual labor. Much like the collection of raw materials, the manufacturing process does not take place in just one locality. Going back to that button down shirt, the cotton must be first cleaned and then processed into fabric, while the oil must be first converted into plastic and then turned into buttons. These different processes take place all over. Then, the garment is sewn together. Often, multiple companies might even participate in this manufacturing process.
Packaging: The completed products must be packaged and shipped out. Workers prepare the products for retailers or distributors. Products might be packaged multiple times, first by manufacturers and then by retailers for sale.
Distribution: Products are sold, whether in stores, online, or (more rarely today) through mail or phone order. Physical stores have many retail workers who deal with everything from making sales transactions to keeping the store orderly and the products well organized and ready to sell. In the case of online stores, things such as checkout happen without much manual intervention, but even online companies need people for customer service, tracking statistics, and so forth.