A Guide to Manufacturing Farms

A Guide to Manufacturing Farms
by Randy Roberts

First of all, I need to thank Peter van Valderen, Mark Norris and the rest of the SimNation Guild's "SN™ Money Domination" region players who've shared tricks and strategies with me along the way. It's through all of our combined experience that I've been able to write this guide.

A typical PC/Processor farm is shown with an alloy farm off in the distance.
If you've taken a look at any of the North America server leaderboards, you may find a "SN™ Money Domination" region at the top of the simoleon leaderboard. You also might find one of my Uncivil cities in the top 10 of the trading, electronic, or metal leaderboards.  As I've participated in these leaderboard regions I've been building a lot of manufacturing farms: Consumer Electronic Farms, Processor Farms, Alloy Smelting Farms, or Trade Port Farms. In this post I'm going to talk about how I set up these cities to maximize their money making potential.

A smelting farm can be incredibly fun to build, and profitable!
Overall Layout
Although every city is different based on wind direction, city entrance and terrain, I've found the ideal layout to be something like what is shown in the photo below. The residential is squeezed into one corner, the trade ports are along one side and the majority of the map is factories. You can use either traditional housing or megatowers. I'm not a big fan of megatowers so I usually use traditional housing, but I've seen others have great success with them.

It's important to have the streets run perpendicular to the trade ports because it allows for good distribution of trade truck traffic from the ports to the factories. The goal is to have as many factories as possible, so I suggest having sewer, water and power all provided by an adjacent support city. It should be noted that smelting farms require a lot more sewer and water than processor, TV or PC farms. If your city is manufacturing PCs,  you'll also need to have an Electronics Headquarter with Consumer Electronics Division.

EXAMPLE OF BAD DESIGN: This electronic farm had traffic issues due to the streets not being perpendicular to the side with the trade ports. Learned my lesson the hard way.
City Entrance Design
One of the keys to maximizing the output of a manufacturing farm is to have excellent traffic flow.

One way to accomplish this is to separate trade truck traffic from regular traffic at the city entrance. This can be done through creative use of oil well service roads which trade trucks can use, but regular traffic will stay away from (as mentioned in Tip #1 on the Trade Secrets page).  If you don't have it, download the Oil Well Service Road Mod. I like to have an oil well service road tee off of the main entrance near the edge of the map and then have the regular traffic tunnel across the map to the other side. This allows for the trade trucks to enter and exit the city quickly while forcing any traffic backup to occur underground.

Another method which works well is to build an additional entrance with Skye's Regional Freeway mod and have it connect to your road network with only an oil well service road. This makes it a "Trade Truck Only" entrance. Both scenarios work well.

12/9/14 Update: The more I've built these cities, the less I've been using the oil well service road. These days I've just been using Skye's Regional Freeway mod to add additional entrances on each side of the map. Some have questioned the use of mods, but I can assure you that the regional freeway mod is available for use in online games and won't cause any rollbacks or crashes.

Every city entrance I do tends to be different than the last. It's really up to you as the designer to find something that works well with the terrain and layout that you're given. Finding an entrance that works is one of the biggest challenges for this type of city.

Utilizing Skye's Regional Freeway Mod with an oil well service road, a Trade Truck Only route is created (lower left)
12/10/14 Update
Regional Freeway Mod Tip: There is usually a traffic spawn point at the entrance to each neighboring city. Sometimes your trade trucks will get stuck behind the traffic being spawned. One trick that I discovered is to connect a regional freeway just behind the neighboring city's entrance. The trade trucks will backtrack down the highway and then make the turn and come back towards your city, while the regular traffic being spawned will head down the main highway.

Trade Port Layout
In order to maximize the amount of trade ports that you can line up, I recommend extending a railroad along one side of the map. Then fill this side of the map with trade ports. You'll need to use a little trial and error to find the correct spacing of the first road. You'll want a little bit more depth than what would be required for two trade port storage lots. That's because the trade port's rail connection will require a little big more extra depth.

I utilize a 6-pack layout on the storage lots, and place the rail connection in the lower right corner.

When placing the second trade port, move three ticks over from the first trade port. This should leave enough room for the rail connection.

Place the storage lots first and the rail connection last. If all goes well it should look like the trade port below.

Repeat multiple times until you have a full row of trade ports across the map. I like to build each trade port with only one material. That way you can visually see if the storage lots are getting empty.  If you don't see the materials in your trade ports, you may need to increase your graphics settings.

SimNation Guild member Redwazza reported that trade ports with mixed materials tends to get bugged more often than ones with a single material. I have had good success with mixed materials on my export trade ports (TVs-PCs or PCs-alloy) so I suspect that it's the import trade ports that have more difficulty with mixed storage lots. Either way, the general consensus is to stick with only one material in each trade port.

8/17/14 Update: Mark Norris discovered that a 50% import / 50% export split works well in the trade ports. I've tried this out and agree that it's a good way to go. On a PC farm I used 3-Alloy, 3-PC or 3-Processor, 3-PC.  One of the benefits is that every train will have a chance to take exported items with them, thus you'll see a more stable stream of income.

12/9/14 Update: When you ship materials via rail, you may occasionally see your exports selling for $2/rail car. This is a bug, and there's no way to avoid it. One way to minimize it's effect is to build rail trade ports with only one export. Recently I've been using a setup that has 3 imports, 1 export. That way, the times you do get a bugged export, it only costs you the amount of one rail car instead of 2 or 3. I also like the 3/1 setup because you end up with more trade ports/map which in turn means more trade truck garages (and more rail connections) to move materials. The increased number of trade trucks really helps keep the goods flowing.

Processor Factory Layout
The processor factories fit well when placed in an "L" shaped layout. Place the first factory 7 ticks over from the adjacent road.

When complete, it should look like this.

The next road should be placed $440 dirt road spacing over from the first. (Note that this is the same amount as typical High Density back to back spacing.) If you have an avenue like in the photo below, you'll need an extra $25, so it would be $465. If you get a red box like in the photo below, you'll need to move over one tick. Sometimes you can place it on the first tick, other times it needs to go on the second.

Place all four processor units in a "L" shaped formation. When complete, the two processor factories will look like a well fitting Tetris layout.

Consumer Electronic Factory Layout
The consumer electronic factory uses the exact same layout as the processor factories.

Use $440 dirt road spacing

Place the factory seven ticks over from the adjacent road.

Place in an "L" shaped layout.

You may need to shift over one tick to place the second factory.


Smelting Plants
Smelting is the unsung hero of the manufacturing farm game. While most people are building PC manufacturing plants, you can make just as much, if not more money, by smelting. Sure it's dirty, pollutes like crazy and uses an insane amount of sewer and water, but when it comes to making money and controlling the alloy market, smelting is the way to go. Smelting farms are important because if you want to take full advantage of an electronic farm, you'll need favorable pricing, and one way to get that is to flood the market with alloy, thus pushing the alloy price back down.

The easiest layout to do with smelting plants is to simply line them up back to back with four alloy furnaces in a row. This design uses $567 in dirt road costs between roads.

Another way to do smelting plants is to lay them out with two furnaces on each side. This design uses $675 in dirt road costs between roads.  I tend to go with the layout shown above, just because it's easier to do.

Oil Refineries
To be honest, refining oil to plastic is just not very profitable in comparison to the other farm types. For this reason, I usually don't make oil refining farms.

The Consumer Electronic Farm: PCs, TVs or Both?
PCs require alloy and processors to be built. TVs require plastic and processors to be built. The sell price for TVs generally hangs around $126,500 and PCs are $147,500. Both of these prices don't move much so we can say that PCs sell for $20,000 more than TVs. Whether it makes more sense to build all PCs or all TVs depends on the comparison in price between alloy and plastic. If alloy is more than $20,000 higher in price compared to plastic, build TVs. If the difference in price is less than $20,000, build PCs.

While you could build both, I've found that it becomes increasingly difficult to supply and distribute both plastic and alloy at the same time, so I'd stick with either PCs or TVs.

When building a TV or PC factory, make sure to turn off the supply of the material you don't need. If you don't turn it off, you'll be wasting money on supplies that just sit unwanted in a factory.

  • Turn off the alloy suppy in TV Factories.
  • Turn off the plastic supply in PC Factories
Plastic (shown in yellow) sits unused in PC factories. Remember to turn off the unused material when you build the factory or you'll be wasting money.

If you don't need the material, uncheck the box to the right of the supply bar.
Shortages of Material
For many, the first instinct when you get a material shortage is to automatically assume the game is bugged, then demolish the trade port garages and rebuild them. What I've found in these farm cities is that this process usually isn't needed.  The key to keeping your factories stocked is keeping traffic clear and having enough trade trucks to move the goods around the map.  If you get a shortage, build more trade ports. Eventually you'll hit the correct number of trade ports and shortages won't occur again. It's only on a rare occasion that I get a city that has trade ports that are truly bugged. When that occurs I go to the old standby of demolishing and rebuilding the trade port garages. This should be a rare occasion though.

Resident Population and Worker Shortages (PC/TV/Smelting farms)
Worker shortages are pretty much unavoidable in manufacturing farms**. I like to have a resident population of around 90,000-100,000. I usually aim to have all low wealth, high density residential areas. This means you can cram them into the smallest amount of space possible. Even though you have enough workers, you will occasionally get worker shortages. I believe this is somewhat random, but with a population of 100,000 the worker shortages are kept to a minimum.

** For some reason, processor farms don't get the worker shortages that you see in electronic farms. I had  one processor farm that worked perfectly fine with a population of only 2500.

Update (8/28/14): If you keep getting closures due to worker shortages, try closing some factories. Things may run smoother and be more profitable with fewer factories.

Worker shortages in 1-4 factories is typical. If you have this many, something is seriously wrong!
Increasing the Tech Level to Maximize Profits
A typical output from a TV or PC factory is 4,800 units/day. Factories that are close to Tech producing buildings will increase their output up to 9,600 units/day. If you download the Purple Line Industrial Tech Map Mod you can visually see how this works. As seen below, a factory that has the purple circles is receiving extra tech and the output on the factory is increased.

The buildings that increase Tech Level are:
Mark Norris of the SimNation Guild did some tests and found that it didn't make much sense to build multiple universities. The space wasted could be more effectively used by building more factories. That being said, if you have some nooks and crannies in your map where a factory won't fit, but a University will, add the university. I usually build one or two universities in order to keep my education levels as high as possible. I also like to use the School of Medicine for it's benefit of decreasing the chances of sims getting sick.

Boosting Tech with the Vu Tower
The Vu Tower produces tech but comes at a price. In addition to tech, it produces criminals. The criminals are unleashed one at a time when the tower capacity reaches the maximum or all at once when you click on the "Unleash Henchmen" button. Once your henchmen collect $6,000 in stolen money ("loot") you can build the Vu Lab add-on to further increase your tech. Make sure you leave some room for this add-on because you don't want to  move Vu Tower. Once you delete it, you have to re-earn the $6,000 in loot.

Unlocking the Vu Lab is easiest when you don't have any education or police. Your crime rate will soar, but just gut it out and plop a precinct when you've finally unlocked the Vu Lab. Keep in mind you may produce regional criminals so you should inform others what you're doing, or better yet do it in a quadrant where you're the only person. It's also easier when you have a large population.

There's another add-on for the Vu Tower called the VuMobile Garage.  Don't build it. It's just a waste of time.

I work on my Vu "Loot" while my population is still large.
Since the Vu Tower will constantly be releasing criminals, you'll want to have a fully maxed out precinct with detective wings and a good education system when you're done. Eventually your crime rate will drop to normal levels.

For the ultimate tech loaded city, build both the Vu Tower/Lab and the Space Port Great Work. Note that the Space Port is bugged on certain maps, so it should not be attempted on certain maps. See which maps you can (allegedly) build the Space Port Great Work on.  If in doubt, try building the space port in a sandbox region first to verify.

Vu Tower + Vu Lab + Space Port = Lots of Tech for factories

Take advantage of the global market
If you build a manufacturing farm, you will have an effect on the global markets. If you build a consumer electronic farm (PC/TV), you will discover that the processor and alloy price will go up the more you play. Depending on the activity of the server you're playing on this movement can be quite drastic. Prices can rise until your manufacturing farm becomes unprofitable. I've seen processor prices as high as $120,000 from a PC farm that ran too long. In order to combat this, you should play both sides of the coin. In a perfect world, I would build an alloy farm, processor farm and consumer electronic farm.  That way you can toggle between the cities to take advantage of the highs and lows of the market. When the processor price goes high, jump to your processor farm. When alloy price is high, play the alloy farm.

The effect of your gameplay will be evident when checking the price history in the global market. In the photo below, I started playing an alloy farm at Point A. When I switched to a PC farm (Point B) the alloy price began to rise back up. At point C I switched back to the alloy farm, and again the price began to decline.

Keeping the processor price down
If you don't have a processor farm that you can switch to, I recommend you manufacture about 50% of your own processors and import the rest. By doing this, you'll delay the rise in processor price.  Keep in mind that you will get 2 TVs or PCs for every processor you manufacture, so you won't need that many processor factories to accomplish this. If the processor price gets up to around $95,000 it's probably time to switch to a smelting farm and wait for the processor price to drop back down. If you do have your own processor farm, it would make more sense to go 100% TVs or PCs.

Trade Cities
Another way to take advantage of the swings in price due to your farming is to build a city that has nothing but trade ports and simply buys low and sells high. I've found that alloy is the material that is easiest to control through supply (a smelting farm) and demand (consumer electronic and/or processor farm). I've included a table below of typical prices. The prices don't normally get into the Super High or Super Low territory unless there is some serious farming going on.  On my alloy trades, I generally like to buy around $34,000 range and sell at $60,000.

A Trade Farm stands waiting to buy up alloy when the price is right.
Track the Global Market While You Play
I recommend you download the Trend Pack Mod by schaefjw. It modifies the leaderboard menu to give you access to the global marketplace history without having to exit your city. It's a handy mod that gets my stamp of approval!

Planned right, you can take advantage of the swings in the market (which you are causing)!
Force An Update to the Trade Prices
Occasionally, the trade prices in your city differ from what is reported by SimCityWorld. If you play long enough, the prices will eventually update. If you're in a hurry and the price isn't updating, exit to the main menu and jump back into your city. The trade price should update right away.

The 0 population city - Using an Arcology Great Work
If you build an arcology, you can remove all of the residential zoning from your city. The arcology will supply all the workers needed to keep an entire map's worth of factories busy.  If you do this, I recommend you build a good bus system that has stops in front of each factory. I also recommend you build a lot of park-and-rides, especially near the city entrance.  In addition, I like to build a train station.

There's a couple of weird things that happen with a 0 population city. If you have no residential, commercial, or industrial buildings, you won't have any fires. Another unusual effect is that sick workers will return to the arcology or home city (if commuting) for any treatment. Thirdly, if you don't have any local residents, you don't need to worry about crime. Thus:
  • You can delete your fire station
  • You can delete your hospitals and clinics
  • You can delete your police station
The exception would be if you have a Vu Tower. In that case you'd probably want to have a police station to keep the criminals from becoming regional criminals.

Having a 0 population city is undoubtedly cool. I love seeing them in action and it is the most effective way to take the #1 spot on an electronic, metal, or gambling leaderboard. Unfortunately, the arcology has a major downside.
  • No matter what you do, the arcology will eventually get bugged. 
If you don't intend on playing very long (0-15 years), this probably doesn't matter to you. But if you're attempting to max out your treasury for the simoleon leaderboard, you may want to stay away from the arcology. In every instance, the arcology traffic eventually gets gummed up at the arcology exit. This may happen in year 15 or year 45, but every time we built an arcology in our SN™MoneyDomination regions, the arcology traffic routing went haywire and things got messy. Once that happens you'll see frequent worker shortages. If this does happen to you, the fix is to add residential back into your city.

All that being said, I still recommend you try a 0 population city out at least once. It is just so dang cool!. Plus you'll be amazed at how much money you'll make when doing it. 

Don't Go Over the Maximum Amount of Money!
The maximum amount of money you can make in the game is $2,147,483,647. If you go over this number, your leaderboard number will show up as negative.  If you go over, gift out some money to another city or try exiting and reentering the map several times until your number registers as a positive.

The highest Electronic Leaderboard number I've ever seen was by Mark Norris (mcn97) who had just over $100M.  Generally, the top spot will range from $40-$85 Million.  My personal best is $72.6 Million.

My personal high on the metals leaderboard from a smelting city is $40 Million.

I was surprised to see that a trading city that buys alloy low and sells high, also shows up on the metals leaderboard. I would have expected that to show up on the trading leaderboard instead. My personal best on that type of city was $58.8 Million.

Got a tip? 
Do you have another way of doing things that works for you? Have a tip or trick to share? Leave a comment below to share.

I hope this guide gives you the encouragement to try a new type of city you haven't tried before. It's not the most pretty city, but I find it to be an interesting challenge.


  1. Love the basic layout map and the railroad tips. This site make me a better player and I enjoy the game so much more.

  2. Amazing presentation! I'm going to try this as soon as possible! I'm playing single player. Any ramifications if i bust out a processor farm? Make it rain!!!

  3. No students from my Arcology ever commute to the University in my electronics city. Do you have any tips for this?

  4. Schools are really busted- the CC is the only one that really works. Students gets lost from City to City and you get students not enrolled after time resulting with a funny looking gap in enrollment. The CC works well, it reads right, works well and does not take students away from your city and they walk to school reducing traffic.

    Arcology is ok for the first 10 years- but City's all get this uncontrolled traffic problem over time. The Space Center is the worst GW site there is- it comes out with a Traffic Glitch...and it can give your City a Slowness glitch (like it is stuck in slow motion).

    I love this page- thanks for posting it.

    1. Correct, the school busses are bugged so stick with Uni and CC. The main bugs are all summarized over here: http://www.simcityplanningguide.com/2015/01/top-simcity-bugs-every-new-mayor-should.html I personally love the Space Center because it boosts the output on the electronics factories. The arcology is awesome until, like you say the traffic bugs out. I've seen the slo-mo glitch too. Doesn't happen too often but once it does, your SOL on that city.