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Short Run Production Function vs. Long Run Production Function: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 20, 2024
Short run production function involves at least one fixed input, leading to variable output levels; long run production function allows all inputs to vary, enabling full adjustment of production.

Key Differences

In the short run production function, certain inputs are fixed and cannot be changed, limiting immediate production adjustments. In contrast, the long run production function allows all inputs, including capital and labor, to be variable, offering greater flexibility in production.
The short run refers to a period where quick changes in production are limited due to fixed resources. The long run represents a time frame sufficient for a firm to alter all production factors, including facilities and equipment.
In the short run, costs are divided into fixed and variable, affecting immediate production decisions. In the long run, all costs are considered variable, impacting strategic planning and potential for economies of scale.
Short run production is constrained by existing capacities and cannot easily expand beyond these limits. Long run production, however, allows for adjustments in capacity and scale of operations.
The short run production function is less adaptable to market changes due to fixed inputs, while the long run function provides more responsiveness and strategic alignment with market demands.

Comparison Chart

Input Flexibility

At least one fixed input
All inputs are variable

Time Frame

Limited timeframe with immediate focus
Sufficient time for full adjustment

Cost Structure

Fixed and variable costs
All costs are variable

Production Capacity

Constrained by current capacities
Can adjust capacity and scale

Market Responsiveness

Less adaptable due to fixed inputs
More adaptable and strategically aligned

Short Run Production Function and Long Run Production Function Definitions

Short Run Production Function

Focuses on optimizing production with some unchangeable inputs.
The restaurant's short run production function was constrained by its current kitchen size.

Long Run Production Function

Reflects the firm’s capacity to change all resources.
In the long run production function, the tech company could invest in more advanced equipment for increased efficiency.

Short Run Production Function

A period where only variable inputs can be adjusted.
During the holiday rush, the store's short run production function relied on adjusting staff hours, not the store size.

Long Run Production Function

Focuses on production capacity adjustments in response to strategic decisions.
The long run production function allowed the hospital to expand its facilities to offer more services.

Short Run Production Function

A scenario where quick adjustments in production are limited.
In the short run production function, the company couldn't immediately expand output due to its fixed number of workstations.

Long Run Production Function

A production process where all inputs are variable over time.
The car manufacturer's long run production function allowed them to build a new plant to increase output.

Short Run Production Function

A production process where some inputs are fixed in the short term.
A bakery's short run production function limits how many loaves can be made daily due to fixed oven capacity.

Long Run Production Function

Allows for strategic adjustments in response to market changes.
The long run production function enabled the software company to completely restructure its development teams.

Short Run Production Function

Reflects production capacity with existing resources.
The factory's short run production function couldn't meet the sudden demand spike due to fixed machinery.

Long Run Production Function

A period sufficient for altering scale of operations and technology.
The brewery's long run production function involved upgrading to a larger brewing system to meet growing demand.


What are fixed costs in the context of short run production?

Costs that do not change with the level of output, like rent or salaries.

What defines a short run production function?

It's characterized by the presence of at least one fixed input.

Can production capacity be quickly increased in the short run?

No, due to fixed inputs, immediate capacity increases are limited.

How is long run production function different?

It allows all inputs, including capital and labor, to be varied.

What is an example of a fixed input in the short run?

Machinery that cannot be quickly replaced or scaled.

What is the key focus in long run production planning?

To optimize production efficiency and capacity over time.

Can long run production align with evolving market demands?

Yes, it allows strategic realignment with market shifts.

Does long run production function offer more strategic flexibility?

Yes, it allows full adjustment of all production factors.

Can short run production function handle sudden demand spikes?

It's challenging due to fixed input constraints.

How does technology play a role in long run production?

Technology upgrades are a key aspect of long term production planning.

Are there fixed costs in the long run production function?

In the long run, all costs are considered variable.

How do market changes impact short run production?

Short run production is less adaptable to quick market changes.

How can firms adjust production in the long run?

By altering scale, technology, and all resource levels.

Is labor always a variable input in short run production?

Not necessarily, as labor can sometimes be a fixed input in the short run.

Can long run decisions impact a firm's competitive advantage?

Yes, through strategic investments and capacity changes.

How quickly can a firm react in the short run?

Responses are limited by fixed resources and capacities.

Does long run production function require significant investment?

Often, as it involves changing all aspects of production.

What influences short run production decisions?

Immediate market demands and fixed input limitations.

Can a company’s short run production function change over time?

Yes, as fixed inputs become variable in the long run.

Is the long run production function more relevant for growth planning?

Yes, as it allows comprehensive adjustments for growth and expansion.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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