Discrete vs. process manufacturing: the most important things to know

Apr 30, 2020

Discrete and process manufacturing aren’t common knowledge terms, so it’s only natural that few outside the industry are familiar with them. However, these terms often confuse those working within manufacturing companies. It’s not unseen for a company to not know whether they fall under the ‘discrete’ or the ‘process’ category. At the same time, it’s important to be aware of this, as the needs of the two are quite different from one another. This affects the type of ERP they may need. Let’s break it down in order to better understand the terms.

What is discrete manufacturing?

The biggest difference between discrete and process manufacturing lies in what is being made, and therefore, how it’s being made. For example, in order to create products, discrete manufacturers assemble parts. The assembled product could be a car, a bicycle, a piece of furniture – you name it. But even after said product is finished, it can be taken apart, components can be changed or used for something else, etc.

And process manufacturing?

This is not the case with process manufacturing. Once assembled, products cannot be taken apart. They are what we call formula-based products following a strict recipe. This is incredibly important for this type of manufacturers, as they often have to adhere to rigorous standards. Imagine if a pharmaceutical company was not able to guarantee that their medications do not have a consistent ingredient ratio. They would be practically unable to operate. So yes, pharmaceutical companies are one example of process manufacturers – others include, but are not limited to, food and beverage, cosmetics, and paint manufacturers.

How does this translate in terms of ERP software?

Now that you have a clear idea what discrete and process manufacturing actually are, let’s talk about what that means in terms of ERP software. There are some things that unite them and some that cannot be more different from one another. One thing both types of manufacturers have in common is that they need a solution that fits their needs exactly. Most manufacturing companies will need supply chain management or accounting modules, but not all of them will need formula management as life science companies do.

Furthermore, though two companies may be process manufacturers – for example, a pharmaceutical plant and a bread factory – they will have similar and at the same time quite different needs. Therefore, it’s crucial to find a solution with an extensive manufacturing functionality that can be customized upon request to best fit the needs of the specific business.

That being said, you should look for an established ERP system. These are usually comprised of global know-how and provide already built-in functionalities for your discrete or process manufacturing needs and not everything will have to be made from scratch. And don’t forget: an experienced partner will help you assess your needs best and act accordingly.

Do you want to know more about what Microsoft Dynamics ERPs can do for your manufacturing business? Contact us!

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About the author
Kalina Stamatova
Kalina is a marketing professional specializing in copywriting and content marketing. An avid reader, she also has experience working in advertising and enjoys theater.

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