Discrete V/s Process Manufacturing


As manufacturing companies grow from small scale production to a large scale manufacturing operation, management starts facing different challenges along with the growth. One of the challenges for corporations as they begin looking at software options is in understanding the differences between the two main types of manufacturing: Discrete and Process Manufacturing.

The challenge in understanding software system differences is that discrete and process manufacturing systems look similar in several respects. They both have an inventory system and bills of material along with a general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales orders, purchase orders, and distribution features; they are, however, quite different. It’s common for manufacturing companies to make the mistake of buying a software package when it is most likely unable to address their unique business challenges.

If a manufacturer buys the wrong software package then the company either has to change its manufacturing process to fit the software or it has to pay for extensive customizations to make the software work or even worse both! Usually it is very expensive.

Avoiding this problem starts with obtaining the right information and selection criteria. In this topic, I am trying to put down key differences of the two major categories in the manufacturing process.


Key Differences

The key differences are given below in a tabular format.


Discrete Manufacturing

Process Manufacturing

In Discrete, one can identify the finished goods as individual units.

In Process, it is measured by using different units of measures (Kgs,Liters etc).

The American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) define discrete manufacturing as “The production of distinct items such as automobiles, appliances, or computers.”

Process manufacturing, is defined as “Production that adds value by mixing, separating, forming, and/or performing chemical reactions. It may be done in either batch or continuous mode.”

Uses Bill Of Materials (BOMs) to build the finished product.

Uses formulations and recipes to build the finished product.

The processes deployed in discrete manufacturing are not continuous in nature. Each process can be individually started or stopped and can be run at varying production rates.

The end product is obtained by a continuous process or a set of continuous processes.

Examples include toys, medical equipment, computers and cars. The resulting products are easily identifiable.

In process manufacturing, the products are undifferentiated, for example oil, natural gas and salt.

The process allows for temporary stoppage of work in one area without affecting the entire unit.

This is a continuous process and requires that entire production process be stopped.

The outcome of discrete manufacturing can be reversed without difficulty.

The outcome of process manufacturing cannot be reversed.

Discrete manufacturing software typically does not allow manufacturers to manipulate their batch sizes based on material inventory.

Process manufacturing software allows manufacturers to manipulate their batch sizes based on material inventory.

In most cases, discrete manufacturers will not be tracking any type of research and development.

On the contrary, the formulas of a process manufacturer are core to the company function.

  • Semiconductor
  • Electronics
  • Medical Devices
  • Automobiles
  • Food & Beverages
  • Brewing Industry
  • Agricultural Commodities
  • Oil and Gas


The only thing these manufacturing methods have in common is that both realize a profit gained from the manufacture of a finished product.



  1. http://www.apics.org
  2. Wikipedia

3 thoughts on “Discrete V/s Process Manufacturing

  1. Pingback: Discrete V/s Process Manufacturing | Sudheer

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