Discrete vs. Process Manufacturing: What’s the Difference?

What is the difference between discrete and process manufacturing? Process manufacturing relies on creating formulas or recipes to produce a product, whereas discrete manufacturing assembles parts in a prescribed process to produce a distinct item.

Learn How Process Manufacturing is Different from Discrete Manufacturing

What is process manufacturing?

Process manufacturing is a method of producing goods that involves combining ingredients and raw materials. For each product they produce, manufacturers must create and adhere to special formulas or recipes. This method is frequently employed by businesses that produce large quantities of products because the recipes typically call for quantities of each ingredient in gallons or pounds. Some examples of industries that typically use process manufacturing include:

What is discrete manufacturing?

Companies use discrete manufacturing to create unique units. This approach is frequently used by producers of small numbers of unique products, especially when the production process is intricate. These businesses frequently put the individual units they make together to create finished products. Due to this, they are able to produce highly customized products for their clients. Discrete manufacturing is used by businesses that use make-to-order, make-to-stock, or assemble-to-order production methods.

For instance, a business that creates custom furniture might permit its clients to combine various hues, shapes, and materials. This business can produce each of the individual components used to create the furniture using the discrete manufacturing technique, including doorknobs, bolts, and wood panels. They then use each of the individual units they produce to assemble finished items in accordance with the demands of their clients. Some examples of industries that use discrete manufacturing include:

What is the difference between discrete vs. process manufacturing?

Process manufacturing and discrete manufacturing are both common production techniques, but there are some significant differences between the two approaches. Here are some of the most notable distinctions:

Required input

A detailed list of parts and instructions called a bill of materials (BOM) is used by discrete manufacturing to create products. The structure of this document is hierarchical, with the finished product at the top and the various components used to make it at the bottom. This aids manufacturers in understanding the order in which they must produce certain components before assembling the finished product.

In contrast, process manufacturing employs formulas or recipes to properly combine raw materials. This makes it possible for businesses that employ the process manufacturing method to produce lots of goods with a high level of consistency and quality.

Process and cycle time

Companies that follow discrete manufacturing practices follow consumer-defined specifications. This frequently entails a parallel assembly procedure that enables multiple departments or stations to produce various components simultaneously. Because this process involves producing unique units, discrete manufacturers typically gauge cycle times by the volume of parts they can produce in a given amount of time. For instance, a car manufacturer might track the number of unique car parts they produce each hour.

Process manufacturing companies design their products to have the qualities they want as a company. These businesses combine or transform all the ingredients they use rather than producing individual components in parallel. These businesses measure their cycle times by flow, or the volume of product they produce over a predetermined time period, since they don’t produce unique parts. For instance, a company that manufactures specialty chemicals may gauge the number of gallons they produce each hour.

Production yield

Businesses that employ the discrete manufacturing method typically produce goods on demand. This indicates that they hold off on beginning production until they receive an order from a client specifying how many products they intend to buy. They might even postpone placing their raw material orders until they are certain of the requirements their clients have. Although discrete manufacturers may need more time to produce goods, they can give customers more customization options. Reduced storage requirements for raw materials and finished goods can help discrete manufacturers lower overhead.

Process manufacturers produce products in bulk. Instead of waiting for orders from customers, they continuously produce scheduled batches of products. In order to forecast how many products they anticipate selling over a specific time period, process manufacturers may also collaborate with data analysts. This expedites the process for manufacturers to fill orders, but it also requires them to maintain and store the finished goods until a customer orders them. Instead of ordering a specific number of units, customers frequently request a certain volume of a product when placing orders.


It is simple for a discrete manufacturer to pinpoint the precise components they used to assemble a finished product. As a result, disassembling the device to make adjustments, repairs, or upgrades is simple. For instance, a cell phone manufacturer can quickly repair a damaged cell phone by analyzing the technical components they used to identify and address any problems the user might encounter.

A process manufacturer blends all of the ingredients together before creating a product. This makes it more difficult to pinpoint the precise components they used. It also implies that after production, the company is unable to disassemble the product. A company that produces baked goods, for instance, cannot take a finished cake and extract the flour, sugar, or milk that was used to make it.

When to use discrete manufacturing

Using the discrete manufacturing strategy would give you more control over the units you produce and the assembly process if the company you work for produces highly customizable goods. For instance, businesses that make components for heavy machinery or aircraft frequently employ this strategy because it enables them to customize their products to each individual customer’s unique needs. Discrete manufacturing is another option for small businesses that sell handmade goods or niche products because it can lower their overhead costs.

When to use process manufacturing

You may profit from using the process manufacturing method to meet consumer demand if you work for a company that manufactures large quantities of goods. This can assist you in creating formulas and recipes that make producing large quantities of goods simple. If you don’t need to produce individual components to assemble your finished product, you might also opt to use this method.

For instance, businesses that manufacture cosmetics may adopt this strategy because it enables them to combine raw materials to create their finished goods. Making cosmetics in batches could also enable them to spend less on raw materials.


What is the difference between discrete and continuous manufacturing?

At a high level, manufacturing activities can be divided into two main categories: discrete manufacturing, which focuses on product assembly, and continuous/process manufacturing, which focuses primarily on formula blending.

What is the difference between discrete manufacturing and process manufacturing in SAP?

What are the 4 types of manufacturing process?
  • Casting and molding.
  • Machining.
  • Joining.
  • Shearing and forming.

What is meant by discrete manufacturing?

The term “discrete manufacturing” refers to the process of creating finished goods that are distinct objects that can be quickly counted, felt, or seen. Parts and systems like nuts and bolts, brackets, wires, assemblies, and individual products are used in discrete manufacturing.

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