The picture gives you a clue as to what type of manufacturing it is. But there is more to it than meets the eye. This is because products made through discrete manufacturing can also utilize process manufacturing. Sometimes the distinction is not so clear: the theory might tell us it is one kind of manufacturing but it may be another.
Let’s cut to the chase.
Discrete manufacturing is the manufacturing of individual finished products, that can be counted, touched, and seen.
This is one type of manufacturing process that involves parts, components, and sub-assemblies to produce finished products.
Most guides on this form of manufacturing go into examples like the auto and smartphone industry. They are focused on large-scale manufacturing and mass production.
When a modern manufacturer like you wants to brush up on their theory, they might be put off by the lack of relevance to their manufacturing business.
It can be very discouraging as it’s difficult to imagine the concepts as being applied to a scaling business.
That’s why we’re doing discrete manufacturing for the scaling manufacturer, including craft and artisan businesses.
We’re distilling the manufacturing theory into something digestible and applicable for the independent business owners.
So what are we waiting for? Time to get to work!
Discrete vs Process Manufacturing
So, we have discrete manufacturing on the one hand.
Does this cover all forms of physical goods? Remember, discrete manufacturing only produces countable products.
What is discrete manufacturing in theory?
Well, discrete manufacturing produces physical goods that:
- Come in individual units; and
- Are made up of parts, components, and sub-assemblies.
The finished product is a large assemblage that can be broken down again into its constituent parts. There’s no good reason why you’d want to do that, it’s just one way discrete manufacturing can be distinguished from process manufacturing.
So, on the other hand, we have process manufacturing.
Process manufacturing produces goods that:
- Are made from a formula or manufacturing recipe; and
- Can be packaged into individual units, like bottles.
The finished product cannot be broken down into its ingredients due to the irreversible chemical reactions in the manufacturing process.
Now we’ve learned the difference between discrete manufacturing vs process manufacturing, it’s time to look at some examples.
Examples of discrete manufacturing include:
- Leather bags and accessories;
- Wooden toys;
- Handmade jewelry;
- Artisan furniture;
- Bespoke bicycles;
- Wooden phone cases; and
- Printed T-shirts.
In short, lots of cool stuff. Products made via discrete manufacturing can be big or small, low-cost or come with a premium price tag.
But hang on? What about this other type of manufacturing?
Examples of process manufacturing include:
- Soaps and shampoos;
- Glass and plastic;
- Artisan ice-cream;
- Juices and smoothies; and
- Craft beer and liquor.
This is the essence of discrete vs process manufacturing.
A piece of cake right? Of course if you made cake, that would be an example of process manufacturing.
Discrete manufacturing and process manufacturing can include things made by hand with or without the aid of tools and machinery. This is known as craft production. So, if parts are assembled, then this is a good way to tell if something is made via discrete manufacturing.
Let’s try some examples to get used to this: