Discrete vs Process Manufacturing

Why it matters in your ERP selection.

What is Process Manufacturing

Process manufacturing is a production method that uses formulas or recipes to produce goods by combining ingredients or raw materials. Most often, ingredients are measured in pounds or gallons. It is commonly used in industries that produce bulk quantities of goods, such as food, beverage, chemical, and pharmaceutical.

What is Discrete Manufacturing

Discrete manufacturing is characterized by an individual or distinct unit production in which units can be produced in low volumes due to the high level of complexity in manufacturing them. End products are composed of component parts that can be individually counted in units and identified numerically, for example, nuts or bolts.

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Why Process vs. Discrete Manufacturing Matters in ERP Selection

On average, the lifespan of an ERP solution is 8-10 years for a company, thus ensuring the proper fit with your organization is key to experiencing true ERP ROI. The first step of an ERP solution search is to identify your type of manufacturing operation, either process or discrete, and specific manufacturing requirements. It is imperative to understand the differences between process and discrete manufacturing functions and the software functionality designed for each is just as diverse. Selecting an ERP software solution that recognizes these differences becomes exceedingly valuable, and obtaining the right tools designed for your industry can automate and streamline processes, integrate your primary business operations, and provide greater visibility.

The most discernible difference between discrete and process manufacturing is the way the product is created. In discrete manufacturing, identical products are duplicated by way of an assembly line. The materials used to create these products are the same from the first job to the next, and the finished product can be disassembled into the original raw materials.

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Electronics Icon


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Medical Devices

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Process manufacturing becomes more intricate due to the blending and mixing of raw materials and ingredients in batches. With process manufacturing, the finished good cannot be unassembled to its original raw materials.

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Food and Beverage

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Paints and Coatings

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Speciality Chemical

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Cosmetic and Personal Care

What makes Process ERP Software Unique?

Percentage and Ingredient Formulation

With process manufacturing, it can be beneficial for the R&D lab to create formulas and recipes by entering the percentage of each ingredient. For example, 10% water, 20% starch, and 70% acacia powder. As well, the solution should support setting up product formulas when user-defined calculations are entered and the software should automatically recalculate and perform “what if” calculations. A process ERP software solution makes this formulation breakdown possible with its recipe management functionality and integrated new product development tools.

Batch Quarantine and Recall through Lot Tracking

Compliance regulations dictate that process manufacturers test and record raw ingredients and finished products with the ability to quarantine materials by batch. This includes raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished goods. Process manufacturing ERP software makes testing, identifying, and quarantining easy through integrated quality control functionalities and the ability to track a product with full forward and backward lot traceability. Reliable lot tracking provides the ability for process manufacturers to produce a detailed recall of finished goods within minutes to keep consumers safe.

Decimal Places Used in Formulation

Most discrete ERP software solutions limit the number of decimal places used for an ingredient. Discrete manufacturers produce items that are measured in “eaches” (e.g. when constructing a bicycle, one handlebar, two to four sprockets, two rims, one seat, etc. are needed). Comparably, when using a process ERP manufacturing system, a formula is set up for one unit (pound, gallon, etc.) and the formula can be scaled up or down to any batch and production run size. This often requires up to eight decimal places (e.g. one gallon of liquid formula may require .00000231 pounds of an expensive dye).

Mixed Units of Measure

Batch process ERP software manages different units of measure for raw ingredients and recipes (i.e. ounces or pounds for dry materials and gallons or liters for liquid ingredients), as well as the purchasing and stocking units of measure. The ERP solution has the flexibility to convert between standard measurements and the metric system, account for unique mixing requirements of a particular product, and easily integrate with the manufacturing process to ensure that ingredients maintain proportionality, including the production of finished goods based upon a percentage formulation. This capability is imperative for batch process manufacturers and has little value for a discrete manufacturer.

Batch Processing vs. Route Step Processing

Process manufacturers follow detailed recipes and instructions for mixing ingredients into vats and drums that often produce finished goods or by-products utilized in other process manufactured goods. For example, a process manufacturer may produce a batch of cookies following detailed mixing and baking instructions that can be scaled to meet the required finished good quantity. 

Discrete manufactures individually assemble materials at each work center and for each route step. For example, a discrete manufacturer may make the base of a chair at Work Center A and add the arms to the chair at Work Center B. As a result, it becomes difficult to track all components used in each work center. When the Bill of Material is comprised, each component is linked to a specified work center. After each component is utilized its usage is recorded. This complexity, which is very beneficial for a discrete manufacturer, is of little value to a process manufacturer.

Learn More about Discrete vs Process Manufacturing

To get a more in-depth look at what process ERP software can do for your business, we encourage you to read our 'Process vs Discrete Manufacturing' white paper. ERP software streamlines and automates processes used multiple times a day and helps you improve your accuracy, reliability, and accountability. Many process manufacturers have already made the move to a comprehensive process ERP software solution, gaining a competitive edge and improving their bottom line.

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A Batch Process Manufacturing ERP Solution

ProcessPro Global is a comprehensive ERP system with full manufacturing, inventory, and financial integration - from beginning sales order entry through the manufacturing and accounting process. The software solves the critical needs of batch processing: management of complex formulas, forward and backward lot traceability, mixed units of measure and percentage formulations, and quality control. With over 30 plus years of developing, implementing, and supporting our ERP software solutions in the food, beverage, chemical, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and cannabis industries, our team of experts understands your needs.

The Process Manufacturing Experts.

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