Back to Glossary Home

Discrete Manufacturing

Quick Definition

Discrete manufacturing is a term used to describe the production of physically distinct products. These products generally can be identified either by serial number or by physical appearance examples include cars, smartphones or toys. Discrete manufacturing is the opposite of process manufacturing where products are unable to be separated and individually identified.Characterized by unit production, in discrete manufacturing, products can be produced with varying complexity and volume. This process improves manufacturing efficiency and quality and improves time-to-market speed.Discrete manufacturing is unable to be continuous as the final product is composed from many different inputs. Where oil can be produced from the continuous refining of petroleum, a car requires many different parts that come from various manufacturers and thus is unable to be continuous.

What is Discrete Manufacturing?

Discrete Manufacturing is a distinguished approach within the broader landscape of manufacturing, specializing in the production of distinct and individually identifiable items. Unlike its counterpart, Process Manufacturing, which focuses on continuous processes like chemical reactions, discrete manufacturing is characterized by the creation of final products through assembly lines or batch production. This methodology is underpinned by sophisticated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, which provide essential functionality for managing everything from raw materials to finished goods.

Key Elements of Discrete Manufacturing

  1. Bill of Materials (BOM): A foundational component in discrete manufacturing, the BOM outlines the structure of the final product, detailing the raw materials, sub-assemblies, and distinct items required for assembly.
  2. Real-Time Production: Discrete manufacturing operations often rely on real-time monitoring and control to ensure precision and efficiency in the production process.
  3. Quality Control: Maintaining stringent quality control standards is imperative, especially in industries like aerospace and pharmaceuticals, where the reliability and safety of the finished product are paramount.
  4. Automation: Automation plays a significant role in streamlining production lines, reducing labor costs, and ensuring consistent product quality.
  5. Inventory Management: Monitoring high-volume and low-volume stock levels is paramount to effective discrete manufacturing processes. Efficient inventory management ensures that the right materials and parts are available when needed and to minimize excess stock.

Examples of Discrete Manufacturing

  • Smartphones: The assembly of smartphones involves discrete manufacturing processes where individual components such as processors, screens, and batteries are assembled to create the final product.
  • Aerospace: The aerospace industry relies heavily on discrete manufacturing for the assembly of complex aircraft, where precision and traceability are essential.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Pharmaceutical companies use discrete manufacturing to produce distinct drug products in various forms, ensuring precise dosages and quality control.

Discrete vs. Process Manufacturing

Discrete manufacturing stands in contrast to other types of manufacturing. For instance, process manufacturing is where products are created through continuous, chemical, or biological processes, as seen in industries like food and chemicals. Discrete manufacturing is characterized by distinct items and assembly line production, whereas process manufacturing involves continuous flow.

Industry-Specific ERP Solutions

ERP software tailored for discrete manufacturing addresses the unique needs of this sector, offering functionality for production scheduling, work order management, routing, and supply chain management. These solutions enhance traceability, optimize workflows, and improve production planning, ultimately contributing to profitability.

The Role of ERP in Discrete Manufacturing

Manufacturing ERP systems serve as the backbone of efficient discrete manufacturing operations. They facilitate production planning, inventory management, shop floor control, and quality control. Additionally, ERP systems provide comprehensive visibility into the production process, ensuring that individual units and sub-assemblies are precisely tracked throughout their lifecycle.

Vertical Markets and Industry-Specific Solutions

Discrete manufacturing spans various vertical markets, each with its own requirements. Industry-specific ERP solutions cater to these unique needs, offering tailored functionality for manufacturing businesses across different sectors.


In conclusion, Discrete Manufacturing is a precise and efficient approach to producing complex products through assembly lines or batch production. With its emphasis on quality control, real-time monitoring, and automation, discrete manufacturing relies on robust ERP systems to streamline operations, optimize production, and drive profitability. This methodology is prevalent across a range of industries, contributing to the creation of distinct, high-quality products in various vertical markets.