Definition

process manufacturing

Contributor(s): Brenda Cole and Jim O'Donnell

Process manufacturing is the production of goods by combining supplies, ingredients or raw substances using a formula or recipe. Examples of process manufacturing goods include food, beverages, refined oil, gasoline, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and plastics.

The goods are produced in bulk quantities, and the production usually requires thermal or chemical conversion, such as with heat, time or pressure.

The product created with process manufacturing typically cannot be disassembled to its constituent parts. For example, once it is produced, a soft drink cannot be broken down into its ingredients. Goods made with process manufacturing are typically measured by weight or volume.

Process manufacturing vs. discrete manufacturing

Process manufacturing differs from discrete manufacturing, which is a method for creating finished goods that are distinct items that can be touched, seen and counted as individual units. Discrete manufacturing involves parts and systems, such as nuts and bolts, brackets, wires, and assemblies. Such goods include automobiles, computers, toys and defense systems.

Process manufacturing vs. discrete manufacturing
Process manufacturing vs. discrete manufacturing

Rather than following a recipe or formula, like in process manufacturing, discrete manufacturers use a bill of materials (BOM) and follow instructions to create the goods. Discretely manufactured goods can be broken down into their constituent parts after they are manufactured, and can sometimes be recycled.

Process manufacturing software

Because it's a complex and often highly specialized activity, most manufacturers use ERP systems that have specific functions for process manufacturing.

ERP systems for process manufacturing are available from a number of enterprise software vendors, including SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Infor, IFS, Sage, IQMS, Plex Systems, Syspro, Aptean, Deacom, ProcessPro, TGI, JustFood, VAI, BatchMaster and more.

Each vendor may sell a variety of systems that are targeted toward enterprises of various sizes, such as large enterprises or SMBs.

Although most ERP systems for process manufacturing originally ran on premises, today, they also commonly run in the cloud or in hybrid implementations.

This was last updated in September 2017

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