Discrete vs. process manufacturing

Discrete vs. Process Manufacturing ERP: Customized for Different Needs

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are crucial for managing all aspects of a manufacturing operation. However, the most suitable ERP system for an aircraft manufacturing company differs from that of a chemical production company. That’s because discrete manufacturing and process manufacturing have fundamentally different workflows.

Here’s a breakdown of the key ERP requirement differences:

Understanding Discrete Manufacturing

Discrete manufacturing deals with creating distinct, identifiable end products like cars, furniture, or electronics. Each unit is assembled from individual components using a Bill of Materials (BOM).  These BOMs stay consistent,  allowing for efficient production planning.

Key ERP Features for Discrete Manufacturing

  • BOM Management: A strong ERP should efficiently manage BOMs, ensuring the right parts are available in the correct quantities for assembly.
  • Inventory Control: Tracking individual parts and finished goods is essential. The ERP should provide real-time inventory visibility to avoid stockouts and optimize storage space.
  • Production Planning & Scheduling: Effective ERP facilitates production scheduling based on orders, material availability, and capacity.  
  • Understanding Process Manufacturing

Process manufacturing involves transforming raw materials through chemical reactions or physical processes. Examples include food & beverages, pharmaceuticals, and paints.  Products are created in batches using formulas or recipes and may involve byproducts and waste materials.

Key ERP Features for Process Manufacturing

  • Formula & Recipe Management: The ERP should accurately manage production recipes, including ingredients, quantities, and processing steps.
  • Batch Processing Control: Effectively track and manage batches throughout the production process, ensuring quality and regulatory compliance.
  • Yield & Co-product Management: The ERP should account for material yields, byproducts, and waste generation during production.

Project manufacturing and discrete manufacturing deal with distinct production processes, requiring different functionalities from their ERPs. Here’s a breakdown of the key differences:

Project Manufacturing vs. Discrete Manufacturing

  • Project Manufacturing: Focuses on complex, one-time projects with unique specifications. Examples include shipbuilding, aircraft manufacturing, or construction projects. Bills of Material (BOMs) can be dynamic and evolve throughout the project.
  • Discrete Manufacturing: Deals with producing distinct, standardized items in large quantities. Examples include cars, furniture, or electronics. BOMs are typically fixed for each product.

Core ERP Requirement Differences

  • Project Management: Project manufacturing ERPs excel at project scheduling, resource allocation, and cost tracking for complex projects. They may integrate with project management tools for Gantt charts and critical path analysis.
  • Bill of Materials (BOM) Management: Project ERP should handle dynamic BOMs that can change as the project progresses. It should accommodate unforeseen material needs and substitutions. Discrete manufacturing ERPs focus on managing fixed BOMs for efficient production planning.
  • Engineering Change Management (ECM): Project-based ERPs streamline tracking and implementing engineering changes throughout the project lifecycle. This is crucial as project specifications can evolve. Discrete manufacturing ERPs handle ECMs for standardized products, with a focus on version control.
  • Flexibility & Customization: Project ERP systems require high flexibility to adapt to unique project requirements. Discrete manufacturing ERPs emphasize efficiency and repetition for standardized production.

ERP Requirements Comparison: Process vs. Discrete Manufacturing 


Process Manufacturing

Discrete Manufacturing

Production Type

Continuous flow of materials

Distinct, individual units

Core ERP Needs

 Formula & Recipe Management, Batch Processing Control, Yield & Co-product Management

BOM Management , Inventory Control , Production Planning & Scheduling

Inventory Management

 Focus on raw materials & WIP (work-in-process) , FIFO (First-In, First-Out) crucial

 Focus on finished goods & components, Real-time visibility essential

Production Planning

 Based on production recipes and capacity, Real-time adjustments for continuous flow

Production based on BOMs, sales orders, and MPS, \ Finite scheduling to optimize resource allocation

Quality Management

 Continuous monitoring of process parameters,  Automated alerts for deviations

 Quality control inspections at various stages


 Recipes need to adapt to adjust production volume

 System should handle variations in product configurations