ERP solutions: Process vs. discrete manufacturers

As stakeholders at manufacturing entities consider the implementation or upgrade of enterprise resource planning software they must evaluate how a system will best fit their business’s needs.

Given the differences between process and discrete manufacturing, however, that seemingly simple task can grow to be a bit hazy.

Often times, a producer might not label themselves as participating in process or discrete manufacturing; instead they identify solely as a manufacturer. There are underlying differences that add up, however. To understand how each branch can benefit from an ERP solution and increase its manufacturing productivity, decision makers must first understand the differences between the two and, subsequently, determine which features are essential to the success of their operation.

What is process manufacturing?

Process manufacturing is the branch of production that deals with precise formulas and recipes. These types of manufacturers commonly yield liquids and powders – essentially items that pour and can be measured in weight and volume. Simultaneously, items produced in a process manufacturing environment cannot be taken apart due to their cohesive makeup. Common process industries include food, pharmaceuticals, gasoline and chemical cleaners.

What is discrete manufacturing?

Discrete manufacturing, on the other hand, deals with quantifiable items that can be broken down into smaller parts. Manufacturers in this realm include airplane, computer, smartphone, toy and furniture producers.

The primary difference between these manufacturing subsets comes down to how products are made. An automobile, for example, is a product of discrete manufacturing as it can be broken down into various parts, whereas the gasoline and fluids that go into that same car to help it function are results of process manufacturing. Companies that engage in both production strategies are considered mixed mode manufacturers.

Software feature needs

Though these manufacturing entities share some of the same basic needs, they can vary greatly when it comes to inventory and bills of materials. As plant overseers seek to employ an ERP solution, they should consider the benefits management software has to offer each branch of manufacturing.

  • Process manufacturing needs1. Quality: Process manufacturers have highly stringent testing and tracking methods for quality control. To accommodate these requirements, TechTarget recommended producers utilize ERP software that has a fully integrated quality module.

    2. Formulation: When it comes to process manufacturing, there are a number of factors that can greatly affect the end product. Specific details and measurements such as the strength of a dye lot or the exact ratio of milk in cheese production should be shared and tracked across an organization. TechTarget noted in the early days of ERP adoption, producers may have had difficulty inputting measurements that contained a greater number of decimal places; since then, however, software developers have expanded features to better accommodate manufacturers’ needs.

  • Discrete manufacturing needs1. Inventory control:

    Given that discrete manufacturing involves the putting together of various parts, ERP solutions will need to act as a central resource for tracking inventory. Additionally, software should be set up to monitor the quality of raw materials during production, potentially making for a higher quality product in the end.2. Supply chain: With so many moving parts, discrete manufacturers are constantly looking at their supply chain, ensuring scheduling, production, and delivery flow seamlessly to ensure a quality experience for customers.

Those entities engaging in mixed mode production should seek out an ERP solution that provides enough flexibility and agility to handle both processes.

By carefully researching and considering their options, decision makers at manufacturing enterprises can ensure the selection of an ERP solution that fits their business needs. Ultimately, a company shouldn’t have to change its production process to fit a system; the software should be adaptable enough to meet the company where it’s at. Solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV provide a solid foundation while also delivering the flexibility that allows companies to grow and evolve.

Companies looking to increase manufacturing productivity should download the DMS Physical Inventory Count Module data sheet.

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