What is Discrete Manufacturing? (Examples, Workflow, and Trends)

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Discrete Manufacturing

In the field of production and manufacturing, discrete manufacturing is a distinct process that involves crafting products in separate and individual units.

This method is popularly employed when crafting items with unique shapes or sizes, catering to specific customer requirements. 

A unique advantage of this approach lies in the minimal waste generated, as products are typically made to order, ensuring efficiency and reducing unnecessary resource consumption. Read on to know more!

The article discloses the definition of discrete manufacturing, its examples, its workflow, technology trends, types of other manufacturing processes, and the difference between discrete manufacturing and process manufacturing.


Discrete manufacturing is a type of production process where the output can be counted and tracked as per unit numbers, and they are measured in terms of weight or volume.

It revolves around the creation of separate components or batches, unlike continuous manufacturing, which entails the continuous production of goods. This helps offer increased adaptability and personalization.


Consider products such as toys, automobiles, smartphones, and airplanes—they are all produced using discrete manufacturing methods.

To excel in this process, businesses require robust software for effective planning and execution.

The primary challenge lies in tailoring production to meet the unique needs of individual customers.

Discrete Manufacturing Industries

During the production planning phase, the real-time data collected across plants and resources will help the managers analyze the firm’s current production status.

Due to the unexpected demand in this system, with complete details, the production team can pull themselves up to meet the incredible demand and fulfill the orders accordingly.

It also must be quick enough to adapt to the current demand to implement a new course of action. Thus, flexibility is one of the critical factors of discrete manufacturing.

The business must also ensure equal measures to ensure its quality with minor defects.

Best practices for discrete manufacturing operations

Discrete manufacturing is a complex and diverse industry that offers several benefits. By implementing best practices, companies in this sector can improve efficiency, lower costs, and enhance product quality.

This leads to increased customer satisfaction and strengthened relationships with suppliers. Here we listed three main best practices.

1. Achieve quality excellence

Prioritized production of top-tier products by industries. That involves strict implementation of quality control procedures and using high-grade materials and components.

2. Aim for operational efficiency

To remain competitive, the discrete industry must emphasize operational efficiency. That involves streamlining production processes and leveraging technology to automate tasks and enhance productivity.

3. Cultivate innovation

Staying ahead of the competition in discrete manufacturing necessitates a commitment to innovation. That involves the development of novel products and technologies, as well as continuous improvement of existing products and processes.

ERP systems for discrete manufacturing

It is also vital that a firm chooses an ideal software for discrete manufacturing that will help in good inventory management so that the company doesn’t waste time getting stocks for unexpected demand.

It must also ensure that it doesn’t overstock the goods, making them obsolete and increasing expenses.

ERP systems are developed to manage discrete manufacturing processes. These ERP systems help the organization control the manufacturing process, reduce waste, save time required by the product manufacturing, and get a clear vision of the manufacturing process.

The other functionalities of the ERP systems include material management, supply chain management, financial management, and customer relationship management.

ERP vendors

Some good ERP vendors are Netsuite, Epicor, SAP, Infor, etc. ERP modules of these vendors are flexible and easily customizable to meet customers’ requirements.

Most of the ERP systems for discrete manufacturers run on-premises, but these systems also run in the cloud.


Types of Discrete Manufacturing Workflow

This process supports the following workflow.

1. Make-to-stock: In this type of workflow, you keep stock of products before customers order.

2. Make to order: In this workflow, you do not keep more product stock in your warehouse. Instead, you manufacture the product only when a customer order comes in.

3. Assemble to order: This type of workflow lies between make-to-stock and Make-to-order. Here, you manufacture the components or parts before the customer orders.

You can assemble the final product once the customer order comes in immediately.

Types of manufacturing process

Apart from discrete manufacturing, four other manufacturing methods are available too. Firstly, let us have a quick overview of other ways.

Repetitive manufacturing

Industries that produce the same items throughout the year use a redundant manufacturing method.

This method allows the industries to adjust the production speed as per the customer demand because its setup needs minimal changes to adjust the speed.

For instance, an assembly line producing a standardized consumer product like smartphones or light bulbs often employs repetitive manufacturing processes.

Job shop manufacturing

Industries that produce small batches of customized products follow this manufacturing method.

Unlike discrete manufacturing, it uses production areas. Work centers are arranged to make one or more versions of custom products here.

For instance, a print shop that produces customized marketing materials, or a machine shop crafting unique parts based on specific client requirements, typically operates using job shop manufacturing principles.

Process manufacturing (continuous)

This method produces products by adding ingredients using formulas and different recipes.

For example, products like food and beverages, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, soap, shampoo, glass and plastic are produced from process manufacturing methods.

Batch manufacturing

This process includes both discrete manufacturing and process manufacturing.

For example, the glass ornament industry will use a manufacturing method to produce glass and a discrete manufacturing method to make ornaments.

Discrete manufacturing vs Process manufacturing

Discrete manufacturing vs Process manufacturing

Manufacturing vs Assembly

Manufacturing and assembly are two distinct processes within the broader context of production. The below table shows the key differences between them.

It involves converting raw materials into components, parts, or products. It encompasses various stages, such as design, fabrication, and quality control.Assembly involves assembling individual components or parts to form a complete or final product. It is a subset of the overall manufacturing process.
Manufacturing techniques can include casting, forging, machining, molding, extrusion, and many other methods to create the required parts or components.Assembly can involve manual labor or automated systems, such as robots or assembly lines, to combine components efficiently.

In simple terms, manufacturing is about making separate parts from raw materials. Assembly is when we put these parts together very carefully to create a finished product that works. It is like a teamwork of careful crafting and putting things together to make something complete and ready to use.

What is discrete manufacturing software?

The software is enterprise resource planning (ERP) or manufacturing execution system (MES) software designed specifically for companies that produce distinct or separate products, such as automobiles, electronics, furniture, or machinery.

The organizations use computer-aided design and manufacturing tools (CAD/CAM) that are interconnected with ERP. 

Discrete companies also use manufacturing operations management (MOM) software for production. It allows companies to enhance production performance, efficiency, and flexibility by connecting virtual and physical manufacturing.

MES is crucial for discrete manufacturers to face new markets, technologies, and materials.

Features of MES for discrete manufacturing are as follows.

  • Production process synchronization
  • Quality Requirements and Regulatory Integration
  • Real-time shop floor visibility
  • Enhanced manufacturing operations and WIPs (work-in-progresses)
  • Access to production documentation
  • Enhanced resource allocation, material management
Infographics of Disecrete manufacturing technology trends

1. The tech-enabled lean manufacturing process

Technology embedded in modern ERP enables mid-market manufacturers to apply lean manufacturing techniques that were formerly unavailable.

2. Greater investments in cloud

Increased global customers, enhanced competition, regulatory pressures, and decentralization of operations have led to greater industry investment in cloud-based software.

3. Improved use of smart devices connected to IoT

Smart devices have the ability to transfer data between each other. Businesses are finding ways to configure their ERP system to take advantage of these things.

4. Evaluation of business intelligence for manufacturing

BI Technology has evolved beyond an IT department responsibility into a real-time data tool to analyze big data. So, decision-makers can use it to improve the business.

5. Increased focus on maximizing the CRM process

With increased computation, buyers are more informed than ever before. Manufacturers are beginning to invest in improved CRM principles.

6. Augmented reality

Manufacturers have adopted AR to enhance workflow and productivity. It provides seamless communication and reduces errors.

7. Additive manufacturing

This technique uses only the materials needed for the part, which drastically reduces waste during production.


What are the products made by discrete manufacturing?

Examples of products made by this manufacturing process are toys, computer hardware, mobile handsets, automobiles, etc.

What are the products made by process manufacturing?

Products made by process manufacturing are jam, juices, beverages, chemicals, medicines, oils, etc.

What are the key benefits of discrete manufacturing?

Discrete manufacturing offers greater flexibility and allows for customized production and quick adjustments to meet changing demands.

It provides better traceability and quality control for individual items or batches. It also streamlines the regulatory compliance and documentation processes.

This industry helps in reducing production costs and ultimately leads to increased customer satisfaction.

What are the challenges faced with discrete manufacturing?

Some of the challenges associated with discrete manufacturing are
* Managing inventory for various components
* Production complexity of processes
* Dealing with frequent changeovers during the production of a variety of
* Global competition

What strategies can be used for managing the complexities of discrete manufacturing operations?

Strategies that could help in reducing the complexities are
* Implementation of efficient production planning and scheduling systems
* Utilization of advanced ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) platform
* Adoption of agile manufacturing practices

How can discrete manufacturing benefit from Industry 4.0 and IoT?

Industry 4.0 and IoT technologies can lend a helping hand to discrete manufacturing by enabling real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and data-driven decision-making to optimize production efficiency and reduce downtime.

How are lean manufacturing and discrete manufacturing related?

Lean manufacturing is a methodology that focuses on eliminating waste and improving efficiency in production processes. It is applicable to discrete manufacturing as it can help reduce costs and enhance quality by minimizing non-value-added activities.


Discrete manufacturing is a production method where products are made one at a time. This approach is practical as it demands lower initial investment compared to producing goods in large batches.

In this blog post, we have elaborated about discrete manufacturing, shedding light on its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. We hope this post has been informative and helped you understand manufacturing strategies.