Most products fall into one of two manufacturing categories: process or discrete.
There are many fundamental differences in how these products are manufactured.
Discrete manufacturing is often characterized by individual or separate unit production rather than weight or volume. On the other hand, process manufacturing uses formulas or recipes. Typically these items are produced in bulk quantities and are mixed or blended rather than assembled.
Another consideration is the difference in post production. “Once a recipe is ‘mixed up’ there is no replacing any defective parts. If the bottler uses salt instead of sugar in their soft drinks, the whole batch is ruined. If a lawn mower manufacturer finds out the sparkplugs used in a series of mowers was defective, replacement of the plugs is easy and the lawn mowers are good as new,” explains Lou Washington, Senior Business Manager at Cincom Systems.
Unique ERP Needs
Much like the products that they produce, discrete and process manufacturing software is usually designed to address different needs and problems.
Since discrete products are typically low in volume and high in complexity, they need a very flexible manufacturing system that can improve quality and time-to-market speed while cutting costs.
Process manufacturing software must be tailored to achieve formulation, routing, ingredients, unit of measure, and pricing. Another consideration is supply shelf life. Typically “ingredient” type supply items may have a very short duration shelf life and may require tight controls on the storage environment. For instance, soup made with milk cannot be contained in a 120⁰F warehouse for three weeks. “ERP must be able to take into consideration this short term usability window when it handles, counts, maintains supply inventory functions,” says Washington.
Mixed Mode Manufacturing
Agility is crucial in the manufacturing world. Discrete and process manufacturers must have the ability to anticipate and adapt to fluctuating market demands.
Companies that need to switch production without disrupting other operations may seek ERP software that meets both discrete and process manufacturing requirements.
While choosing software that can handle both manufacturing processes is a sure thing for those who are currently involved in mixed mode manufacturing, it is also a good idea for those who aren’t. As the supply chain becomes more demand-oriented, the manufacturers that bring products into the market in the shortest amount of time are the ones who will succeed.
During tough economic times, an organization can sometimes be forced to become a Jack of All Trades. The ability to react to the market and provide good service has a lot to do with the tools you are equipped with. An ERP system that is effective for all the manufacturing modes within your enterprise is vital for keeping up with the evolving market.