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Custom Information Services (CIS)

Process, Discrete and Mixed Mode Manufacturing; 3 Business Issues – 3 Dynamic Solutions!


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One part of my job requires that I understand the difference between process and discrete manufacturing and be able to provide the best solution for each industry and process.    Most people have no idea these type of manufacturers are very different.     Process manufacturers are building something that can not be taken apart, i.e., a bucket of margarita mix or a jar of peanut butter.   Technically you can take the mix out of the container and reuse the container, but you can’t take the peanuts out of the butter or the sugar out of the lime powder.  This makes process manufacturers ‘process’ or formula based.   Discrete manufacturers are making a widget that may have screws, nuts, handles, etc. that can be taken apart and sold as a part or used on something else if need be.     If your company manufactures using both process and discrete manufacturing then you may be familiar with this industry term; mixed-mode manufacturing.

These differences are only the beginning of a long list of incompatibilities that process and discrete manufacturers have to deal with daily.  Granted, some of the issues are the same; all need a general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank reconciliation, sales order, purchase order, and other distribution type features.   However, in nearly every company I have encountered, these two types of manufacturing companies have very distinct inventory and bill of material needs.   Process manufacturers require formulas/recipes, containers and labels for their bill of materials.     They need pounds, gallons, ounces, liters, milliliters, grams, etc.  Discrete manufacturers need eaches, perhaps lengths of material too such as like wire in a roll and/or by the foot.  Most discrete software packages do not understand a conversion of pounds to gallons, or a liter to an ounce and nor are they able to use this same conversion factor on a bill of material.

Needless to say, most software packages do not handle the process and discrete manufacturing processes both well at all.   I get very frustrated with other vendors that try to or do sell a discrete manufacturing software package to a process manufacturer.  The customer invariably has had to change their processes to fit the software and usually have a major customization to boot.   Even so, the customer is not happy and neither are their customers!    The good news is that there really are packages that can handle both process and discrete manufacturing.

All of us have had to also deal with food recalls at some point; check your cookie dough, peanut butter or spinach lot numbers lately?   Food and beverage companies have to be able to report lot numbers from their vendor raw materials to what they ship as the lot on a finished good.   Lot tractability and reporting is a key factor in determining if a software package is right for these industries.   They also have many other requirements mandated by the FDA, such as the FDA must be given advance notice on shipments of imported food as well as label and health claims. Companies that process meat from the cow or pig to the finished good could have issues with catch weights too.  Catch weights refer to the actual weight of variable-weight items that use weight as the sales unit of measure.

Chemical companies have to deal with lot traceability for product pigments and/or hazardous material tracking, viscosity issues, material safety data sheet (MSDS) reporting, to name a few.   Cosmetic producers also deal with the FDA and have a combination of issues that Food and Chemical companies contend with daily.

Granted, discrete manufactures often deal with serial numbers, at least in most cases there is only one serial number per part.  In the case of the process manufacturer, there may be numerous lot numbers in a finished good that must be tracked.

After years of representing a Sage product for process manufacturing, accounting, and distribution,  a couple of years ago Custom Information Services recognized the need to find a more long-term solution for our customers and prospects.  I completed months of research and made the recommendation to our team that  Dynamics GP for core accounting, distribution, and discrete manufacturing was by far the best product available.   For mixed mode manufacturers, we have Dynamics GP and Horizon’s Manufacturing.  For process manufacturing; Dynamics GP with Vicinity Manufacturing.

I have discussed a few of the issues manufacturers have to deal with, there are many, many more.  I find this industry very exciting to work with.  It is fun to learn about new companies and processes and then provide solutions to the business issues and pains.  Call me and let me help your business!   I really do have a most interesting job!

If you care to comment on the information above or have any questions please feel free to contact us at 682-367-1699.

Custom Information Services are Process Manufacturing Software Experts in North Texas.

14 Responses to “Process, Discrete and Mixed Mode Manufacturing; 3 Business Issues – 3 Dynamic Solutions!”

  1. BISPL says:

    Usefull Blog Thanks For Posting

  2. I think I agree with Kint, there are better discrete manufacturing software options. I think the real key is making sure any ERP software is implemented by an experienced reseller/partner who can identify the real requirements of the software prior to implementation so no time and money is wasted on a badly designed solution, ensuring that ROI can begin to be achieved from day one.

  3. Thanks for finally talkong about >Process, Discrete andd Mixed Mode
    Manufacturing; 3 Businesxs Issues – 3 Dynamic Solutions!

    – ERP Software Blog < Liked it!

  4. Nanditha Kini says:

    Hi Nancy,

    Very well-written and explained. For a newbie to manufacturing like me, this was an eye opener in terms of understanding the difference(s) between the various types of manufacturing processes. Kind of late in the day with reading it, I know. 🙂 Have you had a chance to review the manufacturing vertical versions of the Dynamics AX 2012 product? What’s your verdict on that one?

  5. Kint Verbal says:

    When you have a hammer, all things look like nails.

    Dynamics is an awful solution for process environments. I won’t even elaborate on that.

    Good presentation, though.

  6. Your blog is just what I ve been searching for. Your information is to the point and clear. If all bloggers could be as reader oriented as you, the blogosphere would be so much better!

  7. Brooke Webb says:

    Wonderful post! I have yet to come across a more insightful article on the different types of manufacturing. Thank you for providing this information to the community.

  8. Chris says:

    Hey this is a very interesting article! Thanks!

  9. Mary Lenehan says:

    Excellent blog Nancy. I am now crystal clear on the differences and I loved the recommendations for 3rd parties. I concur!

  10. Lean vs Lite Manufacturing:
    My understanding of “Lean manufacturing” it is a process many manufacturing are going thru to reduce costs by simplifying the steps or work center flow to create the finished product. This could also refer to process/software used to control and report the manufacturing steps. This can also be the focus of the Lean Process. “Light Manufacturing” for me has always referred to manufacturing software that was more streamlined and simple to use. This might not work for complicated manufacturing operations but is right sized for simple manufacturing companies.

  11. Dave says:

    What a great explanation and good personal touch as well. Great writing.

  12. Excellent explanation Nancy! I have often gotten confused with the different types of manufacturing environments. Can you also explain, what is meant by “Lite Manufacturing” and “Lean Manufacturing”?