Discreet and process manufacturing difference

When implementing NAV in manufacturing companies, I’ve sometimes heard complaints that the type of manufacturing supported in NAV doesn’t fit the customer needs.

And sometimes that’s completely true. NAV supports discreet manufacturing, and it handles it pretty well. But the things do get bumpy when you venture into process manufacturing world.

Sometimes customers or even consultants don’t really understand why this happens. It’s simple: there is a big difference between process and discreet manufacturing, and to successfully implement NAV in these two fundamentally different environments you need to understand and appreciate these differences.

The biggest difference between these two distinct manufacturing universes is that results of discreet manufacturing can be easily reversed, while with process manufacturing there is no way to do it.

With discreet manufacturing you manufacture countable stuff that can (mostly) be disassembled into the parts it’s made of. A car, for example, is produced in pieces, and if you fancy, you can disassemble it and put it back on shelves as components that can be used to build another car tomorrow.

With process manufacturing you typically manufacture uncountable stuff that cannot possibly be disassembled back into components. You can’t unscramble scrambled eggs.

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With discreet manufacturing we talk about bills of materials; in process manufacturing we have recipes. In discreet manufacturing we have operations that put the stuff together; in process manufacturing we have processes that change physical, chemical or mechanical properties of components.

I’ve worked on several projects in both discreet and process industries, and I’ll definitely dedicate one of my future posts to process manufacturing challenges with NAV implementations, and how to overcome them.


Vjeko has been writing code for living since 1995, and he has shared his knowledge and experience in presentations, articles, blogs, and elsewhere since 2002. Hopelessly curious, passionate about technology, avid language learner no matter human or computer.

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. CA Sandeep Singla

    I have seen a couple of cases where the implementation has gone wrong because of this. The problem is further compounded if there are multiple output.

    1. Vjekoslav Babic

      @Sandeep: yes, that’s true, that’s one of many complex problems process industry puts before a discrete ERP such as NAV.

  2. CA Sandeep Singla

    I will be interested in knowing how you solve the trick. The basic problem I face is the maths formula which applies for cost between the main product, by product and scrap. I found no standard way to do but to use standard costing.

  3. Nikolas

    Great Article .. I cant wait for the follow up..keep up the good work!!

  4. austin

    Thanks Vjekoslav Babic ,

    really u are sharing lot of knowledge what u gained with your experience.

    really this is a very good topic.

    if u throw solution on this , it will be useful to many of us

    1. Vjekoslav Babic

      @austin: thanks, I’ll do my best to give this difficult topic a decent try.

  5. Steve B

    Thank you for dealing with this topic. I went from being controller in a process manufacturing company to NAV implementer and found it difficult to use this basically discreet manufacturing tool in a process environment. Multiple outputs in terms of cut lengths, highly variable scrap, particularly in the startup process were just some of the things in my old industry of plastic extrusion. Even the inputs could vary in chemical composition, which affects material needed to produce a given output.

    I look forward to your next post on the subject.

    1. Vjekoslav Babic

      @Steve B: yes, you’ve named some of the more difficult areas of process manufacturing which can’t really be addressed with discrete manufacturing tools. What you mention here is true about most of process industry verticals I worked with. I’ll try to give some useful insight in how to address those issues.

  6. aishik

    @Vjekoslav Babic , First of all thank you for these wonderful post.I would like to request you to please share more on the difference between process and discrete manufacturing and how to implement the same scenario in nav 2009.Thanks in advance.

    1. Vjekoslav Babic

      @aishik: Thanks for kind words! I’ll definitely try to cover more on these differences, and I’ll make sure to explain how to handle those in NAV.

  7. austin

    i am eagerly waiting for this wonderful solution , to solve my problems in process manufacturing

  8. Dhan Raj Bansal

    Looking forward for your next post on NAV in process manufacturing.

  9. Veeru

    Great post. Can you also please tell me what is Industrial Manufacturing or Industrial Equipment Manufacturing?

    1. Vjekoslav Babic

      @Veeru: thanks for the comment and welcome! Industrial Equipment Manufacturing is the process of manufacturing equipment (machines, etc.) for other manufacturers. So, you have a huge printing machine, which is industrial equipment, which is manufactured somewhere – this is the industrial equipment manufacturing. It’s a usually a combination of process and discreet manufacturing, and is very complex because most of the industrial equipment is custom-designed, making the manufacturing true project management.

  10. fresher

    atleast when can i expect the solution about this, because everybody expecting the next topic willbe this , but………

    1. Vjekoslav Babic

      @fresher: Sorry, I don’t know exactly when. I am currently fully occupied with a project, and I have little time to spend on the blog, but it is one of the topics on top of my to-do list so you can expect it soon.

  11. fresher

    Thanks ,

    i didnot make any comment, just i am very curiosity to know that secret and solution,i heard manufacturing is waste subject , i try to know that process , the example what you already explained in the blog and the reply what you have given is proving that it will take time to write about that one in detail.

    so i am requesting & expecting that the next topic will be on this.

  12. Cool blog, nice read!

    I see that you’re in demand for lots more topics and details :o) the joys of being a blogger.

    Hope to see these topics soon though, as i’m interested too.


  13. Héctor Cazot

    Hi, it has being a long time since your last reply on August 2010, although you pointed to NAV now that process manufacturing has become a standard part of AX 2012 I think many people like me 🙂 will be eager to finally see “the process manufacturing” topic.
    Thanks a lot for this light anyway!!!

    1. Vjekoslav Babic

      @Hector: I may still write about process manufacturing, but whatever I do, I won’t be blogging about AX 2012. I don’t know much about AX, certainly not enough to blog about it, and for the time being, I’ll probably keep it that way. I hope you’ll still keep reading my blog 😉

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