Home5GWhat is discrete manufacturing and does 5G have a role to play?

What is discrete manufacturing and does 5G have a role to play?

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What is the difference between discrete manufacturing and process manufacturing?


Discrete manufacturing is the production of distinct items such as cars, furniture, smartphones, and aeroplanes. The resulting products of discrete manufacturing are easily identifiable and differ greatly from process manufacturing where the products are undifferentiated; for example, oil, natural gas or salt.

Discrete manufacturing is often characterized by individual or separate unit production. Units can be produced in low volume with very high complexity or high volumes of low complexity.

Low volume/high complexity production requires a flexible manufacturing system that can improve quality and time-to-market speed while cutting costs, while high volume/low complexity production puts high premiums on inventory controls, lead times and reducing or limiting materials costs and waste.

Discrete manufacturing companies make physical products that go directly to businesses and consumers, and assemblies that are used by other manufacturers.

In the discrete manufacturing field, each process can be individually started or stopped and can be run at varying production rates. The final product may be produced out of single or multiple inputs. This is different from process manufacturing like production of paper or petroleum refining, where the end product is obtained by a continuous process or a set of continuous processes.

Rob Kasegrande, managing director at Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) practice, said:  “Whether a manufacturer is big or small, discrete or process, whether they produce fighter jets or silicon wafers, there are 5G manufacturing use cases or applications for everybody. The critical question is around what to do with it, and the focus should be on the business outcome and value generation. The use cases will look different depending on the manufacturing subsector, but there isn’t a manufacturer that 5G and edge computing isn’t relevant to.”

Meanwhile, according to software developer Intelex, 5G technology is also expected to bring key improvements to driving safety in the manufacturing industry. This will be achieved by propelling smart manufacturing forward through the use of more advanced devices which are equipped with edge computing functionality. 5G will also help to drive discrete manufacturing via robust data reporting and analysis capabilities, Intelex said.

How 5G technology could benefit discrete manufacturing?

According to a report published by Allied Market Research, the global industrial 5G market generated $12.47 billion in 2020, and is estimated to generate $140.88 billion by 2030, with an expected CAGR of 27.5% from 2020 to 2030.

The study noted that the adoption of industrial 5G among the discrete manufacturing industries increased with implementation of next-generation telecommunication solutions to enable excellent communication channels between the types of machinery and streamline the product development process.

Based on end-user, the discrete industries segment contributed to the highest market share in 2020, accounting for more than two-thirds of the global industrial 5G market, and is projected to maintain its leadership status throughout the forecast period, according to the study.

According to a study by research firm Markets & Markets, the growth of IoT is leading to improvements in discrete industries. “In discrete industries, IoT-enabled smart connected products provide a way to increase product functionality and generate additional value for customers,” the company said. “The 5G technology increases the overall bandwidth and allows a massive amount of IoT devices to connect, thus helping discrete manufacturers increase their productivity. 5G industrial IoT solutions are expected to increase the operational efficiency of the discrete manufacturing process by offering higher connectivity among IoT devices.”


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