We explain what manufacturing is, the types of manufacturing industries, and provide examples. In addition, we discuss its importance, and the environmental impact it creates.
The manufacturing industry is concerned with the transformation of raw materials or semi-finished products into finished consumer goods, i.e. goods ready for to be consumed.
Manufacturing is part of the secondary sector of a country's economy. The primary sector, on the other hand, encompasses activities that transform natural resources, such as the collection and extraction of raw materials, and the production of semi-finished goods.
Etymology: The word manufactures comes from Latin manus meaning “hand” and facere meaning “make”; it therefore refers to handmade goods.
Some examples of manufacturing include: a bakery with in-house manufactured products, a pine wood furniture factory, a metallurgical company producing anything from tools or supplies to metal machinery, or a textile factory manufacturing yarns and fabrics.
- The manufacturing industry is concerned with the production of finished goods ready for consumption.
- It is part of the secondary sector of the economy and its production accounts for a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- Manufacturing employs raw materials and semi-finished goods, which pertain to the agricultural, mining and livestock industries, among others of the primary sector.
- See also: Light and heavy industry
Types of manufacturing industries
Manufacturing industries differ according to the production method implemented. The types of manufacturing industries may be:
- Continuous production industries. They are industries where manufacturing processes run without interruption in a continuous flow process operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with rotating shifts. The purpose is to produce the highest quantity of units.
- Batch production industries. They are industries where large-scale manufacturing processes depend on demand or on specified minimal quantities. The industrial equipment and machinery used for this type of manufacturing involve minimal quantities for production due to the high costs and production time.
- Repetitive manufacturing industries. Continuous manufacturing processes are specifically applied for identical products, large batches, or for the manufacture of spare parts.
Examples of manufacturing industries
Among the main manufacturing industries are:
- Textile industry. It comprises activities that transform cotton, linen and raw wool into yarns and fabrics.
- Food industry. It comprises activities that transform raw materials, mostly of agricultural origin, into food for human and animal consumption.
- Chemical industry. IIt comprises activities that transform natural raw materials (such as minerals or coal) and synthetic products (such as chemicals for making paints and solvents) into different substances to make consumer products. Chemical products can be semi-processed, for industrial or finished consumer products.
- Advanced technology industry. Also known as high-tech or exotechnology, it comprises activities that involve the development of innovative techniques and resources that have an impact on multiple areas of life, such as health, education, transportation or food, with the aim of making people's lives easier or satisfying new needs.
- Transportation industry. It comprises activities that transform raw materials into equipment, spare parts and vehicles, such as bicycles, motorcycles, automobiles, buses, trucks, boats, trains, and aircrafts, among others. Transportation is an essential link of the different sectors of the economy.
- Pharmaceutical industry. It comprises activities that transform chemical substances and active ingredients into medical products. In addition to manufacturing, it is concerned with research and development of innovative techniques for the treatment of raw materials.
- Telecommunications industry. It comprises engineering and technology activities that involve the development of infrastructure necessary to provide transmission and reception services for various types of audiovisual, electromagnetic or frequency modulation signals. It requires the use of several types of devices for its consumption: shortwave radios, TV sets, electronic devices, mobile phones, internet networks and servers, radio navigation devices, among many others.
- Electric power industry. It comprises engineering and technology activities for the generation, transmission, maintenance and distribution of electric power to supply other industries, production plants and the general public.
- Construction industry. It comprises activities related to architectural, engineering and manufacturing services of goods and supplies for the construction of roads, urban and hydraulic works, and housing.
- Industrial crafts. It comprises activities that transform inputs from other industrial activities. It employs techniques that allow for medium-scale production, through mechanized handmade processing, yielding pieces that are different from one another, as opposed to large-scale mass production.
Importance of the manufacturing industry
Manufacturing (the secondary sector of the economy) is a key industry, as it produces all the goods and services that are traded in society. This industry also promotes employment and generates profits and economic development.
Production or the manufacturing industry represents the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country. For a country’s finances, the GDP is the monetary value of all goods and services produced in one year, besides other factors taken into account to calculate GDP.
Environmental impact of the manufacturing industry
Industrial activity has a positive impact (as it satisfies society's needs), and a negative one (since it may pollute or unbalance biodiversity).
The management model known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arose from the need to reduce the negative impact of industrial and business activity. The purpose of CSR management is to find a balance between the management of resources (human and natural), the impact of business activity on the environment, and revenue generation.
Nowadays, a company is not considered successful simply if it is profitable or if it is highly productive. Today, companies must face other challenges, such as providing transparency about the sourcing of raw materials, ensuring labor free of exploitation, and reducing the negative impact of their activities on the environment.
- INEGI (2022). Industria manufacturera. INEGI.
- Happy learning (2019). El sector secundario: el trabajo y su clasificación (video). YouTube.
- Postgrado UCSP (2022). Guía sobre los procesos de manufactura. UCSP.