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Types of manufacturing industry

Updated on January 2, 2012

The types of manufacturing industry can be classified according to their inputs or function.

  • Primary manufacturing industries refer to those that convert raw materials into products that can be used as inputs for other processes.
  • Secondary industries cover a wider range of activities, and are further subdivided into heavy, light and high-tech industries.

Heavy industries (for example, refining and smelting) are capital intensive and large-scale. Light industry typically involves consumer products, while high-tech industry is capital intensive and reliant on research and development.

Since industries are diverse, the classifications of industries as primary/ secondary and heavy/light/high-tech are of limited utility. As such, it is useful to categorize industries by function.

Metallurgical industry

As a “heavy” manufacturing industry, the metallurgical industry is concerned with refining, alloying and fabrication of metals. Of these, the iron and steel industry is the most important, since many projects require several thousand tons of iron and steel as raw materials. Other metallurgical industries that are prominent in manufacturing include those that smelt, refine and process metals excluding iron.

Engineering industry

Engineering is a heavy industry that relies heavily on the output of the metallurgical industries. Like many other industries, engineering has several branches. The major ones include: transport equipment (shipbuilding, automobile, aircraft and railway); electrical (heavy and light); and industrial machinery.

Chemicals industry

The chemicals industry is a very significant one in the modern era, since chemicals are required for a myriad of economic activity. The chemical industry is subdivided into three broad categories: heavy chemicals (using mineral deposits or by-products), pharmaceuticals (drugs and medicines) and petrochemicals (chemicals derived from fuel sources).

Textile industry

The clothing and textile industry is one of the oldest manufacturing industries, although it now relies heavily on mechanized textile manufacture. Whereas other industries are confined to certain areas, the production of textile is widespread – due to a number of factors, including demand and availability of raw materials.

Food processing industry

Food processing is an example of a light industry, although food processing can take place on a large scale. It involves the processing of raw materials (e.g. wheat) into foodstuffs (e.g. flour), food preservation and food packaging.

Hi-tech industry

In the age of knowledge workers and advanced technology, the high-tech industry relies heavily on research and development and is capital intensive. This is a form of secondary industry, since it involves production. It can overlap with other types of manufacturing industries – such as transport and energy for example.


To recap, manufacturing industries can be classified as primary or secondary. Secondary industries can be further divided into heavy, light and high-tech branches. Manufacturing industries are very diverse, but the main ones are the metallurgical, chemicals, engineering, textile, food-processing and high-tech industries.


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