What Is Light Industry?

What is light industry? Check out its definition, characteristics, and examples of light industry sectors.
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Published on:
09 April 2024
Updated on:
22 May 2024
In this article:

In the manufacturing world, we often hear the terms “light industry” and “heavy industry”. But what makes an industry “light” or “heavy”?

In this article, we will focus solely on the light industry. We will start with the light industry’s definition, characteristics, and examples of sectors that fall under the light industry category. Afterward, you can also check our guide to the heavy industry.

What Is Light Industry?

The light industry is a sector that produces consumer goods intended for personal consumption rather than B2B. These goods generally require fewer ingredients, materials, and/or components to be produced than heavy industry products. Additionally, all these products can be made with relatively light machines and tools. Imagine goods such as a bag of chips, a pair of shoes, or an earphone.

It’s the opposite of heavy industry – which has completely different characteristics. Learn more about their differences in our heavy industry vs light industry comparison.

The phrase “light industry” doesn’t imply small-scale production. It’s simply a manufacturing classification, where products are aimed to be consumed directly by the consumers, and creating a product costs less than heavy industry. In fact, some of the world’s largest companies are light industry manufacturers, like NestléProcter & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson.

The term “light industry” is synonymous with “light manufacturing”. Both terms have the same definitions and are equally common. In this article, we’ll use both terms interchangeably.

Note: Avoid mixing the term “light manufacturing” with “lighting manufacturing”. A lighting manufacturer is a company that makes lighting products, such as light bulbs, lamps, and LED lights. These terms sound almost identical, but they’re entirely unrelated.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the world of light manufacturing. What are the common characteristics of light manufacturers?

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Personal Consumer-Oriented Products

Light industry products are meant to be bought by individual customers. Imagine products such as a frozen pizza in the grocery store or a laptop that you can get at a local electronics store.

On the other hand, manufactured goods from heavy industries are marketed to organizations – such as companies and governments. They’re meant for business purposes – instead of personal use.

Small Amount of Resources Needed to Manufacture a Product

The most obvious characteristic is that light manufacturers don’t need as many resources to make a product as they’re meant to be bought by individual customers. This means that a product:

  • Needs a small amount of ingredients/materials/components to be made.
  • A small workforce is sufficient to make it.
  • Can be made in a small production facility – with light machinery.
  • Is produced quickly.

Of course, not every manufacturing product has the mentioned characteristics. These are just the general traits that most light manufacturing products share.

Imagine a 1-liter bottled orange juice – a light manufacturing product. On average, it takes 11 large oranges to produce 1L of pure orange juice. Thanks to mass production, it doesn’t cost much to procure 11 large oranges, wash these fruits, squeeze them, and bottle them.

Automation allows the entire production process to be done rapidly – with little human intervention. An orange juice factory doesn’t require large plots of land either, as the production machines generally don’t take much floor space.

This low-capital production directly affects the relatively low price of light industry products. In supermarkets, you can easily find 1L of bottled orange juice that costs less than 2 Euros.

Compare this to producing an Airbus A380 – the world’s largest airliner and a heavy industry product. Each plane consists of around 4 million individual components. Thousands of workers assemble them in the gigantic 122,500 m² Jean-Luc Lagardère plant. It takes 10 months – 1 year to build and test the plane. The price? In 2018, an Airbus A380 cost an average of USD 445.6 million.

The bottled orange juice vs Airbus A380 comparison above, illustrates the light & heavy industries’ contrasts. Both products perfectly represent each industry well.

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Limited Environmental Impact

Light industries generally have a lower environmental impact compared to heavy industries. We can divide this aspect into several elements:

Energy Consumption

Due to their lighter production machines and tools, light industry manufacturers usually consume less energy. Their typically smaller plant floor area also means lower electricity, water, heating, and cooling needs.

Furthermore, light industries rarely process raw materials (except for FMCG manufacturers). This means there are no energy-intensive raw material processing activities, such as smelting metal ores to form steel or heating limestone to make cement.

Waste

Both light & heavy industries generate waste. However, light industries are commonly less polluting. There are rarely “dirty” industry production activities, such as combustion, processing metal ores, and refining basic chemicals.

Nonetheless, light industries can be polluting, too. Common light industry pollution includes textile dyes dumped into rivers, chemicals from disposed electronics that contaminate the soil in landfills, and organic waste from processed fruits and vegetables. However, they’re far less visible than heavy industry pollution.

Location

As previously mentioned, light industry plants are generally smaller and less polluting. As a result, obtaining a permit to open a light industry plant is easier than its heavy industry counterpart. Therefore, they can be built in various areas, such as on city outskirts and in industrial parks.

Lower Barrier to Entry

Due to the combination of the factors above, starting a light manufacturing plant is generally easier than a heavy manufacturing one. A light manufacturing plant requires a lower capital to start, fewer resources to operate, and is more flexible in terms of permits and location.

In addition, light manufacturers generally produce goods that everyone needs, such as food, clothing, and electronics. Market demands for these products always exist. Hence, investing in light manufacturing businesses is less risky than their heavy industry peers.

Light Industry Examples

The light manufacturing segment is very broad. It covers various industries producing goods that we use every day. Here are some examples of light manufacturing industries:

Textiles

The textile industry covers everything that involves fabrics and clothes. Many would assume that the textile industry only covers clothing manufacturers. However, there are also other industries that fall under this category, such as:

  • Footwear.
  • Bags (e.g., backpacks, canvas suitcases, pouches).
  • Home textiles (e.g., bed sheets, curtains, carpets).
  • Medical textiles (e.g., bandages, masks, gloves).
  • Textile-based structures (e.g., tents, canvas roofs, net-based greenhouses).
A row of leather shoes in various stages of assembly on a factory shelf. The shoes are placed on plastic shoe lasts, some without soles and others more complete, highlighting the process of shoe manufacturing. The conveyor on a shoes factory with shoe and sole. Mass production of footwear

Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG)

FMCG is an umbrella term for products that are produced rapidly, sold cheaply, and always have a stable demand. Several examples of FMCG products include:

  • Packaged food & beverage products.
  • Personal care & hygiene items (e.g., soap, tissues, cosmetics).
  • Household cleaning products (e.g., detergents, brooms, cleaning solutions).
  • Light housewares (e.g., disposable kitchenware, storage boxes, plastic. furniture).
  • Pet supplies.

Many FMCG products are meant for human or animal consumption. Hence, their safety is the priority of any regulator. There are always safety certifications that any FMCG manufacturer must obtain before they can sell their products in the market.

You can use digital audit software to help you pass all required certifications. With good audit software, you can create a comprehensive digital checklist to track all certification requirements.

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See How Azumuta Helps Food & Beverage Manufacturers

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Before applying for any certification, it’s best to do an internal audit to check your plant’s current compliance. Use quality audit software to plan, implement, and analyze your audit results. Make sure that your platform can automatically generate a summary report at the end of each audit.

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Consumer Electronics

This industry refers to all electronic products intended for regular personal use. If you’re reading this article from your PC, smartphone, or tablet, then you’re using a consumer electronics product.

Did you have coffee from your coffee machine this morning? Planning to do your laundry using a washing machine this weekend? These machines are also consumer electronics. In this modern age, they’re inseparable from our everyday life.

Consumer electronics are highly complicated compared to the products from the 2 previous industries. They consist of many small components that must be assembled into a single, functional device. In this industry, precision is critical. Any mistake will compromise your product’s functionality.

That’s why visual-based Digital Work Instructions are handy for any electronics manufacturer. You can use visual elements such as videos, symbols, and even 3D models to make your instructions easy to follow and accessible.

A person wearing blue gloves is working with electronic components on a motherboard. The screen displays instructions about assembling machinery with tools like metal-cutting saws and lathes. Safety reminders and icons for gloves and loctite are shown on the right.

Most importantly, Digital Work Instructions are interactive. Your operators can give their feedback, which is useful for improving your production processes.

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Pharmaceuticals

Similarly, pharmaceuticals are also highly sophisticated products. This industry creates products to cure, alleviate, and prevent health problems. As these products greatly influence our health, pharmaceuticals are one of the most strictly regulated industries globally.

In the EU, all pharmaceutical manufacturers must have an Electronic Batch Records (EBR) system. An EBR is a centralized electronic database that contains all key data of each production batch.

With an EBR, quality control officers can keep track of all vital production metrics in real-time. Whenever a deviation is detected, they can immediately pinpoint where it lies, isolate it from other batches, and make the necessary corrections.

Use a digital platform as electronic batch records software. It’ll help you compile all data into a centralized data visualization dashboard – giving you total situational awareness over your production activities.

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Having a product order report for each production batch is also helpful. With it, your operators can add their remarks for each production batch and attach images & videos whenever necessary. This extra layer of quality control will boost your First Time Right rate.

See How Azumuta Helps Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

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Besides these light manufacturing sectors, don’t forget to check heavy manufacturing examples as well!

Try Azumuta Today!

Check out how Novy’s use of Azumuta has led to impressive improvements! 60% fewer customer complaints, 50% less time spent on creating and managing work instructions, 40% quicker problem resolution, 40% less time spent on employee training, and an overall 20% full-time employee gain due to increased work instructions efficiency.

Not yet convinced? Be sure to check other success stories as well. Our Digital Work InstructionsAudits & Digital ChecklistsQuality Management, and Skill Matrix & Training modules are your one-stop paperless manufacturing software.

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