Production vs. Manufacturing: Key Differences


Production and manufacturing are often seen as the same thing. While they’re related, the two have distinct definitions. It’s important to understand the differences, especially if you’re involved in the manufacturing industry. Let’s explore production vs. manufacturing.

Of course, it’s not a competition between the two as we’ll see when we define each term and then explain the differences between production and manufacturing. We’ll also highlight many free templates that can help if you’re involved in production or manufacturing.

What Is Production?

Production is a process that’s used to turn things into products or goods. Some items used in production to create products or goods include raw materials, money, investments or partially finished products.

In manufacturing, production is used to create a myriad of products and goods. For example, production results in everything from electronic devices to clothing, but it also refers to services such as maintenance for offices, facilities and other spaces.

Companies that work in production can turn resources into products, but also products that are used to make other products or even those intangible outputs, such as services. Production is defined as inputs and outputs; inputs are the resources used to make goods or services and output is the final product of those inputs.

Production is done through a sequence of actions called a production plan. ProjectManager is award-winning software that has robust kanban boards that help organize production processes, resources and costs and track work in real time. You can see your production process visually and collaborate with your team to avoid costly bottlenecks. Use the rich task cards to log hours, attach files and resources and keep your team informed. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

Kanban board with workflow automation used to execute advanced manufacturing processes
ProjectManager has kanban boards to oversee production processes and track them in real time. Learn more

Production is made up of planning, scheduling and controlling the allocation of resources, both human and nonhuman, but also facilities where production will occur as well as the machinery and processes used to deliver the finished product. The goal of production planning, scheduling and controlling is to find the most efficient avenue to deliver the product or service you’re making to deliver it to the market or your customers.

Let’s look at production planning, production scheduling and production control and define each term. This provides a better understanding of how each fits into the larger production discipline.

  • Production planning: This is the process of managing resources more efficiently to meet product or customer demands. It’s the what, when and how to produce products and establishes production capacity while identifying the raw materials required to meet demand. From this, it creates an actionable production plan that provides guidance but is also reviewed and revised to adjust to changes that impact the cost, scope, time and delivery of finished products.
  • Production scheduling: Here’s where you’ll list every product that’ll be manufactured, including where and when it’ll be produced. You’ll also list the raw materials and logistics involved, including processes used to add efficiencies and how you’ll identify issues and bottlenecks, which can delay schedules. The larger production plan is a flexible document that changes as needed to keep production on track. Besides start and end times, the production schedule is shared with the sales team who communicates the level of demand to managers, who in turn tell sales when the product will be available for customers.
  • Production control: This is the monitoring and controlling part of production. It’s a set of actions and decision-making protocols used to ensure the output of production is being delivered on time, within budget and meeting quality expectations. It’s implemented through planning and scheduling work, including labor, available materials and whatever other constraints can impact production. Production control can also include supply chain management to ensure that raw materials are delivered on time and to the right facility so the finished products get to customers when expected.

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Production Schedule Template

Use this free Production Schedule Template for Excel to manage your projects better.


What Is Manufacturing?

Manufacturing is the making of goods through the use of resources, such as raw materials and labor, machinery and tools, but can also include biological or chemical processing or formulation. It can turn raw materials into a final product on a large scale or it can make complex items that it then sells to other manufacturers who assemble them. The manufacturing process is used to create everything from automobiles to aircraft and household appliances.

Manufacturing doesn’t start on the factory floor, though. It begins with product design and the selection of materials to build that product. During the manufacturing of that product, the source materials are modified through manufacturing processes to deliver a finished product. There can be intermediate processes that make components that are then used to assemble a finished product. Depending on the industry, manufacturing is sometimes referred to as fabrication such as when sheet metal is manufactured into ducting for air conditioning and heating projects.

Three main types of manufacturing are the most commonly used: make-to-stock (MTS), make-to-order (MTO and make-to-assemble (MTA). MTS is when goods are produced and held in stock at retail and demand must be predicted to produce just the right amount. MTO is when manufacturers wait until they get orders to begin production. MTA is similar to MTA but manufacturers produce components that are assembled to fulfill orders as they come in.

In more general terms, there are various types of manufacturing beyond fabrication. Some of these include rapid manufacturing, lean manufacturing, process manufacturing and discrete manufacturing.

Free Production Schedule Template

Use our free production schedule template for Excel to balance supply and demand when making a product or service. You can even track the production over a period of time, including variations, starting inventory and more.

Production schedule template for Excel to improve advanced manufacturing

What Are the Key Differences Between Production and Manufacturing?

It’s clear that production and manufacturing share some commonalities, but there are differences in their purpose, resources, creation, output and results.


For example, in terms of purpose, production creates goods and services. That means they make both tangible and intangible deliverables by using materials and other resources. Manufacturing, though, produces tangible goods or merchandise. Manufacturing uses resources such as materials, labor, equipment and technology to do this. So, production can make both goods and services, while manufacturing is only producing tangible goods.


Production vs. manufacturing when it comes to resources may seem like an even comparison, but there are differences. Manufacturing uses tangible resources, such as raw materials like lumber or minerals, when creating goods. Production uses both tangible and intangible resources; it uses raw materials that manufacturers use but also counts money or credit among its intangible resources. It’s not only how production vs. manufacturing uses resources but also how they procure them. Production companies often own resources, while manufacturers buy them from other sources.


Both production and manufacturing companies make things but in different ways. For instance, manufacturers make things using tangible processes such as physical labor, machinery or a combination of both. Production companies use machinery, but can also use human labor that doesn’t involve physical effort. Manufacturers use raw materials to create finished goods, while production companies turn resources into new products. That is, cotton is farmed and production companies turn that cotton into the fabric that’s then made into clothing.


Another way to look at production vs. manufacturing is in terms of output. Simply put, production creates utility and manufacturing creates matter. Another way of putting that is that production is involved in the usefulness of a good or service, manufacturing is producing a physical time. It’s the output of both where there can be differences and, again, those differences boil down to intangible and tangible.


Delivery of the final product or service is also a point of distinction. Manufacturers move their final product to a retailer who then sells it to the customer while production has more varied results. It can use its goods to make other products, save its output for later use or deliver a result that’s a service to the end user. Manufacturers tend to get rid of their outputs immediately, while production companies can warehouse those goods for later use.

Free Production and Manufacturing Templates

Production vs. manufacturing has similarities and differences, but one common ground is that both can benefit from the use of templates. ProjectManager has dozens of free production and manufacturing templates for Excel and Word that you can download on our site.

Work Order Template

Often production and manufacturing companies will employ outside contractors. Our free work order template for Excel covers labor, tools and materials that’ll be necessary to complete the assignment. There’s even a place to add instructions to make sure work is done correctly.

Purchase Order Template

When sourcing products or services, you’ll need our free purchase order template for Excel. It acts as a contract between buyer and seller, detailing the price, quantity and delivery of those goods and services, as well as how payment will be rendered.

ProjectManager Helps With Production Planning, Scheduling & Control

Production vs. manufacturing shares another thing in common. Both need project management software to plan, schedule and control their jobs and deliver on time. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that has features that can do all that and more. We’ve already shown how Gantt charts can plan and schedule your jobs but that’s only one project management view that you can use when working in production or manufacturing. We have tools that automate and manage resources to control your jobs.

Create & Automate Workflows With Kanban Boards

Streamlining processes is a goal of both production and manufacturing. Our workflow automation feature allows you to create triggers that set off actions. You can have multiple triggers and actions on each workflow. There are also custom workflows that you can set up to move a job through various stages. Either way, you can ensure that only quality moves forward by setting up task approvals and assigning someone with authority to review the work before approving it. You can set these up on any of our multiple project views, such as kanban boards that make it easy to visualize your workflow.

ProjectManager's kanban booard
Manage Resources With Workload Charts & Timesheets

There are also resource management features that can help you assign, manage and track your labor force. When onboarding employees, you can set up availability so you know when they have PTO, vacations or there are vacations or even global vacations for distributed crews. Now it’s easy to assign work. Our color-coded workload chart makes it easy to see who has too much work and lets you balance the workload from that page to keep everyone working at capacity. There are also secure timesheets that facilitate payroll but also provide a window into the percentage complete everyone is on their assignments.

Timesheet view in ProjectManager

Control is aided by monitoring your production or manufacturing cycle. Our real-time dashboard offers a high-level view of time, cost and more, automatically gathering data and displaying it in easy-to-read graphs and charts. There’s no setup required, either. It’s ready when you are. If you need more details, use our customizable reports on status, variance and more. They can be filtered to focus on what you’re interested in seeing and easily shared with stakeholders.

ProjectManager is online project management software that helps production managers and manufacturers plan, schedule and control their jobs. Use multiple project views to have the right tools for the right work and task, resource and risk management features to keep on track. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.