Manufacturing raw materials are the materials used to create manufactured items. In most cases, these items are unprocessed, unrefined materials that are transformed within the manufacturing system. This would cover items like lumber, ores and crude petroleum products. Many industries expand the definition to include other base materials such as processed metals, plastics, chemical mixtures and other essential products. Some companies also refer to any piece used within its system as manufacturing raw materials.
The basic definition of manufacturing raw materials varies widely from industry to industry. At its most simple, these are the input materials used to create other items — from there, the exact definition changes. The historical definition was base natural materials, but that was before modern manufacturing and plastics took many businesses away from natural resources. The focus then shifted to a wide array of products that aren’t useful on their own, only when made into something else.
From a natural material standpoint, manufacturing raw materials make up a very tight group of things. The biggest restriction is the level of processing the material has undergone. For example, lumber that is still in basic tree form or has been turned into basic shapes is fine, but any lumber that has undergone sealing, pressure treatment or similar processing is beyond a raw material. The same is true of metallic ore, it can be separated from the rock and prepared for transport, but any refinement, shaping or purification makes it not a raw material.
As processes changed, the definition of what was and wasn’t manufacturing raw materials changed as well. Certain heavily processed materials, which were practically useless on their own but were vital in many processes, were added to the list. This included the earlier materials that had undergone more processing, like treated lumber, metallic bars or refined oil. In addition, glass, plastics and chemical mixtures such as acids or solvents became raw materials. This also includes high-technology materials, such as silicon, that had very little use during the days of the original definition.
Whether from language differences, continued technological advancement or simply the passage of time, the definition of manufacturing raw materials is looser in modern days than ever before. Now, many companies call anything that is purchased from outside a raw material. This means that a company that buys screws to assemble its product may call the fully formed screw a raw material. This loose definition means that a raw material in one company may be radically different than in another. For instance, one company calls the screws raw but the company that actually makes the screws would not use this term.