Every organization operates in at least one industry, with some operating in several. An industry can simply be defined as a group of companies with similar business activities, products, and services. There are now five main types of industry: primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary, and quinary. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between each and list some specific examples.
Primary industries are those that extract natural resources such as minerals, soil, plants, water, and those consumed to produce energy.
This includes industries such as:
- Mining – where metals, minerals, oil, gas, coal, and other resources are extracted from the Earth’s surface.
- Agriculture – with a primary focus on cultivating plants, land, and animals to produce food, drink, and other essential items.
- Forestry – companies in the forestry industry manage and log native forest or timber plantations to produce wood for construction and furniture, among other uses.
- Fishing – the fishing industry encompasses any activity associated with the catching, culturing, processing, harvesting, or selling of fish. This includes recreational, commercial, and subsistence fishing.
- Hunting – or the practice of killing native or feral animals to harvest animal products, including meat, bone, fur, antlers, or tusks. The hunting industry also encompasses the act of removing predators dangerous to humans, taxidermy, and trophy hunting.
Secondary industries add value to the natural resources acquired by primary industries. They do this by converting raw materials into useful and profitable products for consumers and other businesses. For this reason, secondary industry is sometimes called the manufacturing industry.
Secondary industry examples include:
- Manufacturing – where businesses convert raw components and materials into products. This is often done at scale in highly automated factories to produce low unit cost items.
- Construction – a broad industry dealing with the construction of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. The construction industry also includes road, rail, tunnel, dam, and bridge infrastructure.
- Food and beverage – which involves the processing, preserving, and serving of food items. The food and beverage industry works closely with the agriculture industry to produce fresh and long-life food items for restaurants, supermarkets, and other food retailers.
- Fashion – or the design, production, and marketing of clothing, footwear, and other items that are worn by people.
- Technology – another broad industry category characterized by the innovation, design, and production of computers, software, apps, aerospace equipment, military equipment, and health care technology.
In a tertiary industry, the major economic activities include:
- Exchange – or transportation, trade, and communication services that are used to bridge distance.
- Production – or the supply of a diverse range of services utilized by millions of people.
Tertiary industries are mostly commerce and service-related businesses that produce non-tangible value. Examples of tertiary industries, which are a hallmark of wealthy and advanced nations, include:
- Professional services – these are jobs requiring specialized knowledge or training, such as engineers, physicians, lawyers, architects, accountants, surgeons, dentists, and high-level administrators.
- Telecommunications – encompassing the transmission of signals, words, messages, sounds, images, or any other information via infrastructure such as cables, the internet, radio, and television.
- Franchise – where one company, the franchisor, gives the right for another company, the franchisee, to utilize its brand, systems, or other intellectual property. Many franchisors utilize this model to create commercial chains for the distribution of goods and services.
- Education – the education industry includes universities, schools, colleges, or training providers that help consumers acquire knowledge, skills, values, morals, or beliefs.
- Entertainment – an industry with many sub-industries devoted to the singular or mass entertainment of people, including comedy, film, music, theatre, and sport.
The definition of a quaternary industry is harder to define, but in general, it is any industry based on new technology and specialized knowledge. These industries are characterized by the individual relying on their education and intelligence to generate and operate advanced technologies.
Since it requires highly advanced technology, the quaternary industry is relatively young. Furthermore, it is only present in modern economies where the generation, analysis, and dissemination of knowledge is important enough to warrant it being separated from tertiary sectors.
Quaternary industries include:
- Finance – including corporate finance, banking, personal finance, investing, and asset management.
- Consultancy – where specialists offer advice to businesses in a range of areas.
- Research and development – or innovative activities undertaken by governments and corporations to develop new products and services or improve existing ones.
Quinary industries focus on the creation, re-arrangement, and interpretation of new or existing ideas. They also deal with the use and evaluation of new technologies.
Many economists refer to those involved in quinary industries as “gold-collar professionals” because they hold extremely desirable skills and are involved in high-level decision-making.
Quinary industries may encompass specific sections of tertiary or quaternary industries, including government, science, education, health care, culture, media, and non-profit organizations.
To a lesser degree, some also suggest the domestic activities performed in a home by a family member or dependent are part of the quinary industry. These activities, which include housekeeping, child care, animal care, and maintenance, are typically unpaid and so are not measured by their monetary value. Nevertheless, they contribute to the economy by providing free services that would otherwise have to be paid for.
- While businesses may operate in one or more different industries, an industry can simply be defined as a group of companies with similar business activities, products, and services. Industries are categorized into five broad types: primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary, and quinary.
- Primary industries extract raw materials from the Earth, including mining, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting. Secondary industries, which turn those raw materials into useable products, include manufacturing, construction, food and beverage, fashion, and technology.
- Tertiary industries include any service that results in the creation of intangible value, such as those seen in professional services, telecommunications, franchising, education, and entertainment. In general, quaternary and quinary industries are associated with highly specialized knowledge and technology that tends to be found in modern, developed nations.
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