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Heavy industry is a general term that can be used to describe a variety of industrial concerns and operations. Generally speaking, the term describes industrial processes that are highly capital or labor intensive or which produce heavy end products. It tends to be difficult to enter into this type of industry because the start-up costs are often quite high. It is also often difficult to transport the base materials or products involved in heavy industrial processes because of their bulk and weight. In fact, the transportation of the materials used in heavy industry is a major and important heavy industry in its own right.
Heavy industry is often defined relative to light industry, though both have relatively vague definitions that are often based on each other. Light industry is often used to describe industrial concerns and operations that involve less capital, a lighter environmental impact, and less necessary labor than heavy industry. In many cases, light industry is much more service oriented, and the products developed by light industry are often easier to transport. The manufacture of clothing, furniture, and consumer electronics falls into the category of light industry while the production of automobiles, large structures, some military equipment, such as tanks and bombs, is generally considered to be heavy industry.
Heavy industries seldom sell their products directly to consumers; they tend to sell to industrial customers. They focus primarily on assembling the products, not on promoting or selling the end products. Accordingly, when an economic upturn occurs, heavy industry stock values are among the first to rise as their customers pay them to increase their levels of production. The economic performance of heavy industries is often dependent on the costs of obtaining and transporting the raw materials that they need for production as well.
The vast scale and large amount of capital involved in heavy industry tends to result in a significant amount of government regulation. This regulation may be related in part to the effect that heavy industries have on the environment. They often produce a significant amount of pollution that can affect the air and water for miles around. Many heavy industries need to operate around the clock; this often results in a great deal of noise and light than can be disturbing to people living and working nearby. Governments usually address these concerns by applying special zoning laws to heavy industries.