Heavy industry is industry that involves one or more characteristics such as large and heavy products; large and heavy equipment and facilities (such as heavy equipment, large machine tools, and huge buildings); or complex or numerous processes. Of those factors, heavy industry often involves higher capital intensity than light industry does, and it is also often more heavily cyclical in investment and employment.
Traditional examples from the mid-19th century through the early 20th included steelmaking, artillery production, locomotive erection, machine tool building, and the heavier types of mining. From the late 19th century through the mid-20th, as the chemical industry and electrical industry developed, they involved components of both heavy industry and light industry, which was soon also true for the automotive industry and the aircraft industry. Modern shipbuilding (since steel replaced wood) is considered heavy industry. In the post–World War II era, construction of large systems, such as skyscrapers, large dams, and large rockets, is also often classed as heavy industry.
Many East Asian countries rely on heavy industry as part of their overall economies. Among Japanese and Korean firms with "heavy industry" in their names, many are also manufacturers of aerospace products and defense contractors to their respective countries' governments such as Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries and Korea's Hyundai Rotem, a joint project of Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Heavy Industries.
Heavy industry is also sometimes a special designation in local zoning laws.
- Morris Teubal, "Heavy and Light Industry in Economic Development" The American Economic Review, Vol. 63, No. 4. (Sep. 1973), pp. 588–596.
- "Some Definitions in the Vocabulary of Geography", IV, British Association Glossary Committee, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 118, No. 3. (Sep. 1952), pp. 345–346.
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