Manufacturing Glossary: Key Terms and Definitions

17 Key Terms to Know in Manufacturing 

Confused by all of the three-letter acronyms, abbreviations, or terms used in the manufacturing industry? Us, too. Manufacturing is inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of terms, some that make work simpler, and some, not so much. Once you’ve been working in the industry for an extended period of time, the terms start to roll off your tongue with no issue, but sometimes a refresher is needed. Or, in another case, a new hire on the plant floor needs to learn the terms, and quick.

Whatever the reason, we compiled a list of commonly used manufacturing acronyms and manufacturing terms for your reference. The purpose of this list is to help the reader, you, become familiar with the most commonly used terms. It is an ever-evolving list so check back often for new additions. See one missing? Let us know.


1. IoT – Internet of Things

A hot buzzword in all types of industries, this term relates to a system of interrelated smart devices. In terms of manufacturing, the internet of things applies to remote monitoring and operations, predictive maintenance and smart asset management, and autonomous manufacturing. Interested in learning more? Check out a post we wrote about the usefulness of IoT in manufacturing.

 2. II0T – Industrial Internet of Things

You guessed it, this applies to specifically the industrial sector. As technologies become smarter, manufacturers are figuring out how to apply those technologies to their businesses to create a smart factory. Simply put, IIoT combines machinery with analytics with the people running those factories. Think of it as the pieces of a puzzle all fitting together to create one bigger picture.

 3. OEE – Overall Equipment Effectiveness

The most well-known metric in the manufacturing industry evaluates availability, performance, and quality to determine machine effectiveness. Using a formula developed by the automotive manufacturer Toyota, OEE is calculated by multiplying all of those factors together to get one single metric. Learn more about OEE.

 4. Takt Time

This is the average time between the start of production of one machine and the start of the production of another machine. There is a specific formula used to calculate takt time which we will discuss in-depth in another post. Stay tuned.

 5. SPC – Statistical Process Control

Using, you guessed it, statistics, SPC helps to monitor and control processes. Using that data, solutions for any potential production issues can be determined.

 6. Cycle Time

No acronym here, but cycle time is a very common phrase used in manufacturing. It is an essential manufacturing key performance indicator for a number of systems and other calculations. For example, it is used by ERP and MES systems for scheduling, purchasing, and production cost, but is also a key component of calculating OEE. Check out the Cycle Time Formula resource for a deeper dive.

 7. Pareto

Created by world-renowned Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, the Pareto principle states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. In manufacturing, the principle can be applied to analyzing downtime. Generally speaking, 20% of causes affect 80% of downtime. Using data science, manufacturers can determine the top issues affecting performance. 

 8. Poka-Yoke

A Japanese term meaning “mistake-proofing”, Poka-Yoke pertains to any process in LEAN manufacturing that helps avoid mistakes. Its sole purpose is to eliminate human error by correcting or preventing defects in products.

 9. HMI – Human-Machine Interface

This one is somewhat self-explanatory, but it’s the user interface that connects a human user to a machine. For example, the SensrTrx platform has an HMI component with the operator interface we provide to machine operators to input data during the manufacturing process.

 10. 5S

This one, rather than an acronym or term, is a theory. It applies to workplace organization and uses a list of five Japanese words to organize the theory – seiri (sort), seiton (set in order), seiso (shine), seiketsu (standardize), and shitsuke (sustain). Basically, by creating an efficient organization system where everything has a place, it will subsequently create an efficient working environment. Additionally, it builds a culture of standardization for how a company, a division, or even a process should operate.

 11. MTBF – Mean Time Between Failures

This is the expected time between inherent failures of a machine or machinery. It is calculated by averaging the time between those failures. However, the definition of failure is completely dependent on each company as a failure may be defined differently from one company to the next. If you have recently switched jobs, the methodology for calculating failure will remain the same, but the factors of determining a failure may differ.

 12. MTTR – Mean Time to Repair

MTTR and MTBF go hand-in-hand because while MTBF calculates the average time between failures, MTTR calculates the average time it takes to repair that failure. Again, this calculation varies from one company to the next.

 13. PLC – Programmable Logic Controller

Basically, this is a computer that has been modified or programmed, to be used for the manufacturing process. The controllers can specifically automate processes of production, machine function, or even an entire line.

 14. OPC – Open Platform Communications

A series of standards that apply to industrial telecommunication, OPC specifies “communication of real-time plant data between control devices from different manufacturers”, according to Wikipedia.

 15. SCADA – Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition

It is an encompassing control system of software and hardware. SCADA allows an organization to control various processes, locally or remotely, of manufacturing, monitor and gather data, interact with machine parts via HMI software, and keep a detailed record of all interactions.

 16. TPM – Total Productive Maintenance

Simply put, TPM is designed to increase the efficiency of the equipment. It is geared towards preventive maintenance on machinery and is often spearheaded by the machine operators themselves.

 17. OT – Operational Technology

Used by hands on the factory floor, OT is the software tasked with changing machine processes in a plant or factory. For example, the software can control the use of valves or pumps.

What are the Most Common Manufacturing Software Terms I Should Know? 

Terms and acronyms galore, how could there possibly be more information to know? To get a better understanding of the manufacturing industry, you also need to have a clear understanding of the most common software used in factories, especially considering the industry is quickly transforming technologically.

We’ve mentioned it before, but, Industry 4.0 is rapidly arriving, and to keep up with the changing landscape, manufacturers are increasingly trying to implement manufacturing software to create a smart factory. But, what are these types of software?

Lucky for you, we’ve created a simple guide to help.


1. CMMS – Computerized Maintenance Management System

As the name implies, this specific software deals with the maintenance side of manufacturing. In basic terms, the software will help simplify and manage maintenance work orders.

 2. ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning

A massive, highly robust software platform, an ERP is designed for all facets of a company – everything from the plant floor to accounting. It is designed to keep larger manufacturers organized regardless of the task at hand.

 3. MRP – Material Requirements Planning

Nowadays, an MRP is integrated into a larger ERP system because it keeps the processes more organized. But, basically, an MRP tracks and organizes all materials related to the production process so it is only used on the factory floor.

 4. CAD – Computer-Aided Design and CAM – Computer-Aided Manufacturing

The two terms mean virtually the same thing. CAD and CAM both apply to the beginning to end process of designing the manufacturing production procedure. Specifically, CAD and CAM software are used to “design prototypes, finished products, and production runs.”

 5. MES – Manufacturing Execution System

This specific computerized system is designed to track and document the processes of manufacturing, from the beginning stages of raw materials to the end stages of a completed product.

 6. QMS – Quality Management System

A collection of business processes and policies, a QMS is primarily focused on planning and execution, primarily for the manufacturer’s customer base.

 7. CMS – Content Management System

Used for developing a website, or any other need for content, a CMS is a computer software database that manages all content.

 8. WMS – Warehouse Management System

You guessed it; WMS is a software system that manages a warehouse. Essentially, it tracks and processes all of the warehouse operations from the time goods enter the warehouse until they move out.

 9. PLM – Product Lifecycle Management

The goal of PLM is to manage the lifecycle of a product from start to finish, including the information, processes, and people needed to manufacture the product.


All of this software can be utilized on their own, but they can create a more efficient, productive factory floor when integrated.


Our goal of this post was to give you a broad understanding of the most commonly used terms, but if you still feel a bit lost, don’t fret. (Don’t worry – we have all been there at one point because let’s be honest, there are just a lot of shortened names and three-letter acronyms to learn.) If you need more information, check out this guide from Tech Target. It’s incredibly helpful and will help to fill any gaps.