Manufacturing Terms
Manufacturing Terms

All industries have terms one has to know in order to work with or within that industry, Manufacturing is no exception. Indeed, the terminology to familiarize yourself with in this industry is as broad and dense as any other technical industry.

What can make keeping current with manufacturing terms more difficult is that they constantly change and evolve faster than in other industries. New industry terms are being added all the time. Terms are also shifting to reflect new realities; old terms are being cast aside as manufacturing moves on.

As we go from 2020 to 2021, the evolution of manufacturing terms marches on, too. To keep up and to help you understand some of the important changes transpiring in the manufacturing world today, we assembled a glossary of some of the most important manufacturing terms of 2021.

This is not an exhaustive list but it will touch on terms that are and will continue to be critical to the industry in the new year and beyond. Here are 7 manufacturing terms to know in 2021.

1. Agile Manufacturing

This is a term you are likely to often hear in 2021 as the entire global economy deals with the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of the year and, hopefully, pivots to ramping back up to full capacity in the back half of 2021.

This term can refer to any initiative, tool, or process that allows manufacturers to be more flexible and responsive to customer needs or fluctuations in the market. It is a state of being for a manufacturer to strive for in 2021 because it will help companies better deal with an uncertain future.

2. Benchmarking

Benchmarking isn’t a new term in the manufacturing industry, but in 2021 it is becoming more important and it is differently performed. The term refers to analyzing what the top, or “best-in-class”, companies in an industry are doing and establishing benchmarks to reach based on what the leaders in the field do.

Benchmarking in 2021 is becoming much more data-driven than ever before. Manufacturers can now use analytics to compare strengths and weaknesses with these best-in-class companies and better measure their results as benchmarking is executed.

3. GxP

In heavily-regulated industries, consumers rely on the integrity of the quality assurance process to ensure the safety and effectiveness of products. This includes manufacturers that make such disparate things as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, aerospace technology, and more. GxP stands for “good practices” which are standards to follow to ensure the quality of the final product.

The x in GxP stands for the area of the process to which the good processes are applied. For example, GMP is good manufacturing practices while GDP is good distribution practices. GxP in regulated industries revolves around three pillars; traceability, accountability, and data integrity. Dickson has more detail on how GxP is applied across different regulated industries.

4. Industry 4.0

This term is known in some circles as digital manufacturing. Both these terms refer to the implementation of digital and smart technology into the manufacturing process. Using digital, internet-connected technology helps save time and money by connecting different parts of the manufacturing process and supply chain.

Digital manufacturing also allows companies to better collect and analyze data that is produced during the manufacturing process. Industry 4.0 is the manufacturing of the futureThe quicker companies get their processes into this digital state, the better able they will be to minimize issues and maximize profits.


A quality assurance practice qualifies new equipment or systems before they are integrated into your process. The acronym stands for installation qualification (IQ), operational qualification (OQ), and performance qualification (PQ) and is found most often in highly-regulated industries.

IQ happens at the beginning of the process and involves checking the specs and proper installation of new machinery when it is first delivered from the original manufacturer. OQ involves running the equipment or system and making sure it works as needed and to see how it affects materials that are part of your manufacturing processes. Finally, PQ integrates the equipment into the process, tests the overall fit, and sees how it works in different conditions.

6. Kaizen

The term kaizen is not a new one but, in 2021, more and more companies are implementing this decades-old Japanese business concept. Kaizen translates to “continuous improvement”.  Implementing kaizen in manufacturing refers to making small changes where possible in order to improve the larger sequence in the long-run.

Manufacturers can use kaizen to attempt constant improvements in quality assurance, delivery time, efficiency, limiting waste, and standardization. The way companies go about making these changes involves teamwork, discipline, morale, attention to quality, and listening to team members’ feedback.

7. Total Quality Management (TQM)

TQM is a system that resembles kaizen and has long been used by many manufacturing companies.  After its initial rise in the 1980s, TQM is enjoying a new resurgence in 2021. This system delivers better quality assurance by engaging every level of the organization in the quality assurance process. The goal of TQM is for everyone in the organization to work together to not just deliver high-quality products but products that lead to a high degree of customer satisfaction.

In addition to the usual suspects that are always involved in the manufacturing quality assurance process, TQM calls on members of every department, from sales and marketing to engineering and design, to be responsible for customer satisfaction. Ultimately it makes quality a company-wide initiative which is a smart way to go in 2021.


Some of the terms above are newer to the manufacturing glossary; others have been around for a long time. Regardless of how new the term is, knowing them will help you better work with or within the manufacturing industry in 2021 and beyond. These terms help illustrate the trends and technology that are transpiring in manufacturing today. Trends like a commitment to quality assurance, implementing smart technology, and improving processes are big in the industry now and will continue to be so as we move into this next decade.