Digitalizing your Shop Floor

The key acronyms and their definitions on the trail of MDA, PDA, ERP, and other such terms.

It's "acronymania" all over again … You are probably all too familiar with this: You want to get to grips with a new topic – only to come up against a barrage of confusing acronyms. In the context of shop floor digitalization, these are often three-letter acronyms: MDA, PDA, ERP, MES, MCS, MOM, and so on. We have compiled a list of the main acronyms and created a glossary to provide you with a clearer overview. Here is part 1 of our disentanglement of terms: In it, we take a look at the acronyms used to refer to software solutions – and what each of these "smart factory modules" is designed to do.





Wherever machines are at work, data is generated. Machine data acquisition (MDA) constitutes the interface between the machines that produce the data and the digital processing of this data. There are two types of data: Process data – this is the information necessary for operating the machine and generated as a result of operating the machine (control data, but also information about operating times, power consumption, etc.). The second type of data is product data. This is acquired at the processing units of the machine, and provides information on the production process (e.g., number of pieces, weight, size, and temperature). The systematic use of machine data helps to improve performance and assure quality in manufacturing. Due to increasing digitalization in the manufacturing industry, machine data is deemed to be a key factor in improving a company's competitiveness. One prerequisite of MDA is that the machines are connected as seamlessly as possible (connectivity).





Good decisions require good information. To control the profitability of manufacturing processes, values relating to performance and costs within the framework of the manufacturing processes are required. This information is obtained at various levels and divided into organizational production data (e.g., personnel data, order data) and technical production data (machine data, process data). Data can be collected in various ways: It can be written down, determined mechanically, or recorded digitally. The term production data acquisition (PDA) refers to the IT solution that ensures that the data collected is connected digitally and can be applied systematically for planning, controlling, and monitoring purposes. The more seamless the data availability (and the more error-free), the better a PDA system can be used to optimize the profitability of production. For this reason, the introduction of PDA is usually associated with measures to close the existing gaps in digital data acquisition (see MDA).





Companies have a multitude of resources: capital, personnel, materials, operating resources, and so on. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems process organizational production data to plan, control, and manage these resources at the enterprise level. In terms of software architecture, ERP ranks above PDA (which is limited to optimizing the profitability of manufacturing processes). Core functions of ERP in manufacturing companies include material requirements planning, finance and accounting, controlling, human resources, and master data management. The development of ERP systems began in the 1980s. The big names in ERP are SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Infor, Sage, and Oracle. However, there are also numerous other providers on the German-speaking and international market. The decision as to which ERP solution to use – and to what extent – is based on various factors: economic sector and industry, company size (e.g., number of users, number of locations), required range of functions, required technology (e.g., programming languages, operating systems).





The scope of a manufacturing execution system (MES) can be divided into three task areas: technical production data, interlocking, and traceability. Technical production data refers to the machine. The data is collected continuously, regardless of whether the machine is in operation or not. This contrasts with interlocking. This is triggered by the product to be manufactured, which is located in front of the machine or has just been placed in it. It ensures that all machine parameters are set correctly before production/processing begins. Traceability is the final stage of the MES-based manufacturing process. This data stores the process parameters and the processed material. In the software architecture of a digitalized manufacturing company, an MES is typically below the ERP level. In this context, the MES may be perceived as the "executing arm" of the ERP system: Production planning is created on the ERP level. The production plan developed there is then transferred to the MES level and executed. The MES, in turn, reports the processing status of the individual orders back to the ERP level so that they can be used there to perform logic control – for example, for planning the next periods.





A manufacturing control system (MCS for short) is planning software for controlling manufacturing. The term manufacturing control system (or production control system) is often used as a synonym for manufacturing execution system (MES). By the same token, the use of the term is very industry-specific. Basically, a distinction can be made between manufacturing control technology (unit load production) and process control technology (process-related production). Depending on the perspective, other terms are preferred. Computer scientists, or more specifically business informatics specialists, also refer to it as CIM (computer-integrated manufacturing). However, this concept has a reputation for low efficiency in the industry, as expectations that arose in this context in the 1980s and 90s often remained unfulfilled. In recent years, the term MES has increasingly gained acceptance. (see:





A manufacturing data management (MDM) module can be seen as a point of entry and basis for more comprehensive digitalization based on an MES solution at a later stage. MDM software ensures that the manufacturing-related data can be stored and controlled securely, and aims to provide order, security, and transparency. The data can be traced seamlessly and can be used again at a later date. Components of an MDM may include, for example: machine data management, clamping device management, version tracking, program management, project management, parts management, and document management.





Manufacturing operations management (MOM) is a further development of the traditional MES. While MOM solutions, such as MES, focus on production processes, MOM goes beyond this and integrates, for example, detailed production planning, resource management (materials, equipment, labor), process and product reliability (quality), and manufacturing data analysis. A MOM platform refers to complete business processes at the plant management level – in other words, the entire management of production processes. The primary goal is to convert big data (from different components on the shop floor) into smart data. MOM components understand the production context and interpret events and patterns that they find in data to be used by other systems. MOM solutions also deliver "intelligent" data that can be used in other business solutions and units.





Prior to the introduction of SCADA, equipment had to be controlled and monitored manually using analog keypads, controllers, and other control and measuring equipment. Through the use of SCADA systems, it became possible to control manufacturing processes at machine and equipment level and allow all machine components (motors, pumps, and sensors) to interact. Both directly on site and across greater distances. A SCADA system typically includes a combination of software and hardware elements: programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and remote terminal units (RTUs). Data collection begins with the PLC and RTU components. They communicate with means of production at the equipment level (e.g., production machines, sensors). The data collected is transmitted to the next highest level, e.g., to a control station. Here, operators can monitor the PLC and RTU controllers using human-machine interfaces (HMI).





In the right place at the right time: Tool data management (TDM) software solutions ensure that tools are always available where they are needed on the shop floor. For this purpose, master data is collected in a central database (information on components and complete tools can be retrieved as needed, including graphics and 3D models). In addition, TDM solutions organize the physical tool cycle on the shop floor by planning and preparing tools for orders in advance, calculating tool consumption, and creating lists of required tools, for example. The software provides transparency with regard to the tool inventory, the condition of the tools, and their current whereabouts. In this way, TDM helps to ensure optimal demand planning for the shop floor.





While total productive management (TPM) is not a software solution, it sets many of the goals that software solutions are designed to achieve. TPM is a concept used in quality management. When it was first developed, its task was to systematically prevent disruptions in production. Since the 1950s, Japan has been the driving force behind the further development of the concept. Different maintenance concepts were developed and eventually the tasks and steps for their implementation were systematized ("The 8 pillars of TPM"). Today, TPM is recognized as a management approach for improvement in all areas of a company, but the main focus is still on production. The primary focus of TPM is to systematically eliminate losses and waste. Ideally: zero defects, zero failures, zero quality losses, zero accidents, etc. To use TPM effectively, key performance indicators (KPIs) are indispensable. They are the benchmark for all TPM activities. One of the most important KPIs within the TPM concept is OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) as a measure of the value added by the equipment.

How we approach these issues: We make sure that machines are capable of communicating with the chosen software. Because this is by no means a matter of course. The problem of the "Babylonian confusion of tongues" has to be resolved (each machine/equipment speaks its own language, is manufacturer-dependent, and generation-dependent). We solve this connectivity problem. If you need us to connect your machines to your digitalization software – you can count on us.


Find out more Smart-Factory-Glossary | Part 2

Find out more Smart-Factory-Glossary | Part 3

ECI Connect


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ECI-Mechatronics GmbH

Innsbrucker Straße 75

6130 Schwaz

Tirol | Austria


+43 5242 23075





Roland Marx

Franz Stock

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