Question: What's your strategy for implementing MTConnect, the machine tool interoperability standard launched by AMT, the Association for Manufacturing Technology?
A primary issue to consider is timing. Early adopters in the manufacturing world are able to leverage their performance and management gains as competitive advances against lagging competitors, says Chuck Birkle, vice president, sales and marketing, Mazak Corp. MTConnect is also becoming a competitive factor for machine tool builders. Birkle says builders are already encountering customers asking about machine tools with MTConnect-compliant control systems.
The operating benefits alluded to accrue as a result of the efficiencies of the MTConnect interoperability standard, says Paul Warndorf, assistant secretary of AMT's newly formed MTConnect Institute.
Formation of the institute is the latest sign of AMT's dedication to bringing machine tools and manufacturing to the digital potential of the Internet Age, says Warndorf. He's referring to plant floors so outdated that they routinely lack the equipment connectivity of a typical office environment.
"Today, individual pieces of equipment make up the backbone of the manufacturing plant floor. Each machine, however, often functions independently, creating in effect a collection of production islands," says Warndorf. The only exceptions exist among the large machine tool users, typically automotive, that have invested in costly proprietary approaches.
MTConnect, says Warndorf, should be considered as the basic first step in connecting those islands of automation with a free, open-source approach. "It's progress toward the goal of seamlessly integrated manufacturing operations from design to production. By establishing an open and extensible channel of communication for interconnectivity between devices, equipment and systems, MTConnect will allow all of those sources to exchange and understand each other's data."
As an initiative being promoted as an international standard, MTConnect brings key advantages to manufacturing management. Warndorf cites five compelling factors:
Chuck Birkle: Builders already are encountering customers asking about machine tools with MTConnect-compliant control systems.
What's To Come
Bridging the communications gap among machine tools that don't use the same language is just the beginning of the MTConnect revolution in manufacturing, says Jim Braun, vice president, product development and standardization, MAG Industrial Automation Systems.
In addition to being the next step in machine tool connectivity, MTConnect enables equally significant progress toward improved productivity. Now you have a cost effective method to better understand what is going on in the factory on a near real-time basis. With MTConnect informed decisions will be the natural outcome of the easily available information. In addition to benefiting production and maintenance of machine tools, the concept of MTConnect is predicted to spread these kinds of performance enhancements to the entire factory floor. (See adjoining story on Freedom eLog). Envision the factory of the future with all of the machinery, including robots, connected with the MTConnect standard. "It would be the equivalent of everybody in an office communicating via e-mail," adds Braun. "Eventually production equipment will be able to routinely communicate in the same fashion."
- Bookshelf: JIT Implementation Manual: The Complete Guide to Just-In-Time Manufacturing, Second Edition
- Bookshelf: Why New Systems Fail: Theory and Practice Collide
- Bookshelf: Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn't Work and Other Surprising Lessons From the Latest Brain Science
- Reaching for Plant Production Data