Reaching for Plant Production Data

May 17, 2009
MTConnect simplifies the means to analyze plant and equipment status.

MTConnect's data revolution starts by enabling fast, easy and low-cost access to manufacturing information. The next step: applying machine intelligence.

Winning with the MTConnect communication standard involves a two-step procedure. "After a plant is equipped with MTConnect compliant machine tools, software solutions provide the analysis that enables the performance and productivity gains of asset management," says Jim Braun, vice president, product development and standardization, MAG Industrial Automation Systems.

"By establishing a standard data interface, regardless of the equipment supplier, MTConnect simplifies the means to analyze plant and equipment status. Compliance with MTConnect allows data sources to understand each other regardless of vendor origin."

Braun, a member of the advisory group of the MTConnect project, says production equipment normally adheres to proprietary communication standards. "That typically results in production environments where machines can't talk' to each other. Compliance with MTConnect solves that problem."

The MTConnect standard also presents advantages to those choosing to enter the analytical software market, says Braun. Before the MTConnect standard was announced at last year's IMTS show, analysis software would have required a separate interface to communicate with each brand of machine tool. Indeed that was the solution adopted by MAG's Infimatic Div. when it introduced its Freedom eLog production monitoring software earlier in the decade.

Jim Braun: Compliance with MTConnect allows machines to "talk" to each other.

Freedom eLog, which is now being made MTConnect compliant, is designed to provide production managers with 24/7 intelligence on machine uptime. In addition it identifies and categorizes downtime events for analysis, adds Braun. The software links all machines on a plant floor to allow real-time checks of total production activity of individual machine status. In addition, it reports alerts and accumulates data for report generation in a variety of formats, says Braun.

He says the software automatically collects data for in-cycle and NC program start/stop events, and then transforms the data into the reports that make the information actionable.

Delays can be classified and placed in proper perspective by operators or maintenance personnel to identify such things as delay time, repair time and scheduled downtime. In addition, the software can issue e-mails or text messages when a machine is down for a specified amount of time.

Braun says Freedom eLog can also integrate a CAD drawing of a shop floor for a "Shop Today" screen that shows each machine and the machine status in real time through the use of "live" icons.

The software resides in a server, is Web-based and connects via Ethernet to virtually any industrial asset -- including PC-based, PLC-based and even relay-logic type machines.

Pay-backs of 12 months are common, says Braun but he expects shorter times when Freedom eLog incorporates MTConnect.

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