Friday, July 23, 2010

Great MTConnect Technical Advisory Working Group Meeting at Mazak

We had a great few days of meetings at Mazak in Florence, Kentucky this past week.  We had almost 40 attendees which is fantastic.  HUGE thanks to Brian Papke and Neil Desrosiers of Mazak for their great hospitality in hosting the meeting and especially for their leadership with MTConnect.  Mazak's slogan is, "Your Partner for Innovation" and truer words were never spoken.  Mazak has been a GREAT thought leader and partner in MTConnect!  Paul Warndorf will be posting the notes at

Below is a summary of the future issues that I brought up in the summary that we must address.  These are outside of the MTConnect specification itself.  John Turner and Dave Edstrom working together to drive these.
  • NEW web site is coming
  • MTConnect Adoption Working Group
    • Reference Ports: Most Popular Legacy Machine Controls
    • Best Practices Guide for Legacy Machine Tools
    • Best Practices Guide for MTConnect Applications
    • Best Practices Guide for Extending MTConnect
    • MT-DUG (MTConnect Developers Users Group) - a better acronym/name is requested :-)
  • MTConnect Marketing Working Group
    • Leverage existing MTConnect members marketing resources
    • Work with manufacturing marketing groups to drive awareness

Huge THANKS to all those who attended both in person and over the phone.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Father's Chemotherapy Started Again Today

My father started his chemotherapy today at Walter Reed Army Hospital.  He is the world record holder for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL).  Twice in the past five years he has had Chemotherapy treatments.  His oncologist has decided that it is time for my him to get another treatment.   The regimen he will use is referred to as FCR-lite.  He started today with a drug called Fludarabine.   Wednesday, Thursday and Friday he will receive Cyclophosphamide and Rituxamab.  This schedule will continue monthly for six months.  The object is to get the bad white blood cells reduced and the good ones increased.  The doctor said this Chemotherapy will cause him to lose his Spencer Tracy white hair (during Tracy's later years ie in the movie Inherit The Wind.)

The good news is that his Oncologist has stated that after completing this regimen, my father should not need Chemotherapy treatment again for 10-15 years.    His chemo is officially called  FCR-lite treatment.

This morning my mother dropped my sister and father off at Walter Reed's entrance.  My sister relayed the following story to me.  When my father got up to Oncology they started the chemo before my mother had arrived from parking the car.  The Dr. asked my father, "are you feeling any pain right now?"   My father replied, "No, she is still parking the car."   The chemicals are obviously not affecting his sense of humor :-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Elegance In Its Simplicity - MTConnect At The Emerging Technology Center - IMTS 2010

Elegance In Its Simplicity - MTConnect At The Emerging Technology Center - IMTS 2010

One of my favorite descriptions of the famous Unix  operating system was when I heard it described by Neil Groundwater (the first user of Unix outside the state of New Jersey) as "elegant in its simplicity".   If you are not familiar with Unix, it is likely because you don't realize which operating systems are based on Unix.   The Internet runs on Unix. Fact.  The reason this is true is because there are so many version of the open source operating system out there that it is easy to lose count.  Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, Android, Chrome, the list just goes on and on.   The reason Unix is "elegant in its simplicity" is that it was designed from the ground up to be simple, yet extremely scalable.  This is like designing a boat that can have one driver with a small electric engine that can easily expand to a huge cruise ship with 1,000s of passengers and crew.  

This brings me to another favorite phrase from Mike O'Dell (one of the Internet gods) who likes to say, "scaling is ALWAYS the problem".  Scaling can mean creating a very large system or a very large network with lots and lots of systems  - just like the global Internet is today.  Let's put scaling in more mundane terms, imagine the level of planning you would have to go through if you were planning on taking your family of five on a weekend vacation versus taking 180 of your direct relatives on a month long global vacation.  Yes, that thought should scare you :-)

What does this have to do with MTConnect?   Because MTConnect was designed from the ground up to be both "elegant in its simplicity"  with the ability to SCALE.  How was this done?  Double-top secret, proprietary, closed source and expensive code?  No, of course not.  MTConnect was built, exactly like Unix, by realizing that keeping things simple will translate into an elegance that allows the ability to scale.  MTConnect is built upon the same technology that we all know and love on the Internet today - http, XML and TCP/IP.  If you have never heard of those three do not worry, because if you have ever used a browser you have used all three of those technologies.    As Doug Woods, President of AMT The Association For Manufacturing Technology likes to say about "MTConnect - Different Devices, Common Connection."   MTConnect also can take advantage of the same security that everyone is familiar with today. 

What does this mean to you as an IMTS 2010 attendee?  Stop by the Emerging Technology Center and ask to speak to Paul Warndorf, Will Sobel or Dave Edstrom and we will show you how MTConnect is  "elegant in its simplicity"  with the ability to SCALE.  MTConnect, along with Cloud Computing, additive technologies and nanotechnology will be showcased in the Emerging Technology Center (ETC) this year at IMTS 2010. Please stop by!   
NOTE: This article was written for the IMTS Insider this week.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Great Week at Ocean City, Maryland With Franklins

We had perfect weather in Ocean City, MD the week of July 2nd through the 9th.  It was 104 degrees in DC July 7th with other days in the DC area in triple digits as well that week.  You know it is hot when it is 94 degrees in Ocean City right on the water.  We vacationed with my cousin Richard and his family from Marshall, Wisconsin.  We stayed at a great place at the 19th and 20th floor at Sea Watch.

Standing in the back from left to right are: Taylor, Michael, Tim, John and Janet
Sitting are Taylor's friends from Marshall, Wisconsin - Morgan and Alyssa.
Lying down is Richard Franklin.

We enjoyed fireworks from the 19th and 20th floor of our 3 bedroom condo we rented for the week.  It had both bay side and ocean views.   It is nice to be at eye level with the fireworks.

Above is Bobbi Franklin, me, Richard and my wife Julie at one of our favorite restaurants - Harpoon Hanna's in Fenwick Island Delaware.

Here is an earlier photo of the Franklin's and the Edstrom kids together.

Here is a photo at Marina Deck a few years back....

Tim is being the center of attention (again) :-)

John, Max, Michael, Casey, Tim and Taylor behind the sand wall.

Taylor and Tim on top of Casey and John's shoulders with Michael and max in front.

Edstrom's and Franklin's at Ocean City, MD in 2003 (I think)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why Software Developers Should Attend IMTS 2010

I wrote this for the IMTS Insider, but it is worth restating it  here.  If you go to the Who Should Attend IMTS section at IMTS you see the following:

  • Executives building a business
  • Decision makers involved in manufacturing equipment purchases
  • Engineers who identify equipment needs
  • Plant superintendent who will set it up
  • Operators who use the equipment and know it better than anyone else
  • All staff members and suppliers you count on for new ideas
  • I would like to add to that list:
  • Software Developers looking for innovative ways to build new applications.
  • Yes, IMTS has been largely about the hardware over the years with software somewhat under the covers.  But if you have been paying close attention over the years, you have noticed an increasing presence of software all throughout IMTS.  The size of the software section of IMTS continues to grow and in 2008 and the Emerging Technology Center (ETC) with MTConnect was the absolute hit of the show.

I would strongly encourage software developers to attend IMTS because we are witnessing an inflection point in manufacturing.  The inflection point I am referring to is the ability for software to be the "tail that wags the dog" in manufacturing.    You will see first hand how software will be the key purchase that truly improves productivity in all phases in manufacturing.  It will be software developers that will be commanding the big bucks in manufacturing - just like the computer industry.

What we like to say in the computer industry is, "while you date your hardware vendor, you marry your software vendor."   What this means is that it is much easier for a large enterprise to upgrade or swap out all their PCs then switch out all the Microsoft applications to to a different vendor.   Anyone who has gone through a transition to a new ERP system can appreciate this saying.
The somewhat hidden message in that saying is the importance of selecting the right software that has the ability to easily integrate and grow over time can not be overstated.

So, why should software developers go to IMTS?  Because it will be software that will just continue to grow and prosper in manufacturing.  Software developers should attend IMTS to learn about what is happening in manufacturing, see who the players are  and get in early on the manufacturing software boom.  Also, if you get a job offer, ask for lots of stock options :-)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Great USA Manufacturing Myth: We Simply Can Not Compete

There is a great myth that Americans have gotten stupid/lazy and we simply can not compete in manufacturing anymore.  We have no choice but to off-shore everything.  
"Most Americans, I suspect, believe we're losing manufacturing because we can't compete against cheap Chinese labor.   But Germany has remained a manufacturing giant notwithstanding the rise of East Asia, making high-end products with a workforce that is more unionized and better paid than ours.  German exports came to $1.1 trillion in 2009 -- roughly $125 billion more than we exported, though there are just 82 million Germans to our 310 million Americans. Germany's yearly trade balance went from a deficit of $6 billion in 1998 to a surplus of $267 billion in 2008 -- the same year the United States ran a trade deficit of $569 billion. Over those same 10 years, Germany's annual growth rate per capita exceeded ours."

The quote above comes from a very interesting article by Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post on Thursday July 1st, 2010 that was titled:

                         In recession battle, Germany and China are winners

The bottom line with manufacturing is cost.  How Germany has been able to remain a manufacturing giant is by being more productive and thereby reducing cost.  This is where technologies such as MTConnect is so important.   As a manufacturing plant increases its productivity of its manufacturing equipment, the human cost becomes a smaller factor with other costs such as power becoming a larger slice of the pie.  In the US we have significant advantages in the power area.  The average machine tool is only in cycle 25% of the time.  As the number continues to increase, the cheap labor becomes less and less relative. 

Loosing manufacturing is a slippery slope, because there are so many industries that manufacturing touches.  Below is from the same article:

"In 1960, manufacturing accounted for a quarter of our gross domestic product and employed 26 percent of the labor force. Today, manufacturing has shriveled to 11 percent of GDP and employs a kindred percentage of the workforce."

Manufacturing is the tail that wags the economy....

Thursday, July 1, 2010

CMJ: Chinamac Journal on MTConnect

I received a Google Alert on this short article in CMJ: Chinamac Journal on MTConnect.

It is interesting the author chose the title of the article to be: 

MTConnect, an open, tax-free internet communications technologies based on proven communications standards 

I guess never thought of the other attempts at a standard for manufacturing equipment communication as a tax, but that is a very accurate way to think about it.  I always use the term "Country Club Protocols" that most of the manufacturing equipment vendors where you had to pay to join the club and then pay to play for each device out on the course.  A tax is an interesting and possibly better way to convey this to individuals who are new to MTConnect.  After all, who wants to pay taxes?