Monday, February 15, 2010

MTConnect's Tipping and Inflection Point

It is coming up on four years ago, March 2006,  when I was asked by the Association of Manufacturing Technology to line up a Sun Manufacturing Executive to speak at AMT's Annual Member Meeting in October 2006.  I have twelve suggestions at the end of this post that I believe are needed to take MTConnect to the next level.

Before I jump into the title of this blog post, let me recap how we got here....

Every time I  had a Sun Manufacturing Executive lined up to speak, a few months later that Sun Exec was either RIF'd or quit.  I was running into "Murphy's Law" in terms of securing a speaker :-)   When my third contact at Sun was no longer available to speak, I called the President of AMT,  John Byrd, to apologize that we had let AMT down.   After finishing the half-hour long conversation with Mr. Byrd, Peter Eelman, VP of Marketing for AMT, called me and asked if I would like to do the keynote. While I was flattered that I would be asked to give this keynote, I explained I would need to get up to speed on the machine tool industry.  Peter said that AMT could make that happen.

To prepare for the Annual Meeting, I spent two days in Chicago at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) meeting with a number of companies in mid September.  IMTS is the world's largest trade show of machine tool companies. I was very fortunate to have Paul Warndorf, ATM's CTO, taking me through IMTS introducing me to the largest as well as the most influential hardware and software machine tool-CAD/CAM companies.

At the end of the second day I met with John Byrd, along with a number of his VPs, to discuss what I had learned.  I told them I felt the machine tool industry did not have a manufacturing problem, but a computer science collaboration problem. I told John that the machine tool industry was 12 to 15 years behind the computer industry.   When I inquired on the economics of our industry, I was told that the American machine tool companies have seen their domestic market share go from 70% in 1986 to 15% in 2006.

I made two suggestions for the machine tool industry:
1) They needed a wakeup call to start a revolution.
2) They needed to hear from someone who has led technology revolutions.

I said that, with proper preparation, I could do the wakeup call. The real challenge was that I knew of only one person who had the credentials to discuss the technology revolution that the machine tool industry CEOs would be able to fully appreciate.  That person was Dr. Dave Patterson of University California at Berkeley. I told AMT about Dr. Patterson's leadership with RISC and RAID. I said I would reach out to Dr. Patterson, but I felt the odds that Dr. Patterson would be available to do this, in a little over five weeks time, would be a long shot at best.

Fortunately, for the American machine tool industry, Dr. Patterson agreed to change his busy schedule to come to speak at our member meeting.

There were numerous emails, con calls and meetings during that brief five week period to bring both Dr. Patterson and me up to speed as well as to collaborate on the wake up call and the revolution or "moon shot" as I called it.  I worked closely with Dave and we "hit it out of the park" at the Lake Las Vegas AMT Members Meeting.

The real key turning point, immediately after Dave and my presentations, was when Doug Woods, then  Chairman of the Board for AMT and now President of AMT along with John Byrd said they would invest a significant amount of money to make MTConnect a reality.  Lots of time, money and passion has gone into MTConnect.  The real driver in all of this has been Will Sobel who is the President and CEO of System Insights.  Will's expertise and insight (pun slightly intended here) was absolutely key to reach the point where we are today.

Back to the point of today's blog:

MTConnect's Tipping and Inflection Point
MTConnect  has been a huge success by any reasonable metric.  MTConnect has seen a number of significant events in a short time period:
  • My suggestion, in September 2006, to the AMT Executives that they needed an open and royalty free machine tool standard to compete globally in the 21st century.
  • In October 2006, the "Dave and Dave" Show (Edstrom and Patterson) at the Lake Las Vegas Members Meeting was a big success and a clear inflection point.
  • Doug Woods and John Byrd investing in the creation of MTConnect.
  • In early 2007 it was Paul Warndorf who led the creation of the MTConnect Technical Advisory Group (MTAG).
  • Many meetings in 2007 and 2008 helped create MTConnect. Will Sobel worked closely with Paul Warndorf to make this a reality.
  • IMTS 2008 was MTConnect's coming out party thanks to Peter Eelman's insight into having The Emerging Technology Center as the focal point for MTConnect.
  • December 2008 MTConnect 1.0 was officially released.
  • There was a GREAT article on MTConnect in  Modern Machine Shop that is titled:  "MTConnect is For Real".
So, what is the next inflection or tipping point trigger that is needed to take MTConnect to the next level of adoption?  I think there are actually multiple areas that need to be addressed.

  • MTConnect needs a clear set of metrics for success in 2010.  My favorite quote in terms of metrics or planning is:
To measure is to know.  
If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.

In physical science the first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it.  I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be.

    Lord Kelvin - Sir William Thomson
  •  MTConnect needs multiple success reference customers in a variety of geographies and disciplines.
  • MTConnect needs more end user customer involvement.
  • MTConnect needs more software ISV involvement.
  • MTConnect needs more involvement from large software companies such as IBM, HP, SAS, Google, ....
  • MTConnect needs an End User Community framework and venue.
  • MTConnect  needs a University/College outreach program.
  • MTConnect needs to brain storm on creative ways to fund future R&D.
  • MTConnect needs a Java agent.
  • MTConnect needs a full time global evangelist.  Someone who is out meeting with customers, the press, machine shops, partners, CxOs, government groups, R&D groups, software companies, hardware companies, universities, colleges, ....
  • MTConnect needs more companies like System Insights to help companies transition to MTConnect.
  • MTConnect needs to educate the cloud computing companies about MTConnect because MTConnect and Cloud Computing is the perfect marriage.  
    • When I was asked the obvious question, "why is Sun Microsytems involved with a machine tool standard?"  My response was always two words: Cloud Computing.   The reason I felt (and feel) this way is that when MTConnect is implemented throughout a plant, the data needs to be turned into information.  Manufacturing plants and machine shops do not want to spend the capital on a bunch of hardware to analyze the data.  What they want is for the data to be sent, safely and securely, to the cloud so they can analyze their plant or machine shop without incurring the huge upfront and unpredictable costs associated with large server procurements.