Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SCADAware's StatusWatch Increases OEE By 20% or MORE

Rick Caldwell, president of SCADAware, personally told me:

"We have a heavy equipment manufacturing customer that is using MTConnect as the communications protocol to allow for simple and reliable connectivity to the machine tools. Through MTConnect, StatusWatch production monitoring software gathers pertinent data for real-time displays, and also deposits this data in a database to be used for historical reporting.

In every installation, when this data is studied by the plant personnel and actions taken as a result of what the data disclosed, OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) percentages are improved by 20% or more."

This is REALLY impressive and a great example of how MTConnect is helping manufacturing!  Thanks Rick!

Monday, June 13, 2011

VA and MD Car Show Photos and Video

Here are some photos and a video I took at some care shows I attended a week ago on June 4th in MD at the Silver Spring Corvette Club of America's car show and a typical Saturday night car show in Leesburg, VA that has a Lincoln that the refurb cost over $200,000
  These truly are the good ole days for muscle cars.

Above is a the ultimate gamers Corvette...

Julie and I were walking around with Betsy Ferry, when Betsy pointed out this Lincoln is owned by one of the men she works with who is a very interesting veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars.  This Lincoln was amazing.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Not All The Smart People Work For You

Not All The Smart People Work For You

June 9, 2011

I first heard Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, utter the sentence, "because not all the smart people work for you" back in the mid 1990s. He was asked why Sun was open sourcing a particular software program. A new Sun manager asked: "Why would Sun work so hard to create a new piece of software and then make the source code available to anyone who wanted it?"

Bill was not being flip in his answer, but his short and concise answer could have easily been misinterpreted as being arrogant if you did not understand Sun's business strategy. Sun was not interested in short-term dollars, but instead interested in building a software platform that others would use as a foundation to build their products with.

What exactly did Bill mean by the sentence "because not all the smart people work for you"? By opening up the software, other smart people at other companies can work with it and make it even more valuable. There are countless examples of this type of collaboration in the computer industry. From a business standpoint, it has to do with: What is your primary objective and where do you want to make your money? This also has a counterintuitive premise that many in manufacturing find impossible to embrace: that by working with your competitors, it can make your own company stronger.

Let's be clear. I am talking about collaborating on an open standard or platform. I am not talking about collusion, but working together to define a standard interface and then compete for the implementation. MTConnect is a great example of collaboration. The MTConnect Institute set up its Working Groups in a similar fashion that Sun set up the Java Community Process (JCP) with the Java Specification Request (JSR) process. The basic idea is that you bring in industry experts to work together on an industry specification where all the involved companies have both business and technical interests. These companies cooperate to create a standard and then compete on the best implementation. The driving reason for doing this is true to the old adage: "the great thing about standards is that there are so many of them." In other words, they can stifle innovation.

Collaboration does not mean that a company should not exercise common sense when sending individuals to these industry standard meetings. My father-in-law was General Counsel for the Electronics Industry Association (EIA) and told me a few stories of members sending engineers to meetings where everyone else sent a lawyer. His analogy was it was like bringing a knife to a gun fight – never a good idea. Usually, these industry meetings are the technical and business experts who are working together. It is also industry standard that there are legal agreements regarding intellectual property (IP) to protect both the standard and the individual companies.

Manufacturing in general is slow to adopt this thing that "not all the smart people work for you" collaboration mentality because that is not how their dad did it and that is not how their grandfather did it. While it is hard to argue with decades of success, one also needs to remember Darwin's advice, "In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment." I would suggest that manufacturing is changing to be less proprietary, to be less closed and to be a less "go at it alone" type of mentality. Manufacturing will model the computer industry where open wins and proprietary loses.

There are also secondary benefits to open collaboration in that the morale of employees who are part of these groups typically show much higher job satisfaction. You don't have to be an HR expert to appreciate that employees who have an opportunity to work on something that is bigger than their day-to-day work is a plus. I know this is true because I experienced this myself and know many individuals who have stayed with a company because of this type of industry collaboration work. This can provide your more senior employees interesting career growth opportunities as well.

The next time you are considering how to attack a problem or whether or not your company should participate in an industry standard such as MTConnect, think back to Bill Joy's advice and remember, "not all the smart people work for you". You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Easy MTConnect and Microsoft Excel

Below are the very easy steps to get MTConnect data into Excel are as follows:

  • Go into the Data selection on the upper tab
  • Select From Web
  • New Web Query will come up
  • In the browser bar that pops up, put in your MTConnect http url  (for example):
  • Hit Import
  • You will then hit Import again after the data is loaded into the window.
  • Select Yes to add to the question, Do You Want To Continue To Add This Schema To Your Notebook
  • When the pop up window comes up for Import Data, select Existing Worksheet which is the bottom selection when you are prompoted on where to put your data
  • At this point Excel will put in the proper headers and values in the correct locations
  • Of course, you will likely want to use a more specific Sample Request in step #4, but I kept it simple to just to make the point how EASY it is for applications to get data from an MTConnect enabled device.
  • Below is a four minute screencast on exactly how to do this.  Notice that I did absolutely nothing in terms of laying out the titles of the columns, where the columns and rows should go, where the data should appear.  The reason why is that since this is XML, Excel (just like a lot of software that reads XML data) knows how to deal with the data and display it properly.  Note that the video starts off with a gray screen for the first few seconds and then straightens out.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

110 Miles With Steve Wozniak

On a normal Saturday, I ride my bike for 55 miles on the W & OD bike path and I bring my iTouch along to listen to audio books, podcasts or 1970s music. It took two Saturdays to listen to: 

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: 

How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It

 I really enjoyed iWoz.  It is a real geek's book.  Any book that discusses in detail the challenges of writing a device driver, how registers are built and how to write a boot strap program is GREAT book in my mind :-)   I was listening to TWIT (This Week In Tech) when I heard the co-author of iWoz, Gina Smith, discuss the book and it sounded very interesting.   If you are a geek, you will love it.  If you are a Steve Jobs fanboy, you will come away with a different view of Steve Jobs.

Below is Stevew Wozniak's business card that Athulan showed me at Mori-Seiki Innovation Days.


The Danger of Personlization

My father sent me this very interesting TED video on the danger of filter bubbles.
Eli Pariser does a very interesting presentation.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

MTInsight Announced TODAY!

We just announced MTInsight!

Manufacturing Business Intelligence

This is a very exciting day at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing as we release MTInsight to the world.  What is MTInsight?  MTInsight is a state of the art manufacturing business intelligence platform that hosts applications for AMT’s members as well as non-members.   Before we get into a more detailed description of MTInsight, it is important to make sure we are all on the same page with some definitions. 

The overall purpose of  business intelligence is to synthesize business information from a variety of sources into a format enables better decision making.   Business intelligence (BI) software is typically made up of three major parts:

  1. Lots of adapters to a variety of information resources. 
    1. Examples of these are adapters to databases such as MySQL, accounting systems, inventory systems, sales systems, Customer Resource Management (CRM) systems, Enterprising Resource Management Planning systems (ERP),  spreadsheets, web services, old IBM mainframes, CSV files, text files, XML files, and basically anything else that you can think of.  The more adapters you have, the better.    Many times, all of this data ends up in a large data warehouse.  Today, these data warehouses are usually housed in the cloud.  MTInsight’s large data warehouse is in the cloud.
  2. Software tools to slice and dice the data in any fashion that is needed for the analytics.    Usually, BI software has the ability to call other languages as well to augment the tools the BI vendor also provides.  It is not unusual to see JavaScript and Java as programming languages that can also be used with the BI software.  Structured Query Language (SQL) is also very important for accessing data from databases.
  3. Graphics visual tools to a wide variety of output devices is key to any BI software program.   This is the logical last step after a BI developer has connected to a large number of data sources and has done lots of calculations.   This what the business person who wants to see the data in reports, charts, graphs or other types formats wants to receive.   Business people want to receive this information whether or not they are at their desk or on the road or at home and they want to view it on any device that they have in front of them.   Supporting lots of output devices as well as output formats are important.

MTInsight is built upon Actuate’s BIRT onDemand BI in the cloud software.   Actuate created BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) which is an open source project.    BIRT is known as one of the premier BI platforms.   BIRT onDemand is the  Software as a Service (SaaS) platform MTInsight uses to access information from the very large MTInsight data warehouse in the cloud, analyze the data and then display it to a wide variety of devices.   We spent a tremendous amount of time analyzing BI vendors before we made the decision that Actuate was far and away the best choice for MTInsight.

What is manufacturing business intelligence?   This phrase for MTInsight is really a double entendre.   First, it is manufacturing business intelligence or creating business intelligence.  Second, it is manufacturing business intelligence or business intelligence about manufacturing.   How I like to think about MTInsight is that it is your virtual business intelligence department for manufacturing.  If you have a browser, you have a virtual business intelligence department for manufacturing.

We discussed the three parts of BI.  There are also three parts of MTInsight.  Those three parts are:
1.     Pat McGibbon, AMT’s Vice President of Strategic Information and Research (SIR) and his extremely talented SIR department.  These are the manufacturing industry experts who are statisticians, economists, researchers, mathematicians, programmers,  database experts, BI experts and a number of other areas of expertise.   This is what I like to call “MTInsight’s secret sauce.”     These are the folks who manage all the data sources,  write the analytic software programs that create the MTInsight charts and graphs that you see. 
2.     MTInsight data warehouse.  This is the combination of all those data sources that I mentioned previously.   I like to call this database equivalent to Metcalfe’s Law.  Metcalfe’s Law is stated as the value of any network is the number of nodes or devices squared.   In other words, with just one website you don’t really have a lot.  With a million websites, now you have something of real value.  With databases, the more data that you can get into the data warehouse, the more interesting questions you can start asking because you have the data to do the interpolations, extrapolations and generally ask the interesting “what if” questions that all of us are familiar with when you sit down in front of a spreadsheet.  The difference is with MTInsight, you now have access to tons of data that you likely could not afford on your own or simply would not have access to at all.  AMT invests a lot per year in keeping its many data sources all up to date.   These are internal data sources where ATM literally is the keeper of the data as well external data sources that AMT pays for.  
3.     BI software.  This is Actuate’s BIRT onDemand SaaS that I referenced earlier.  BIRT onDemand is what AMT uses to both build these many manufacturing business intelligence applications as well as where they are hosted in the cloud.

There is a lot more that I could write about MTInsight and look for many more articles in the IMTS insider in the future.   Just like MTConnect, MTInsight will be a game changer for manufacturing!  Check it out now at