Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting Started with MTConnect – Connectivity Guide

This is a huge announcement for MTConnect.  This guide addresses the number one question we get with MTConnect - "How Do I Get Started MTConnect?" 

MTConnect® Institute Announces 

McLean, Va. … Developed as a guide for shop owners and plant managers exploring the MTConnect implementation process, the MTConnect Institute is pleased to announce the release of the "Getting Started with MTConnect - Connectivity Guide".

This guide is the result of a year-long effort by the MTConnect Shop Floor Connectivity Committee.  Thought leaders from 16 companies representing a diverse cross-section of the discrete parts manufacturing industry collaborated in the development of the guide.  The committee was asked to address the most fundamental question shop owners and plant managers have when they decide to implement MTConnect — "how do I get started?"  This guide addresses connectivity issues associated with both new and legacy manufacturing equipment and provides a structured framework to guide companies through the assessment of their equipment and the early planning stages of a project.   This guide is a valuable tool for anyone in manufacturing who believes that improving productivity starts with understanding what is happening on the shop floor.  

The foundation for improving manufacturing productivity starts with easy access to data. MTConnect provides manufacturers with a simple and extensible mechanism to connect manufacturing equipment to software applications used to run their businesses.

The “Getting Started with MTConnect – Connectivity Guide” is available for download at www.mtconnect.org

Dave Edstrom, President and Chairman of the Board for the MTConnect Institute said, “This Connectivity Guide will be an extremely valuable tool for shop owners and managers who need to address productivity issues in their manufacturing operations.  I am asked the same question almost daily – How do I get started?  This guide answers that question. The Connectivity Guide is the first piece to be released in our ‘Getting Started with MTConnect’ series. Additional documents will be released soon to further support manufacturing companies that are adopting productivity solutions using MTConnect.”

David McPhail, President & CEO of Memex Automation Inc. and co-chair of the MTConnect Shop Floor Connectivity Committee said, "It was a pleasure working with such a talented and energetic team of experts who are all focused on addressing manufacturing productivity issues. By applying the techniques defined in the Connectivity Guide, essentially every piece of manufacturing equipment can now be integrated into a manufacturing data system — empowering productivity improvement on the shop floor for all machines."

          John Turner, Director of Technology for FA Consulting & Technology and co-chair of the committee said, “Bringing the capabilities of MTConnect to existing machine tools will allow manufacturers to increase productivity of their existing assets, driving down costs and increasing plant output. Success of any project is typically based on good planning.   The Connectivity Guide provides a valuable tool to help manufacturers structure their projects and prepare for discussions with solution providers.”

The Working Group was made up of representatives from:

Memex Automation, Inc. (Co-Chair)

FA Consulting & Technology, LLC (Co-Chair)

Advanced Technologies Services, Inc.

FANUC FA America

General Dynamics – OTS

Georgia Tech Factory Information Systems Lab

Nexas Networks Inc.

Pinaka Systems, Inc.

Predator Software, Inc.

Real Time Development Corp.

Remmele Engineering, Inc.

SCADAware, Inc.

System Insights, Inc.   

TechSolve, Inc.

Virtual Photons Electrons, LLC                                                                                                                                                     

MTConnect Institute is an organization that develops and provides open standards intended to foster greater interoperability between manufacturing controls, devices and software applications by publishing data over networks using the Internet Protocol (IP). The standards offer a solution to the exchange of data from shop floor devices to higher level systems. For membership information, visit www.MTConnect.org.
Memex Automation Inc. brings 18 years of experience in manufacturing connectivity solutions. Memex delivers shop floor to top floor connectivity, automating the process of communicating information between business systems and the machines on the shop floor to increase productivity and decrease costs. More information can be found at www.memex.ca or by e-mail to sales@memex.ca.

FA Consulting and Technology (FAC&T)

FA Consulting & Technology (FAC&T), located in Charlottesville, Va., provides expertise for an array of control system and process automation solutions for the manufacturing industry. Their mission is to maximize productivity from manufacturing assets through the integration of existing and emerging technologies to reduce errors, improve maintenance practices and increase the overall productivity of manufacturing processes.

MTInsight at 2011 Global Forecasting & Marketing Conference

This is an exciting day for MTInsight at the 2011 Global Forecasting & Marketing Conference here in Cleveland at the Intercontinental Hotel which is located in the Cleveland Clinic campus.   This conference is loaded with great speakers and sessions and I am sure MTInsight will generate lots of excitement for those attending.  (Above is view from my room.)

Manufacturing Business Intelligence

Just as a reminder, I am including a blog post I wrote previously on MTInsight.

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 MTInsight.org