Sunday, February 24, 2013

God Bless Mike Abramowitz of Sun Federal

Lesley Lawrence of Sun sent this out regarding Mike:
"Dear Friends and Former Colleagues of Sun:

It's with deep sorrow that I relay the news of Mike Abramowitz's passing on Wednesday, February 20th.

Mike was a superb negotiator, a great mind and had a mighty acerbic wit! I, for one, learned much from this industry legend - please note your condolences in the guest book embedded in the Washington Post obituary here:"
My deepest condolences to Mike's family.  Mike was truly a one of a kind individual and I loved being around him because he was able to analyze opportunities better than anyone I have ever met in my life.

My wife Julie and I ran into Mike in Singapore at a Sunrise event.  Mike asked if we would like to have dinner together.  My wife and I remember that night because of how kind and interesting Mike was in our discussions that evening.

God bless you Mike.  You were one of a kind and will be truly missed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MTConnect and Task Force Tips on Why [MC]2 2013 Is Key

Below is from an email blast we just sent out on [MC]2 2013.

At many manufacturing companies, MTConnect is bringing immediate access to better shop floor data. Those companies are reaping the rewards. You can only gain this insight through shop floor monitoring. [MC]2 MTConnect: The Connecting Manufacturing Conference is the place where you’ll learn all the benefits offered by MTConnect, which is growing in usage every day.
“We thought we knew what was happening on our shop floor better than anybody. MTConnect has opened our eyes that maybe we knew 10 percent…it’s invaluable for seeing patterns with not just machines but also the operators running them, to watch how often they’re adjusting their offsets. It’s allowed us to coach our operators to help them get the most out of the machines they run.”
                           — Stewart McMillan, Task Force Tips
Stewart McMillan and Task Force Tips is just one of many MTConnect success stories.
Are you ready to add your name to the list?
Join us at The Millennium in Cincinnati, OH, April 10-11 to start writing your success story. Register today!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Open Systems For Open Minds

NOTE:  I wrote this article for Feb 14, 2013 edition of the IMTS Insider as a consultant in my role as the Director, The Office of Strategic Innovation for AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology.

Open Systems for Open Minds: That phrase was my all-time favorite slogan at Sun Microsystems. While it might seem obvious that of course everyone would want an open system, it turns out this does not always prove to be true. An open system is open or closed depending on the industry, the time period, and context, as well as the organization supporting the system.

In the computer industry, open or closed is better defined than manufacturing. If you ask someone in the IT industry what it means to be an open system, the answer you will receive likely will be along the lines that is one that has an operating system that has its source code out in the open and public, uses the most popular and open programming languages and uses standard interfaces that are open and royalty-free that makes it portable between architectures. If you were speaking to someone who has been in the computer industry a long time, the answer would be very short and simple, such as a Unix or Linux box.

What about the time period? If we were to go back to the 1960s and early 1970s, open computing would not have been a common term. Terms such as “IBM plug compatible” would have been the definition of open. Plug-compatible means that you could take a board from an older main frame and use it in the backplane of a new computer of that same vendor. In 1981 IBM announced the IBM PC and created, some would argue by mistake, an open hardware platform where the terms IBM PC compatible and PC compatible meant it could run the same OS and software as the IBM PC, but would be, typically, a less expensive system. The IBM PC was viewed as an open system in the 1980s with Microsoft’s DOS. In the 1980s, Sun Microsystems redefined open systems with the introduction of the SPARC platform where other companies could not only make systems that could use the SPARC processors, but companies could manufacture their own SPARC processors. In the 1990s the Linux operating system redefined the word “open” in a way that still stands today.

How about context? This gives meaning to both the industry and the time period discussions. For example, is Apple an open system? Is Microsoft an open system? Is Oracle an open system? How about Google? How about iOS versus Android? It could be argued that Microsoft is more open than Apple in 2013. Apple’s Mac OS X is based on Unix, but no one considers Mac OS X an open operating system such as Linux in 2013. Not too many individuals call Oracle open, but they own MySQL and Java. Those technologies are open. Most of what Oracle owns is not open. Oracle might argue that they publish their interfaces, so they are an open platform. Many think of Google as being the anti-Microsoft and being open, but are they really? It depends. Is Facebook open? Not from a data standpoint, and it should not be open. That model works for them because they have a closed garden approach that makes sense. How about Twitter? OneI can search Twitter at — does access to data make it open or closed? As you can see, context changes everything.

The other aspect of context is the organization behind the system. AMT has been the key driving and supporting force behind MTConnect from the very beginning. Specifically, Paul Warndorf, VP of Manufacturing Technology at AMT, has been the key person driving MTConnect. No Paul Warndorf, no MTConnect. Don’t get me wrong — lots of folks, yours truly included, have helped out a great deal, but you must have the singular driving force that has control of the money and the vision. AMT has invested literally millions in MTConnect not because of any hidden revenue stream for AMT, but rather because it was the right thing for their members and more importantly, it was the right thing for manufacturing. Sun Microsystems had Scott McNealy as the guiding visionary for doing things the right way at Sun. It was impossible to overstate the importance of Scott to Sun Microsystems. When companies and individuals look at a given technology, the organization and the individuals in that organization play a large role in the determination of the overall motive behind a given system. While motivation can sometimes be difficult to ascertain, when it is a 501( c ) ( 6) non-profit as both AMT and the MTConnect Institute are, the questions become less probing on real intentions. This, however, does not mean that we do not receive probing questions at the MTConnect Institute, but they are usually more quickly accepted when the person realizes we are a nonprofit.

Manufacturing is moving to open systems with MTConnect, but there is still an ocean of different definitions of what an open system really is in the world of manufacturing. For example, I was at IMTS 2012 and asked this question of those who came to the Emerging Technology Center (ETC) and when I walked the floor visiting other exhibitors. The answers I received were quite interesting. In the software area, if I was talking to a vendor who was a member of the MTConnect Institute, the answers were more in line with what you would expect in the computer industry. However, if I spoke to someone who was not a member of the MTConnect Institute, the answers gave me flashbacks to the 1970s. This is not meant to be a derogatory statement, just a reflection of the importance of industry, context and time period for manufacturing. One of the more common examples of the answer to my question, “What is the definition of an open system in manufacturing,” was defined as, “the ability to pay for the manual, license and software development kit in order to access the proprietary Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).” There is no one in the computer industry who would define open in that fashion in the year 2013.

This is not to say that a closed model might not be what is best for a given company. Look at Apple. For anyone who owns Apple stock, they are very pleased to have stock in a closed system. This is true if they did not purchase Apple when it was at over $700 a share, and as I write this it is trading at $452 a share. I own lots of Apple products. I am writing this on a MacBook Pro with an iPhone 5 in my pocket. But, that is not the point of the more interesting question, which is, will iPhone still be the phone to have in 5 years or will Android be the dominant platform? There are those who argue it is today. It has been stated that Android out ships iPhone by almost 4:1 today, so what will it be in 5 years? Who knows, but the point is that Android is based on an open platform and Apple is not. Go try to create an iPhone clone and let me know how that works out for you. Customers like open systems because it gives them choice. But, why do some companies like Apple do so well? They innovate and their systems just work, as one would expect. Apple will need to out-innovate and out-integrate the entire Android cast of players. That is easy to say, but very hard to do, as we all know.

What is the best way to learn about open versus closed systems? Attending the [MC]2 2013 MTConnect: Connecting Manufacturing Conference. This conference will take place April 10-11, 2013, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The conference will feature something for everyone from end users, to software developers, to C-level executives, to students, to manufacturing technology builders, to anyone who just wants to really understand MTConnect! This conference is aimed at promoting BOTH the business and technical benefits and implementation of MTConnect®, as well as showcasing commercially available products utilizing the standard.

Who Should Attend?
  • End Users – shop owners, plant managers and anyone in manufacturing interested in improving productivity
  • Industry thought leaders
  • MTConnect® Institute Participants
  • Equipment Suppliers
  • Students
  • Professors
  • Software Developers
  • Distributors
  • ISVs
  • Integrators
  • Consultants
  • Anyone wanting to learn more about MTConnect
What does the future for manufacturing hold in terms of open systems? There have been other attempts at open systems in manufacturing besides MTConnect that had very limited results. Those efforts might have been affected by limited resources and limited vision. I do believe we will continue to see manufacturing embrace open systems. Not because of any altruistic reason, but because it makes good economic sense. The challenge with entirely closed systems is that you must place all the bets correctly. If you do, then you can win big. If you miss any of those bets, changing platforms might be your death knell. Open systems are on a continuum and the industry, the time period, context, as well as the organization supporting the system all matter when coming to the conclusion whether the system is truly open, partially open, basically closed or completely proprietary.

Hang on folks, because the next 5 years will be quite interesting in manufacturing. I am going to borrow one of Sun Microsystem’s best slogans and say, “Open Manufacturing for Open Minds.” Sounds like something I need to put on a t-shirt!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Modern Machine Shop's Mark Albert on MTConnect and [MC]2

There is a great interview by AMT's Penny Brown of Mark Albert, Editor-in-Chief of Modern Machine Shop

Below Mark is referring to implementing MTConnect:

  “One of the things I’m seeing is that when a company implements it, they start to get benefits right away,” Albert said. “Whether they start implementing on a small scale or a larger one, they very quickly start to see rewards that make the effort worthwhile. They start getting a better picture of what’s actually happening on their shop floor.”

In the article, Mark goes on to discuss [MC]2 2013 MTConnect: Connect Manufacturing Conference:

Albert plans to return to [MC]2 and thinks it’s a great place to see users, suppliers and developers all in one place. “It really is clear that this is a practical, doable, worthwhile technology for almost any shop that’s really looking for a fast payback.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

Steve Fritzinger of Net Apps and John Meyer of IBM - [MC]2 2013 Keynotes

The [MC]2 MTConnect: Connecting Manufacturing Conference agenda is shaping up. Among the highlights are two keynotes:
  • Processing Zetabytes: The Technologies Enabling Big Data and AnalyticsJohn Meyer of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group will put in perspective where computing technologies have been and how they are adapting to a big data future. Most importantly, John will discuss how industry is positioning itself for a future where massive data analytics will be in common use and how it is applying these technologies for competitive advantage.
  • Manufacturing with Darwin, Moore, and MetcalfeSteve Fritzinger of Network Appliance brings together a unique blend of deep technical expertise and economics knowledge to address problems for clients. Steve is the economics commentator for the BBC program Business Daily. Manufacturing is going through a great deal of change and it won’t be the strongest that survive, but rather those companies that can adapt, scale and connect. In this talk, Steve will describe how trends in software, international trade and education policy will affect manufacturing in the coming decade.
This conference features sessions covering both the business and technical benefits of MTConnect. You’ll also see exhibitors who will feature the latest commercially available products using the MTConnect standard.
Visit to register and browse the conference agenda.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Actuate Corporate Visit and Pete's Fisker Karma

This past week I visited Actuate's headquarters.  Actuate is the key MTInsight partner.  Actuate has been a great partner.   Above is Pete Cittadini, President of Actuate, and me in front of Pete's Fisker Karma.   Pete knows I am a car guy like him and he drove his Fiskar Karma when we went out for dinner with Dave Garnett, VP of Products, and Marnie Douglas of Actuate.  Marnie has been and is a great sales rep and a fantastic partner for MTInsight.  The Fisker Karma is a drop dead gorgeous car.

Above is a side view which shows off the car's amazing lines.

Above is a straight on view that shows off just how beautiful this car really is.

Above is the view of the center console screen showing the Fisker Karma getting the equivalent of 170 miles per gallon.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Facebook Leaves Sun Microsystems Sign To Remember What Can Happen

I visited my oldest son, John, who is a Software Engineer at Facebook.  Below is a picture I took of Facebook's sign that faces in toward Facebook employees as they leave the campus (if they look toward their left as they leave the main entrance) that Sun Microsystems used to own.  Oracle purchased Sun and Oracle sold the campus to Facebook.  Facebook purposely reversed the sign and left Sun Microsystems on it to remind their employees what can happen when companies to not stay sharp.  I think that is a brilliant idea by Facebook.

Facebook renamed the road from Network Circle to Hacker Way.  The building numbers are the same.   I went in as a guest and Facebook has improved the campus in a number of ways.  It was very nice to see young, smart folks working there and clearly having fun - just like the "good ole days of SUNW".  What was strange to me was how they changed all of the buildings and the cafeteria to be more modern.  I guess I am old school, I like carpet versus concrete floors :-)  I had a chance to see Mark Zuckerberg who was sitting in a meeting in one of the buildings as we walked by after John and I had lunch together.

Best of luck to Facebook!  I really hope they do not turn into Sun Microsystems when Sun got old and lost focus.  Follow Steve Jobs advice from his Stanford 2005 Commencement Address where he quoted The Whole Earth Catalog, "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Visiting My Oldest John In San Francisco

Here are some photos of the apartment where John is staying in San Francisco.   I had to wear a Sun Microsystems CTO shirt and bring along my Sun Java leather jacket.  I am having lunch with John at the new Facebook Campus which they purchased from Sun Microsystems on Monday the 4th of February.  John is a Software Engineer at Facebook.

 Dinner at my favorite restaurant in San Francisco - Scoma's

 John in front of his apartment.

Below is John's main room with three bay windows.  It is a great apartment!

Below the photo below of John's bay windows are the views out of John's bay windows - first looking out the left and then on the right.

Above is John's HD tv and the TV stand we built before the Super Bowl.

Above is the view from John's door down his long hallway inside the apartment.

 Above is a view from John's kitchen.

John's bedroom.

John did not have a dresser and had his clothes on the closet floor.  I felt bad for him and bought him a $500 dress that was on sale for $349 at store in Emoryville.  We went to Ikea (my first time there) and I looked at the Ikea furniture and said, "yeah, this is not the quality I was thinking of  and the idea of building this by hand is even less appealing to me, let's find a real furniture store and I will buy you one as a apartment warming gift."  He eventually agreed.  I also paid for air mattress at REI since I would have had to pay for two nights out of my own pocket anyway as I came out here early for an MTInsight meeting on Tuesday.  It was a win/win.

John and I had a few beers and some food at The Chapel Bar in San Francisco.  The bar literally was an old chapel at one point.   We left at half time.