Monday, April 15, 2013

Manufacturing Pipe Dream White Papers, BASF Commercials and MTConnect

I see a lot of white papers and announcements on various government and private manufacturing initiatives.  Some of these promise the world.  Many of these miss the key point - it's all about EASY ACCESS to manufacturing data on the shop floor.  That's exactly what MTConnect does.

It would be nice if these entities would come to the realization that MTConnect makes all these manufacturing buzzword compliant pipe dreams a reality. Maybe we need a BASF commercial:

"At BASF, we don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better."

"At The MTConnect Institute, we don't write the manufacturing white papers you publish.  We publish the manufacturing data that make your white papers a reality."

MTConnect:  Different Devices, Common Connection

Smartphones Will Be Looking At You

Below is an article I wrote for the April IMTS Insider.

Apr 12, 2013
-By Dave Edstrom
I was listening to a podcast where there were a number of speakers discussing the future of medicine. There were a number of distinguished speakers, but there was one that was far and away the most interesting — Dr. Eric Topol, M.D., a cardiologist at Scripps Health and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. Dr. Topol was introduced as the author of “The Creative Destruction of Medicine.” On the panel there were a variety of individuals including an M.D. who had been practicing medicine for many decades. Dr. Topol really got me thinking: What does the creative destruction of medicine have in common with what is happening in manufacturing today?
In researching Dr. Topol, I came across an interesting article in The San Diego Union-Tribune from September 15, 2012, by Gary Robbins: “Eric Topol's tough prescription for improving medicine.” The article discusses change in medicine and a Voltaire-influenced quote from Topol made me think of manufacturing. “There’s no group more resistant to change than medicine,” he said. “Doctors prescribe medicine of which they know little, to cure disease of which they know less, in human beings of which they know nothing.”
Regarding Topol’s book, Robbins discusses the importance of getting data in medicine. “The book presses physicians to embrace the use of small, wearable, wireless biosensors that do everything from monitoring glucose levels in diabetics to checking the blood pressure of people with heart disease. The data is sent to smartphones and, in many cases, relayed to health-care providers.”
This entire discussion reminded me of shop floor monitoring and MTConnect. Only 1 to 2 percent of shops monitor their plant or shop floors. By shop floor monitoring, I do not mean having a stack light next to a machine tool, or someone walking around with a clipboard and simply entering the status of a given piece of equipment into a spreadsheet. I am referring to the ability to know, anytime, anywhere, on any device, what is happening on your shop or plant floor. Voltaire’s statement on doctors could absolutely be applied to those shop floor managers who are not monitoring their shop floor. How can they possibly manage what they cannot measure?
As someone who considers himself a technologist, I was a little skeptical when my family was forced to leave our doctor of 16 years because he was closing his old practice and moving to what is commonly called “concierge medicine.” Concierge medicine is where you pay a monthly fee for the privilege of being in a smaller group of patients with the objective being better and more personal medical service. The fee was going to be $150 per person, or $750 per month for my family of five — $9,000 a year — for the privilege of staying with our current doctor. My wife and I discussed this for a femtosecond and came to the quick conclusion that this made no sense for us.
When our doctor closed his practice, he sold the medical records of those who did not move to his new practice to a group that uses electronic health records. We couldn’t be more pleased. The days of our doctor going through an inch-thick file and asking such questions as, “do you remember the last time you had blood work?” are over. He was a nice guy, but mistakes happen in those situations. More importantly, trends are now easy to identify. With the new doctor, my blood work is all in one place. For 16 years I had 64 blood tests I did not need. Why? Because my previous doctor would see a blip in one category and order a second test. The second test would always come up negative. The new doctor saw the series of data and ran a new test to determine that the blip was nothing to worry about. When I thought about the time I wasted (not too mention the money) getting 64 blood tests, I was less than pleased with my old doctor.
Personally, I am very excited about the future of medicine that Dr. Topol paints. Today, we look at our smartphones. In the not too distant future, our smartphones will be speaking to embedded sensors in our bodies and then sending that information, securely, to our doctor for storage and analysis. The importance of privacy and security will become even more important. This is directly analogous to MTConnect. MTConnect is the open and royalty-free standard that makes it easy to get information off the shop floor for analysis to improve productivity. MTConnect is not “creatively destroying manufacturing,” but rather allowing manufacturing to listen to what these sensors are saying so action can be taken. Medicine will be creatively destroyed, and it should be.
If you don’t think this is real, please read the article in the March 2013 Popular Science article by Rebecca Boyle, “An App A Day.” Boyle writes, “In the last few years, medical device manufacturers have begun using miniaturized sensors and mobile phones to gather clinical information. The AliveCor and iBGStar iPhone attachments, for example, monitor heart rhythm and blood glucose, respectively. The Tink√© converts heart and respiratory rates into a stress rating. And devices that gather a broader range of metrics are on the way. The Scanadu Scout, a pocket-sized Bluetooth-enabled dongle that will be available later this year, uses several kinds of sensors, including infrared, to measure blood flow, blood oxygen, electrical heart activity, temperature, and heart rate. (The company is competing for the Tricorder X PRIZE, a competition to create the first no-contact mobile diagnostic tool.)”
These are clearly exciting times and these devices will change the number of times we have to visit the physician. I know that with my new “electronic” doctor, I have sent an email on an issue and got a response that saved me a trip to the office.
Change is coming. Just as no humans could beat IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy! and the chess champion Garry Kasparov lost to IBM’s Big Blue in 1997, the question for me is, how long before we are asking our friends, “which service does your doctor use for his/her biosensor monitoring?” Today, many car companies are remotely monitoring your car and can provide owners with a report anytime and to any device, such as a smartphone. It will be nice when we know as much about humans and shops as we do about our cars.