When Brian Sides heard about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), it really didn’t connect with him. That might seem strange for the director of technology at Okuma America, who also was one of the original architects of THINC-OSPcontrol, an open-architecture CNC.
IIoT didn’t resonate with Sides because he’d been familiar with machine-to-machine data monitoring already, but by a different name. “I started to realize the machining manufacturing environment was already doing this without the name,” explained Sides, who spoke in Orlando, Florida, at ARC Forum in February. “This is not two or three years down the road. It’s been five years in the making.”
What Sides had been familiar with was MTConnect, an open-source and de-facto communication standard that allows equipment to talk the same language.
Okuma manufactures CNC lathes, machining centers and grinders, and it uses its own PC-based control — Okuma OSP.
“Only 5% of machine tools are connected and monitored because OEMs say they can’t support the myriad software applications which require their own data-input formats for machine monitoring and manufacturing execution,” explained Sides. “Software app developers say they can’t spend engineering time developing unique drivers for every controller on the shop floor.”
In the past, this created a connectivity nightmare. “You’ve got machines on one side and applications on the other side,” said Sides. “In a pre-MTConnect world, you had manual data collection and MES, which could be paper scheduling, stopwatch and clipboard, white boards and post-process production data entry, along with manual posts on shop message boards and print reports and charts. This meant two chances for error—someone writing the number down wrong and someone entering the number incorrectly.”
MTConnect is an open and royalty-free standard for manufacturing equipment. “You don’t have to pay to play,” said Sides. “Think of MTConnect as the Bluetooth or USB for manufacturing equipment and applications.”
MTConnect Institute has more than 120 members, including Okuma, Mazak, Sandvik, Kennametal, Fanuc, Bosch Rexroth, GE, General Dynamics, Boeing, Georgia Tech and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “Instead of spider-web connections, you’re getting data,” explained Sides. “Instead of paper and whiteboards, now we have plants putting up big screens with real-time data. It can show us what’s happening in that cell right now in terms of OEE. There are also mobile components, so, on a tablet or handheld, all of the data is still available.”
Machine monitoring was the low-hanging fruit, which is why it all came together so easily, said Sides. “This conversation started in 2007,” he said. “In 2009, the standard was released, and in 2010 it was debuted at IMTS. This is a mature standard. It’s here, and it’s part of the Industrial Internet of Things. We’re looking at interdevice communication; robotics and gauging equipment should be able to talk to each other but they have different languages. We’re taking that step now. We’re getting into tying your production management system into your automation.”
Main image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net