Industrial Internet of Things is just the latest name for machine-to-machine connection

April 14, 2015
Has the machining manufacturing environment already completed IIoT by a different name?

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.”

Also read: MTConnect Standardizes Data, Lets Machines and Users Talk Same Language

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

About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected] 

Sponsored Recommendations

Engineer's Guide to Advanced Motion and Mechatronics

This guide will examine the remaining differences between stepper and servo motors, new perspectives on motion control, the importance of both gentleness and accuracy with linear...

eBook: Efficient Operations: Propelling the Food Automation Market

For industrialized food production sectors, the megatrends of sustainable practices, digitalization and demand for skilled employees are underpinned by rising adaptability of ...

2024 State of Technology: Report: Sensors, Vision & Machine Safety

Manufacturing rarely takes place in a vacuum. Workers must be protected from equipment. And equipment must be protected. Sensing technology, vision systems and safety components...

Enclosure Cooling Primer

Learn more about enclosure cooling in this helpful primer.