Updated: Aug 7, 2020
“Some describe MTConnect as ‘Bluetooth for Manufacturing’ in that it allows the open flow of data between two devices that ‘speak’ the same language,” says Graham Immerman of MachineMetrics. “Previously, manufacturing equipment, devices, and software applications had no easy way to ‘talk’ to each other. The reason: they had no common language.”
MTConnect is the world’s only open-source semantic vocabulary designed for the exchange of data between shop floor equipment and software applications used for monitoring and data analysis.
“The MTConnect standard serves modern manufacturers who are increasingly looking for IT/OT solutions that interoperate seamlessly and allow larger scale analytics,” says Tim Shinbara, AMT vice president and chief technology officer. MTConnect is a major enabler helping to drive the IIoT and Industry 4.0. The MTConnect Institute is a not-for-profit standards development organization and a subsidiary of AMT. Its membership is composed of more than 400 companies and research organizations.
AMT’s mission includes objectives to drive advanced manufacturing technology adoption globally and provide market access for its members to increase their sales. On the international scene, these often go hand in hand. AMT Tech Centers develop collaborative partnerships with local associations, NGOs, technical universities, service providers, and other manufacturing technology stakeholders to execute various initiatives. One such initiative is to help drive the global adoption of MTConnect and standards harmonization.
During a member open house in Brazil a few years back, AMT was introduced to GRV, a local software developer who was providing ERP systems to manufacturers. Shortly thereafter, they were developing MTConnect applications. After the first version of their app was developed, AMT members active in Brazil began to participate.
According to Achilles Arbex, general manager of the Sao Paulo Tech Center, “Major OEMs like Embraer, Tupy, Gerdau, and Ambev were pushing machine tool builders to develop more applications, so GRV and AMT Brazil got involved.” The first version of the software was featured at AMT’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC) in the AMT/USA Pavilion at the Expomafe show last year in Sao Paulo. The ETC attracted a lot of attention and was instrumental in one of Brazil’s largest OEMs deciding to implement MTConnect in its facilities. AMT Brazil works closely with FACENS and MAUA, both acclaimed technical universities, developing visualization software and training materials for the next generation of manufacturing’s Smartforce and various OEMs.
Made in China 2025 and other local smart manufacturing programs create an opportunity for AMT members wanting to participate in MTConnect initiatives to help develop sales. “Introducing the Chinese manufacturing companies to the benefits of MTConnect is an ideal way to promote AMT members’ advanced technologies to local customers,” states Fred Qian, general manager of the Shanghai Tech Center.
In preparation for the AMT/USA Pavilion and ETC at CCMT 2020, the Shanghai Tech Center collaborated with the local software developer iSESOL, a systems integrator with capabilities that include software development for data collection and visualization and the associated hardware. Six AMT members were to participate in the ETC with connected machines, but the show was canceled. The plan is to move forward with the initiative for CIMT 2021 next April in Beijing.
AMT’s team in Mexico has a long-standing relationship with Tec de Monterrey and the University of Nuevo Leon, both well-respected technical institutions. In collaboration with AMT, Tec de Monterrey developed an interface utilizing MTConnect for their new and legacy machines in their Monterrey and Mexico City manufacturing labs. The dashboard they developed will be marketed to SMEs in Mexico and Latin America. The University of Nuevo Leon created a similar interface for their metal-cutting systems being used at the Aerospace Lab in their state. AMT has made the MTConnect training modules available to students at both schools to help ensure that this trend continues.
To further drive the digital trend in Mexico, AMT’s Monterrey Tech Center organized ETCs at both the Expomanufactura and Tecma shows, presenting an array of dashboards developed by local Mexico companies, universities, and AMT members. According to Carlos Mortera, international director of Latin America for AMT: “It is important to give local SMEs the opportunity to become familiar with interconnected machines and help them to understand that the investment is not as substantial as they may think. The return is substantial.”
As global manufacturing embraces advanced technologies to improve quality and lower costs, standards like MTConnect are essential. Russ Waddell, managing director of the MTConnect Institute, sums things up nicely: “There is a virtuous cycle occurring globally around smart factory standards like MTConnect. End users develop requirements that technology providers co-develop with their customers, and on foundational pieces like data management, these implementations lead to collective action on standards. It creates a rising tide that lifts all ships.”