To say MTConnect is revolutionary is a gross understatement. Connecting machines and collecting data using the same protocol not only gives in-plant management far greater agility and control; it also allows for a level of communications between suppliers, customers, OEMs, sales and international partners that could easily be the greatest achievement for manufacturing since CNC. Or even the Internet itself.
MTConnect is the fledgling, open-source communications standard developed by AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology and Sun Microsystems. Its purpose is to create a consistent communications protocol that connects machines, controls and software in a manufacturing environment to each other, allowing for the management, observation and control of varied and often disparate units and methods.
An often overlooked element of new technology is discovery. Putting technology in the hands of creative manufacturers and engineers nearly always results in originally unimagined benefits and developments. MTConnect has the potential for great rewards down the pike for 2 fundamental reasons.
First, it capitalizes on the power of the Internet in extraordinarily useful ways, by making it the real-time, data exchange medium it was meant to be. Collecting and sharing part, material, inventory, process and other data instantly will force manufacturers to develop processes and methods to capitalize on the efficiencies of real-time command and control. Think about creating a seamless network of machines and systems with no borders – a network with nodes that know each other, talk to each other, and know no borders.
Second, MTConnect will offer shops and plants of any size the ability to connect with markets, customers and prospects in ways more efficiently than ever before. For your customers, imagine sharing real-time data with them through a protected extranet that allows them to view progress on their jobs or projects. For prospects via your Web site, think about collecting and publishing specifics about jobs run through your business that portrays your prowess and value as a partner – like improved cycle times, set-up improvements, proficiencies with exotic materials or processes, etc.
Right now, MTConnect is moving from the development stage to the most critical stage of all – the adoption phase. This is always where technologies – regardless of their worth – can hit a snag. I urge you to investigate this emerging technology and support it as best you can. As MTConnect matures, you’ll want to be on this train rather than left at the station.