Question: Mazak has taken quite a lead in supporting MTConnect. Why, and how has doing so benefitted Mazak?
Mr. Papke: “We support anything that will help our customers improve the utilization of their manufacturing equipment, and thus boost their productivity. MTConnect does that. Mazak has always known that manufacturers need more than just machine tools, which is why we provide complete manufacturing solutions. And those productivity-improving solutions can entail automation, tooling, workholding, software and more. So it seems only natural that MTConnect would be an important part of the manufacturing solutions Mazak offers.”
“What’s most beneficial to Mazak in its support of MTConnect is that doing so differentiates the company from its competitors. Differentiation by not only offering the open standard, but by also making it easy for customers to accept and apply it. Our customers, in turn, then differentiate themselves from the competition as well through their use of MTConnect.”
Question: How is Mazak making it easier for manufacturers to implement the standard?
Mr. Papke: “We are building machines that are compliant with MTConnect. And we offer moderately priced MTConnect adaptors applicable to just about all of our newer existing equipment in the field. MTConnect is a standard price-list item for Mazak customers, and there are no engineering charges or technicians’ fees because adding the capability happens all within a machine’s CNC.”
“Additionally, as more companies develop software adaptable to MTConnect, the more the menu of choices grows and becomes available. Thanks to MTConnect, smaller shops, through moderate investments, will be able to acquire software and gain some basic capability improvements, while larger companies will be able to easily tailor their own in-house proprietary software.”
Question: How have customers responded to Mazak’s MTConnect-compatible machines?
Mr. Papke: “The response has been very positive. We’ve made MTConnect an integral part of all the tradeshows we attend and of all our Discover Mazak 2011 events. In fact, many companies attending these shows and events are already heavily involved with MTConnect-compatible software, so they are comfortable that Mazak machines are easily adaptable to MTConnect and various software solutions for uses such as monitoring systems and energy usage.”
“One problem now is that, even though MTConnect is an open standard, companies using it want to keep what they doing with it proprietary. And we really hadn’t anticipated such situations occurring. However, most cases have been with larger companies that are currently implementing the standard in pilot programs involving anywhere from one to 30 machines.”
Question: What capabilities can be gained with MTConnect?
Mr. Papke: “At this stage, most of the activity with MTConnect has been with equipment monitoring—extracting data through a standardized format that applies to a variety of machines. This data is then organized, and reports are generated that help shops better manage their operations. In the long term though, there is great potential to do much more with MTConnect. For instance, shops are currently able to monitor machine energy consumption, but they will soon be able to use the standard in conjunction with machine diagnostics. And even more capabilities will become apparent as software is further developed. But the ultimate capability will be the connectivity aspect of MTConnect, which will standardize how different pieces of manufacturing devices are integrated with one another.”
Question: Many machine tool builders are still lukewarm when it comes to involvement with MTConnect. What can be done to convince them?
Mr. Papke: “Those companies must realize that MTConnect is truly beneficial to making our mutual customers, manufacturers, more competitive. Plus, promoting MTConnect will only enhance a machine tool builder’s image in the industry. There’s just no visible downside to supporting the standard.”
“Unfortunately, many companies show enthusiasm, but still lack the commitment. These companies continue to remain unsure as to whether or not MTConnect will be THE standard. But the fact is that 60 to 70 companies attend each Technical Advisory Group (TAG) meeting for MTConnect, indicating the standard’s well-established broad reach. And those attending companies, like Mazak, realize there’s more to gain by cooperating on the MTConnect initiative than there is to lose.”
“This is why Mazak has taken an aggressive approach in supporting MTConnect (putting it on the standard price list), and our customers commend us for doing so. They give us very high marks for taking a leadership role with the standard and for focusing all our efforts on getting them the most utilization out of their machine tools.”
“Mazak will continue its support of MTConnect, which is why we will participate in such events as (MC)2 MTConnect: Connecting Manufacturing Conference. As a sponsor of that first ever conference on MTConnect, Mazak will help explain the benefits of the standard and will showcase available products that use it. We will not miss out on an opportunity to provide our customers with a tool that will improve their productivity, and MTConnect is one such tool.”
Developing a Platform for Data-Driven Manufacturing
With the eventual goal of adding machine condition monitoring, this company began by installing an ERP system as a foundation to build upon, flattening the learning curve with each step toward achieving increased process oversight.