The ISO 13399 and MTConnect Connection

These two data exchange standards work together to promote the concept of data-driven manufacturing. Both standards will help shops make better decisions about shopfloor activities.


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ISO 13399 is an international standard that enables cutting tool manufacturers to use the same “language” to describe their products in a computer-interpretable, digital format. This common format simplifies the exchange of this data between computer systems and software applications. Sharing this data more readily should lead to better decisions about shopfloor activities, thus improving productivity and significantly cutting costs. As a result, ISO 13399 is a major step toward data-driven manufacturing.

By complying with this standard, information about cutting tool products from one manufacturer “looks” the same as the information from another manufacturer that also complies with this standard. Computer software that can use this information does not have to have a translator or customized interface for the data from each manufacturer in order to make that data usable in an application. For this reason, ISO 13399 is a valuable resource and model for the other standards developed to exchange manufacturing data.

An important example of this is MTConnect. MTConnect is a computer protocol for exchanging data between shopfloor equipment such as machine tools and software applications for monitoring and analyzing machine performance. Like ISO 13399, MTConnect creates a vocabulary of defined terms related to manufacturing equipment. From the start, MTConnect was designed to be extensible, that is, sets of vocabulary terms could be added to the standard for other categories of manufacturing data.

After the original versions of MTConnect were released in 2008, one of the categories of new vocabulary terms targeted for inclusion in the MTConnect standard were those related to “mobile assets.” For MTConnect purposes, mobile assets include cutting tools, cutter body assemblies, fixturing components and other elements that tend to circulate among machine tools, storage units, inspection devices, automatic toolchangers and so on.

Developers found that ISO 13399 could provide a ready-made set of vocabulary terms and codes usable for an extension to MTConnect that would cover mobile assets. By adopting these terms and codes, the mobile assets extension could be compiled and released more quickly. This extension was formally added to the MTConnect standard in July 2012. The compatibility between ISO 13399 and MTConnect is significant because it enables data about cutting tools and their performance to be added to the data that an application chooses to include in its monitoring and analysis.

Any hindrance to the exchange of digital data between computerized equipment and across information systems is a barrier to data-driven manufacturing. ISO 13399 and MTConnect help break down these barriers. Data exchangeability is also a key enabler in concepts such as the Internet of Things and initiatives such as Industry 4.0. Neither of these can be realized fully without the smooth, secure and comprehensive flow of data. Likewise, access to the data cloud hinges on data exchangeability.

In this context, ISO 13399, MTConnect and other data exchange standards for manufacturing show their true significance. To learn more about ISO 13399, click here.