XML based manufacturing standard

Manufacturing technology is in dark ages if you consider the computer/IT arena and internet technology. The success of the computer industry revolves around the successful implementation and acceptances of certain standards like say USB, Http or Bluetooth. Can you imagine the internet if “everyone” would have not agreed upon the http protocol? different protocol for Yahoo, Gmail and hotmail websites ? Certain browsers can open only certain websites they support. Or even worse consider a scenario where a yahoo email sender can only send email to a yahoo account just because other email providers like Gmail or hotmail have proprietary format and adhere to some different standards.
Today one can use almost any device ranging from a digital camera, scanner, printer, mouse or webcam and plug it in the USB port (install any device drivers if required) and it works. Wow! But let’s say every device and its manufacturer came up with their own standards then this wouldn’t have been possible. A dell computer only supports HP printers, an IBM supports Cannon and similar situations would have been common. Fortunately nothing of this happened and thus we can see the innovation and exponential technological progress in computer industry today.
Unfortunately all the situations explained above are true for the manufacturing field. Each service provider has proprietary formats and standard. Different devices don’t talk with each other. Interoperability is an unknown word in the manufacturing dictionary. Thus there is a lot of redundancy, inefficiency and thus wastage. In light to all these issues the Association of Manufacturing technology (AMT) has formally announced a project for development of an all encompassing standard called MTConnect. Their Mission statement is “The creation of a seamless “manufacturing pipeline” from design to production has long been a goal of many industries. The development of digital factory concepts connecting the product and process designer to shop floor/equipment/operation level data and feedback for simulation, optimization and control is moving closer to reality. The challenge is to connect “islands” of technology to make this a seamless link. This is the basic goal of the MTConnect concept for manufacturing systems interoperability.”
MTConnect™ is a lightweight, open and extensible protocol and data representation to allow the ex-change of dynamic sensor data, configuration data, and control information among MTConnect-compliant machines, software applications and controllers. The most strong point is that it is open source and royalty free. That means anyone can use it, modify it or contribute without any restriction. A strong community backed up by academia, industry and government should ensure a consistent, universally accepted and viable standard. The second point to be noted is MTConnect is based on the universally accepted XML representation.

There have been some efforts for standardization in past. Some of the notable are the OMAC in USA, OSACA in Europe, JOP in Japan and some others. The OPC standards have been the most successful to date but still does not have the overhauling impact to direct the industry. AMT will showcase the MTConnect demonstration at the AMT trade show next year in Chicago. The question is: Can MTConnect deliver the promise?

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