Mazak expands offerings for The Internet of Things

Shop Metalworking Technology – October 15, 2015.

Mazak Corp., Florence, KY, is expanding its offerings for its “iSMART Factory” concept by collaborating with Cisco and Memex Inc. and launching SmartBox, a launch platform for easy and secure access into the Internet of Things.

Access to real-time manufacturing data is used to improve overall productivity and responsiveness to customer/market changes. Using MTConnect technology as the foundation, SmartBox connectivity of machines and devices allows for enhanced monitoring and analytical capabilities including advanced cyber security protection.

Mazak is showcasing the SmartBox technology during its DISCOVER 2015 Technology and Education Event, being held October 27-29 and November 3-5 at its North American manufacturing headquarters in Florence, KY. SmartBox will be demonstrated in one of the automated cells as part of the company’s own manufacturing operations. Each of the cell’s four machines are outfitted with a SmartBox and sensor array package, giving event attendees a firsthand look at the device in action within an actual manufacturing environment and network.

The SmartBox is another component within Mazak’s iSMART Factory concept and one that takes advantage of Cisco’s Connected Machines solution to provide insights into machine operations. Advanced manufacturing cells and systems, along with full digital integration, can achieve free-flow data sharing, i.e., process control and operation/equipment monitoring. The iSMART concept also incorporates Mazak’s SMOOTH Technology, a complete process-performance technology platform that includes the various levels of Mazak’s new Mazatrol Smooth CNC with advanced machine hardware and servo systems, working in tandem with the MTConnect standard connectivity protocol.

Mazak also developed SmartBox to work with any machine regardless of make, model or age and will offer it in various configurations/kits based on the scenarios and challenges in which the units will be used. The device physically mounts to the side of machines without having to integrate into a machine’s electrical cabinet. With several standard input/output connecting ports, SmartBox lets users quickly and easily connect any standard off-the-shelf sensors to the system for machine data gathering and condition monitoring. One SmartBox may service several machine tools along with other associated manufacturing equipment, depending on the application.

At the heart of the SmartBox is Cisco’s Connected Machines solution, based on the IoT System, designed specifically for industrial environments and equipped with an MTConnect software agent. Using a fog computing model, the MT Connect software runs directly on the ruggedized Cisco Industrial Ethernet (IE) 4000 switch–providing real time visibility and insights into data right on the factory floor.

The Memex software installed in Mazak’s own factory allows for monitoring analytics of machines, test stands and other equipment within the plant. The Cisco hardware is designed to help prevent any issues with unauthorized access from both directions – to or from the machines and equipment within a network. SmartBox satisfies the highly critical security concerns of IT departments when connecting legacy equipment to a plant’s main network for the purpose of gathering manufacturing data via the MTConnect protocol.

“With the development of SmartBox, Mazak continues to drive toward its iSMART Factory concept and connecting today’s shops to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to achieve levels of efficiency and productivity never before realized,” said Brian Papke, president of Mazak Corp. “And while our concept centers around open connectivity and the Internet, we at Mazak believe it is our moral obligation to also provide customers the highest level of security possible with SmartBox. As with all the technology we develop, Mazak has first implemented SmartBox into our own operations before expecting customers to wholeheartedly embrace the system.”

The underlying Cisco networking platform helps ensure that IT technicians will be familiar with SmartBox’s operation and can use it to quickly and easily control and manage network security. Also, the hardware allows manufacturers to enable secure machine communications through secure access and identity policy mechanisms. Third parties, such as equipment suppliers, can then log on to a company’s network and access only those machines equipped with a Mazak SmartBox.

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Mazak SmartBox Launches Manufacturers Into the IIoT at DISCOVER 2015

In an industry-shaping collaboration, Mazak Corporation, together with information technology (IT) leader Cisco and machine-to-machine solutions provider MEMEX, Inc., have developed what is described as an industry first — a “launch platform for easy and highly secure entrance into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).” Called SmartBox, this technology represents a huge leap in digital integration across manufacturing. Access to real-time manufacturing data is used to improve overall productivity and responsiveness to customer/market changes. Using MTConnect® technology as the foundation, SmartBox connectivity of machines and devices allows for enhanced monitoring and analytical capabilities including advanced cyber security protection.

Mazak is showcasing the SmartBox technology during its DISCOVER 2015 Technology and Education Event, held October 27-29 and November 3-5 at its North American Manufacturing Headquarters. The power of SmartBox will be demonstrated in one of the automated cells as part of the company’s own manufacturing operations. Each of the cell’s four machines are outfitted with a SmartBox and sensor array package, giving event attendees a firsthand look at the device in action within an actual manufacturing environment and network.

The SmartBox is yet another component within Mazak’s dynamic iSMART Factory concept and one that takes advantage of Cisco’s Connected Machines solution to provide insights into machine operations. Advanced manufacturing cells and systems, along with full digital integration, can achieve free-flow data sharing, i.e., process control and operation/equipment monitoring. The iSMART concept also incorporates Mazak’s SMOOTH Technology — a complete process-performance technology platform that includes the various levels of Mazak’s new MAZATROL Smooth CNC with advanced machine hardware and servo systems — working in tandem with the MTConnect standard connectivity protocol.

Mazak also developed SmartBox to work with any machine regardless of make, model or age and will offer it in various configurations/kits based on the scenarios and challenges in which the units will be used. The device physically mounts to the side of machines without having to integrate into a machine’s electrical cabinet. With several standard input/output connecting ports, SmartBox lets users quickly and easily connect any standard off-the-shelf sensors to the system for machine data gathering and condition monitoring. One SmartBox may service several machine tools along with other associated manufacturing equipment, depending on the application.

At the heart of the SmartBox is Cisco’s Connected Machines solution, based on the IoT System, designed specifically for industrial environments and equipped with an MTConnect software agent. Using a fog computing model, the MT Connect software runs directly on the ruggedized Cisco Industrial Ethernet (IE) 4000 switch — providing real time visibility and insights into data right on the factory floor.

The Memex software installed in Mazak’s own factory allows for monitoring analytics of machines, test stands and other equipment within the plant. The Cisco hardware is designed to help prevent any issues with unauthorized access from both directions — to or from the machines and equipment within a network. SmartBox satisfies the highly critical security concerns of IT departments when connecting legacy equipment to a plant’s main network for the purpose of gathering manufacturing data via the MTConnect protocol.

“With the development of SmartBox, Mazak continues to drive toward its iSMART Factory concept and connecting today’s shops to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to achieve levels of efficiency and productivity never before realized,” said Brian Papke, President of Mazak Corporation. “And while our concept centers around open connectivity and the Internet, we at Mazak believe it is our moral obligation to also provide customers the highest level of security possible with SmartBox. As with all the technology we develop, Mazak has first implemented SmartBox into our own operations before expecting customers to wholeheartedly embrace the system.”

The underlying Cisco networking platform helps ensure that IT technicians will be familiar with SmartBox’s operation and can use it to quickly and easily control and manage network security. Also, the hardware allows manufacturers to enable secure machine communications through secure access and identity policy mechanisms. Third parties, such as equipment suppliers, can then log on to a company’s network and access only those machines equipped with a Mazak SmartBox.

“This is great example of how Cisco works with our ecosystem of partners to help customers capture the value of digitization,” said Tony Shakib, Vice President, Vertical Solutions, at Cisco. “Cisco’s scalable and secure IoT platform makes it possible for partners like Mazak and MEMEX to quickly launch new IoT offerings that provide high-value customer experiences and business outcomes. We’re helping our OEM partners transform their business from selling products to selling industrial services.”

About Mazak Corporation

Mazak Corporation is a leader in the design and manufacture of productive machine tool solutions. Committed to being a partner to customers with innovative technology, its world-class facility in Florence, Kentucky, produces over 100 models of turning centers, Multi-Tasking machines and vertical machining centers, including 5-axis models. Continuously investing in manufacturing technology allows the Kentucky iSMART Factory to be the most advanced and efficient in the industry, providing high-quality and reliable products through its “Production-On-Demand” practice. Mazak maintains eight Technology Centers across North America to provide local hands-on applications, service and sales support to customers. For more information on Mazak’s products and solutions, visit www.mazakusa.com

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Mazak, Venture Partners Making IIoT Connection

By: Robert Brooks, American Machinist

Declaring it “an industry-shaping collaboration”, Mazak Corporation is linking with Cisco Systems and Memex Inc. to introduce a “launch platform” for manufacturers to operate on the Industrial Internet of Things. The IIoT is the virtual network created by sensors, connective devices, analytics programs, and process controls, and tying together machines worldwide to optimize manufacturing performance across operating systems.

Mazak, of course, is among the world’s top developers and builders of CNC machining systems. It has been pioneering the possibilities of trans-network performance improvement for much of the past decade. It’s had a leading role in the advance of MTConnect — the open standard for greater interoperability and performance monitoring between shop-level manufacturing and automation and control programs.

Memex, one of the partners in the new venture, is the developer of a manufacturing execution system (MES) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications platform that Mazak has already embraced for the MTConnect functionality at its own production and assembly location in Florence, Ken.

Cisco, of course, is among the top developers of network systems for data management and communication.

Their introduction, called SmartBox, represents a “leap in digital integration across manufacturing,” according to the announcement. Mazak will demonstrate SmartBox technology October 27-29 and November 3-5 at its North American Manufacturing Headquarters, an annual event called DISCOVER 2015. SmartBox will be demonstrated in an automated cell as part of Mazak’s own operations.

As described, SmartBox works as a functional extension of MTConnect; the link that SmartBox creates to real-time manufacturing data is portrayed as a means for improving productivity and responsiveness to customer/market changes. Connectivity to machines and devices means manufacturers can enhance process monitoring and process analysis, according to Mazak, including cyber security for their assets and operations.

“With the development of SmartBox, Mazak continues to drive toward its iSmart Factory concept and connecting today’s shops to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to achieve levels of efficiency and productivity never before realized,” offered president Brian Papke. “And while our concept centers around open connectivity and the Internet, we at Mazak believe it is our moral obligation to also provide customers the highest level of security possible with SmartBox. As with all the technology we develop, Mazak has first implemented SmartBox into our own operations before expecting customers to wholeheartedly embrace the system.”

iSmart Factory is Mazak’s global production strategy involving digitally integrated manufacturing cells and systems, with “free-flow data sharing” for process control and operation monitoring. The new capability will incorporate Cisco’s Connected Machines technology to provide insights into machine operations.

“Advanced manufacturing cells and systems, along with full digital integration, can achieve free-flow data sharing, i.e., process control and operation/equipment monitoring,” according to Mazak.

The iSmart concept also incorporates Mazak’s Smooth Technology – a process-performance technology platform that encompasses Mazak’s new CNC, Mazatrol Smooth, with machine hardware and servo systems, collaborating within the MTConnect protocol.

Mazak noted that SmartBox was developed to work with any machine “regardless of make, model or age,” and it will be available in various configurations based on the specific manufacturing applications. The device mounts to the side of a machine; it does not need to be integrated to a machine’s electrical cabinet. Several standard input/output ports let SmartBox users connect to any standard sensors, to commence machine data gathering and condition monitoring.

One SmartBox may service several machine tools along with other associated manufacturing equipment, depending on the application, according to Mazak.

SmartBox is founded on Cisco’s Connected Machines technology (which is itself based on the IoT System) and equipped with an MTConnect software agent. MT Connect software runs on the Cisco Industrial Ethernet (IE) 4000 switch, providing real-time visibility and data on the factory floor.

Tony Shakib, vice president, Vertical Solutions, at Cisco, said its “scalable and secure IoT platform makes it possible for partners like Mazak and Memex to quickly launch new IoT offerings that provide high-value customer experiences and business outcomes.”

To see the full article, please click here.

7 Things To Know About IIOT

By: Mark Albert, Editor in Chief – Modern Machine Shop, September 1, 2015

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 are names for related concepts. These concepts do not have precise definitions. A very useful definition of the IoT was offered by Bryce Barnes, senior manager of the machine and robot segment at Cisco Systems. Speaking at the MC2 conference last April, Mr. Barnes described the IoT as the intelligent connectivity of smart devices by which objects can sense one another and communicate, thus changing how where and by whom decisions about our physical world are made. Manufacturing companies are currently implementing this “intelligent connectivity of smart devices” in their factories and on the shop floor. To distinguish these applications of the IoT from those among consumers and other realms, the term Industrial Internet of Things is often used.

The emerging Industrial IoT gives rise to what is predicted to be a sweeping change that will fundamentally reconfigure industry. It is being called the next Industrial Revolution. This revolution follows the previous three industrial revolutions, which are usually identified as mechanization (powered by steam engines in the 1800s), mass production (powered by electricity and the assembly line in the early 1900s) and automation (powered by computers in the late 1900s). As the fourth industrial revolution, it has taken on the name Industry 4.0, in keeping with the way new versions or releases of software are usually designated. This is appropriate, considering that the latest industrial revolution is powered by the Internet and Web-enabled software applications capable of processing streams of manufacturing data.

However, Industry 4.0 is also the term adopted by a coalition of universities, companies, labor unions and government bodies in Germany. This “Industrie 4.0” initiative represents that country’s vision for the future of manufacturing—not only in Germany, but also around the world. The intent of this joint initiative is to keep that country in the lead, both as a user and a developer of “smart factory” technology. This initiative encompasses a detailed conceptual framework, an explicit strategy with specific goals and milestones, and substantial funding from private and public sources. It is a model of public and private policy converging to promote advanced manufacturing.

Bernd Heuchemer, the vice president for motion control at Siemens in Germany, notes that the aim of Industrie 4.0 is to “actively drive the reshaping of industry, as it combines aspects of the physical, virtual, IT and cybersystem worlds to help create a new working environment of integrated productivity between worker and machine.”  The impact of this initiative, he says, is broad: “It represents a highly dynamic point of achievement, where every company, whether large OEM, major tier supplier or small job shop, can benefit from the technologies and the communication platforms emerging in the market today, some at the speed of light.”

For purposes of the discussion here, however, we will use Industry 4.0 as the broader, more general reference to the sweeping changes ahead. It’s useful to say that the Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 essentially have a cause-and-effect relationship. That is, the Industrial IoT is the basis for, and will result in, the fourth industrial revolution.

As a practical matter, though, this pending revolution will come about in an evolutionary fashion. Companies will implement it step by step, phase by phase. The first step, of course, is to gain an understanding of what it involves. The rest of this article is intended to help shops ease into this critical first step. The seven points selected here appear to be the most useful at this time. These points provide an introduction and background to the Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 for metalworking companies and machine shops.

1. Key standards are creating the pathway. The ability to connect manufacturing equipment to a Web-based network and derive substantial value from these connections is more practical and compelling than ever. Although we are in the early stages of this development, many of the foundations are in place. For example, well-developed standards such as MTConnect promote the interoperability necessary to make connecting the diverse range of manufacturing equipment on the typical shop floor possible.

In a nutshell, MTConnect provides a vocabulary, a defined set of words, by which machine tools can “express themselves” in a common language interpretable by software applications. Likewise, this standard is built on standard Internet technology (HTTP, TCP/IP, XML and Ethernet) that are inherently network friendly. MTConnect is also significant because it enables the main characteristics that are critical to systems compatible with the Industrial IoT. These systems must incorporate open software architecture, open protocols and open data models. Otherwise, proprietary elements will create barriers for users and developers of applications operating in the Industrial IoT.

Whereas MTConnect specifically facilitates the connection of machine tools and other related manufacturing equipment to a data-collection network, standards such as OPC-UA address the interoperability required for plant-wide data communication. In full, OPC-UA stands for “object linking and embedding for process control united architecture.” However, it is easier to understand it as the open, non-proprietary set of specifications that ensures that automation systems are compatible with one another.

OPC-UA provides a fix for the problem of “islands of automation” in a large factory. Because factories often have a variety of automated manufacturing processes, these systems must be able to communicate with a higher-level, plant-wide control system. OPC-UA provides the architecture for the bridges that connect these diverse automated systems to the data highway connecting the rest of the factory, so to speak. And because this highway can be connected to the Internet, it is one of the links that collectively make up the Industrial IoT.

Significantly, the organizations that oversee MTConnect and OPC-UA have worked together to make these standards compatible. As the Industrial IoT takes shape, no machine or automated system must be left behind.

2. Better, faster decisions are coming to the shop floor. The payoff for manufacturers who implement Industrial IoT solutions lies in better decision-making. When devices are connected, the data they generate can flow into software applications that create the information individuals can use to make choices that are timely and effective. By understanding the results of these choices more fully, decision-makers can achieve strategic objectives or benchmark performance. Decisions will be based on knowledge and wisdom, not theory or guesswork. Better decisions mean fewer mistakes and less waste.

In such a smart factory, it will be possible for managers to ascertain that every element of a manufacturing system is operating at an optimal level. For example, machining parameters such as cutting speeds and feeds will reflect the settings most effective, as proven by operator experience, cutting tool manufacturer, machine builder and the online community of end users. Real-time updates to these settings will be applied immediately and automatically to maximize productivity, minimize energy consumption and promote safety. Tool libraries and toolpath options for programmers will be updated accordingly as well. (Wisely, cutting tool manufacturers have prepared for this scenario by adopting standards such as ISO 13399 to make tooling terminology uniformly interpretable by digital systems.)

Every step in the implementation of the Industrial IoT/Industry 4.0 has to be evaluated in terms of the decisions it influences. Linking each step to the value of better decisions that result must be the basis for prioritizing them and justifying them economically.

The greatest challenge for shopfloor managers will be determining

  • What data to collect.
  • Who will get the information derived from the data.
  • How this information will be used.
  • That the right decisions were made.

3. People empowerment is essential. Perhaps the most positive and encouraging aspect of the Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 is the explicit acknowledgment that the individual human being will continue to play an active, engaging role in manufacturing. In fact, this role will grow in importance and influence. The implications for workforce training and development are broad and substantial, because the duties and responsibilities of almost every occupation in the manufacturing enterprise will be affected. Everyone’s job is going to change, because workflow is going to change.

Athulan Vijayaragahavan, chief technology officer of System Insights (the developer of the Vimana data analytics platforms for Industrial IoT implementations) puts this development into perspective. “Although the Industrial IoT is built on software for collecting, analyzing and managing data for devices and sensors on the shop floor, the most important sources and consumers of data in a manufacturing system are people. Keeping the human in the data-information-decision-action loop is essential.” Shopfloor data consumers include operators, programmers, maintenance engineers, production supervisors and front-office business managers.

Dr. Vijayaragahavan notes that information to and from people must be pertinent (focused on the task at hand), ubiquitous (available across multiple computer platforms and interfaces via a robust network) and contextual (the meaning of information is apparent and “actionable,” that is, pointing to decisions that must be made).

4. Cybersecurity is a major issue. Cyber threats to the Industrial IoT are real, global and growing, security experts say. Threats include theft of trade secrets and intellectual property, hostile alterations to data, and disruptions or denial of process control.

Shops should consider how to protect their data, their systems and their networks at every step toward becoming part of the Industrial IoT. Connecting machine tools to a network or cloud-based application creates a number of vulnerabilities, which are often overlooked. For example, network connections installed in a CNC may require a firewall to block unauthorized access while permitting outward communication. Machine tool data is especially sensitive because it involves critical information about product design. CNC tool paths and inspection routines for measurement probes, for example, represent the dimensions and attributes of the intended component, and are thus a tempting target for hackers.

A number of resources are available to guide manufacturing companies to build in the protection needed to minimize these threats as they implement the smart, connected factory. A good first read is the “Guide to Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security” (NIST Special Publication 800-82) from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It can be downloaded from the NIST Computer Security Resource Center at: short.mmsonline.com/cyber.

5. A new generation of sensors is coming.  Sensors detect and measure physical characteristics or conditions of a device. On/off states, amperage draw, temperature, pressure, vibration levels and quantities of supplies are examples of the “symptoms” sensors can sense. “Intelligent sensors” perform other functions. They can convert analog readings into a digital format; they can process or analyze this data (and perhaps be programmed to react in some calculated way); and they can transmit this data or make it available for collection across a network for use in a software application.

The location and function of sensor intelligence can vary. For some installations, it will be best to have the sensor “think for itself.” Other sensors will be part of a “groupthink” approach in which sensors and a central data analyzer work together. A hybrid of these two is also conceivable.

 Sensors provide information about significant changes. A top priority is putting sensors where they can automatically detect and report changes that impinge on component viability. This information will provide warnings of impending failures and make unexpected downtime a very rare occurrence. Sensors are the key to detection, intervention and prevention.

The capability of wireless data connectivity (Wi-Fi) greatly simplifies the deployment of sensors on the shop floor. The expense and difficulty of connecting wires to these devices is minimized or eliminated. Installing sensors may require a hookup to a power source and/or an interface to existing machine control systems. Installing sensors to legacy equipment (older but usable machines and devices that have little or no electronic features) will make it possible to connect them to data collection systems and ultimately to the Industrial IoT.

The most important sensor-related questions that the Industrial IoT imposes are:

  • What changes deserve attention or require a reaction?
  • What decisions do sensor data influence?
  • What value can be derived from these decisions?

It’s worth noting that small, low-cost sensors with remarkable processing capability and
programmable features are proliferating, driven in part by interest from hobbyists, inventors, tinkerers, and developers of consumer appliances and personal healthcare products. The Arduino family of networkable hardware and software components based on an open-source electronics platform is a prominent example. Bluetooth Smart “low-energy” technology is another example of advances in device-to-device communication that will promote wireless connectivity of shopfloor sensors.

6. Machine tools will be regarded as cyber physical systems. The term “cyber physical system” is frequently encountered in discussions of the IoT. The common definition of a cyber physical system describes it as a system in which embedded computers monitor and control physical processes through a feedback loop in a networked environment.

Flexible machining systems and machine tools with in-process measurement and closed-loop machining would seem to qualify as cyber physical systems. However, in the context of a smart factory, many devices that have not been equipped with embedded sensors or processors capable of looping them into an automatic monitoring and control system might become so equipped. Coolant chillers, compressed air lines, chip conveyors, hydraulic systems, and other pieces of auxiliary or support equipment are all candidates for this integration.

One very important application that calls for the support of cyber physical systems is comprehensive energy management in a factory. The power consumed by every device, machine and system will be measurable on a discrete level, thus making it monitorable and manageable. This development will compel factories to favor machines with onboard subsystems designed for low-energy operation and that are capable of resting in a standby mode (that is, they are only energized when needed for operation). Processes will be optimized by balancing energy consumption with speed of production. Likewise, whenever possible, energy-intensive machining operations will be scheduled for periods during the day when utility rates are low.

For now, the most useful aspect of the concept underlying cyber physical systems is the control loop. Creating control loops on multiple levels (from the device level to the enterprise level) in a factory will be part of Industrial IoT implementation. Shopfloor personnel on all levels will be “looped in” through multiple access points and data outlets on the network.

7. Cloud computing and Big Data will play vital roles. Cloud computing simply means that an application (a software program developed for a specific purpose) is running on computer processors located remotely rather than on a user’s on-site computers. Users interact with the application in the cloud via a network, usually the Internet. Because diagrams of information technology network configurations often depict remotely-shared computing resources as encircled by a cloud-shaped outline, the “cloud” has become a handy nickname for this approach. Remote storage of data can also be cloud-based. The capacity of the cloud to store and process data is virtually unlimited. Storing and processing data remotely is generally more economical, flexible and secure than on-site alternatives. The cloud is also more readily scalable, that is, its capacity can be expanded rapidly to meet growing demand.

The connectivity envisioned by the Industrial IoT implies that streams of data will flow to and from connected systems. These streams of data may be massive. Big Data has become the term for the ability to find significant trends or emerging patterns detectable only by rapidly scanning many millions of unstructured data items in different formats from a multitude of diverse sources. The ability to gather and access the huge mass of data generated by the connected factory (and then make sense of this data) is what Big Data brings to the Industrial IoT.

This scenario will suffice to capture the power of Big Data analytics for manufacturers. Consider a manufacturing company whose end products consist of components that have crossed numerous CNC machines in its own factories, and in those of its smaller subcontractors and job shop suppliers. Those same components may have been touched by thousands of cutting tools along the way. Each of these CNC machines is being monitored to create streams of data about uptime, internal alarms, operational status signals, energy usage, and thousands of other performance characteristics and parameters. Likewise, each of the cutting tools is being monitored for when, where and how it was used, with details about the speeds, feeds, tool paths, coolant conditions and a host of other performance records added to the mix of data streaming into massive online databases in the cloud. All of this machine and cutting tool data is associated
with each and every one of the components that reach the company’s customers in a finished, working assembly.

If a critical component fails, it will be possible to trace that failure to the cause, which may be as subtle as a slight deviation in the servo response of a certain machine tool axis drive. Clues to avoiding this problem in the future will also be discernible. Likewise, tracking down all the similar parts that might be subject to the same failure mode is a possibility.

Many other findings will be available. For example, we may learn that a certain CAM programming algorithm helps a particular style of end mill remove the most material with the least energy. Programmers will be instantly notified of this option when using cloud-based programming resources.

Getting Started on the IoT Pathway

So how does a machine shop begin to bring on the power of the Industrial IoT? A practical option for many companies will be to install a comprehensive machine monitoring system. Dave Edstrom, the chief technology officer at Memex, recommends this approach because machine monitoring introduces key elements necessary for wider Industrial IoT connections. For example, even basic machine monitoring can require equipping machines with the necessary interfaces for data collection and reporting; establishing the framework for a shop-wide network; getting the shop workforce accustomed to a data-driven manufacturing environment; training managers to recognize and deal with data management issues (who gets what report and what do they do with the info); and so on.

“Most shops that implement a monitoring system such as MERLIN start with a small number of machines to ease the learning curve and get everyone on board,” Mr. Edstrom says. MERLIN (Manufacturing Execution Real-time Lean Information Network) is Memex’s manufacturing execution system and machine-to-machine communications platform that is MTConnect compliant. “Supervisors and operators must be involved in evaluating the machine monitoring software, encouraged to provide input and given a clear understanding of the direction the company is taking with this implementation,” he adds. He also notes that, from the start, machine data must translate into actionable information that helps both the operators and managers. Operators must feel that this is a tool for them and not Big Brother looking over their shoulders.

Installing large display screens to show reports such as machine utilization is typically part of a shop’s pilot project. Visual awareness creates quick (and significant) results, because shopfloor personnel instinctively focus their thinking and practices on improvements that boost utilization, Mr. Edstrom reports.

Once a shopfloor monitoring system is in place, the shop can deploy additional sensors to augment their dashboards and reports to improve performance and lower costs. “Monitoring software that can speak to a wide range of devices and provide real-time dashboards with notification triggers and reporting to drive down costs and drive up productivity in a secure and predictable way will be the heart of the Industrial IoT,” Mr. Edstrom concludes.

Three Industrial Imperatives

The Industrial IoT and the fourth industrial revolution it seemingly ushers in are very fluid and far-reaching developments. This means that planners and implementers must be flexible, alert and bold. The seven points presented here may soon be supplanted by new issues, concerns and opportunities.

Let’s simply end with a summary that includes at least three main imperatives:

  • Take heed. The Industrial IoT is real and taking shape here and now. It is also happening “there and then” in the sense that your global competitors are implementing it, too, and may be ahead with prior implementations.
  • Keep your eye on the prize. Better decision-making is the main benefit of creating a connected factory in which machines and people are smarter.
  • Start small, but plan big. Whether it is machine monitoring or cloud-based CAM programming, the initial steps have to be manageable, transparent and respectful of the individual.

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The Case for the Integrated Shop Floor, with Microsoft Dynamics AX in Control

By: Dann Anthony Maurno, Assistant Editor

August 5, 2015

shop-floor-worker

There’s value in machines delivering data to ERP. A machine can in effect tell you “I made 1000 parts today!” or “Something’s wrong, my defects are up to 10 and my average is 1,” or “I’m running hot. Grease me.”

The value rises with the ability to talk to the machine, telling it and its operator which job is top priority, about bill of materials (BOM) substitutions, and if preventive maintenance is due.

AXUG recently hosted a webinar for its premium members, presented by Ellipsis Solutions, to build the business case for bisynchronous (two-way) integrations between Dynamics AX and the shop floor.

The presenter emphasized that a bisynchronous integration requires three layers being 1) shop floor machinery, 2) a Manufacturing Execution System (MES), and 3) ERP, like Microsoft Dynamics AX. The ERP acts as the control center.

Behind much of the value is that single interface, and the much-sought “single version of the truth”; the Dynamics AX Master Data Tables is the sole source and repository of information. Also, that information flows both ways and in real time – such that an operator does not begin one job only to find that that job was not the priority, or finds out too late about a substitution in the BOM, and so forth.

ROI, grand scale and incremental

As the presenter described, ROI begins with the production and operational improvements you’d expect. Citing figures from a Memex Automation (an MES provider) customer survey, bisynchronous integration yields production improvements between 10 and 50% range; 10% operational improvement on average; 20 to 60% profit improvement, and an average ROI under three months.

But ROI is comprised of numerous individual improvements, including (among other gains):

  • Real-time machine visibility and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE numbers) including alerts, 2-5%
  • Operator productivity increases 1-10%
  • Downtime reduction by 3-8%
  • Minimize rejects 2-4%
  • Labor productivity tracking 3-6%

Behind many of those improvements are data processing integrity, with such data as part counts, run times, down time and reject counts by reason codes; and less reliance upon machine operator entry, saving them time and eliminating errors.

A surprise: quicker rollout of new products

Ellipsis has observed that product rollout is far quicker in cases of bisynchronous integration – which was a pleasant surprise. A new product involves new BOMs, configurations, workflows and the like, and the rollout is significantly quicker when all of that is managed in a single place – the Dynamics AX interface – versus in both the ERP and MES.

The advantages of a “single version of the truth” in AX

One-way data collection from machines usually requires reconciling planning and scheduling tools (the MES and Dynamics AX), the presenter explained. Shop floor machinery has no ability to listen, so there is a communications gap when, for example, BOMs or job orders are changed on the fly.

A true bi-synchronous integration allows for that single version of the truth, for example:

  • Real-time process monitoring from within the AX production planning and scheduling functionality, with the ability to change production schedules on the fly
  • Instant communications of BOMs and BOM revisions to the shop floor; there is only one BOM which resides in Dynamics AX that can be pushed out to the machine
  • Inventory management that automatically update with quantities produced and consumed. Raw material and finished good entries are made in real-time.
  • HR Time and Attendance with operator log in, time on machine and piece counts (when such a measurement affects compensation)

So, Dynamics AX is where production orders, scheduling, planning, inventory updates and BOMs reside. The AX system has the ability to schedule and release orders directly to shop floor systems, which in turn can report back on route or job card progress or deviations; picking and material use and reporting depletion.

Also true, with a single version of the truth, there becomes no need to integrate reports from third-party shop floor systems and financial reports; Dynamics AX is the source of data, and you can use it as the reporting engine or opt for a third-party tool.

Is Dynamics AX MES sufficient?

Recall that bisynchronous integration requires an MES interface. Dynamics AX offers MES, which is called Shop Floor Control in Dynamics AX 2009, and Manufacturing Execution System in Dynamics AX 2012.

The presenter observed that some Ellipsis customers find them too basic, requiring more data entry than leading third-party MES solutions like Wonderware or MERLIN. Surprisingly, a majority use custom solutions.

Whichever MES a manufacturer uses, all can serve as the integration layer between the shop floor and ERP, and the presenter observed that Dynamics AX is capable of extensive integration across its modules including finance and HR, maintenance, and scheduling.

The practicalities of machine age, licensing, beginning a project

The presenter emphasized that most older shop floor equipment can be retrofitted for bisynchronous communication. If a piece of equipment has a port to pull information, then a variety of manufacturers and partners provide cards to communicate with machines and convert data.

A single Dynamics AX enterprise user license is all that is required for the entire shop floor; each operator or piece of equipment does not require an additional license.

Finally, the presenter recommends starting with a single pilot line project. This not only gets a company’s IT or technology group used to working with this type of integration, but generates enthusiasm around the project.

About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).

Dann can be reached at dmaurno@guidepointmedia.com.

To see the full article, please click here.

Mazak improves OEE with MTConnect

July 16, 2015 – By Mike Bacidore, Chief Editor

Earlier this year at ARC Forum, I met Rocky Rowland, machining manager at Mazak, a Japanese-based company with its North American headquarters is in Florence, Kentucky. “We manufacture 114 different models in our facility, and our manufacturing capacity is more than 200 units/month,” said Rowland. The Kentucky campus contained 536,000 sq ft of manufacturing space, with plans to expanding to 800,000 sq ft.

Mazak provides MTConnect solutions for standardizing device data on the manufacturing floor to its customers, said Rowland, who’s been with Mazak about 20 years. “We wanted to really know what was going on with our machines,” he explained. “Our goal was to improve our OEE using the MTConnect technology. We wanted to see what stopped the machines on the production floor. We evaluated six monitoring software packages and selected Memex Automation. We wanted something simple that could monitor all of the NC signals and a reporting feature that was easy to use for the supervisors and operators, too.”

What kind of data can be monitored out of the Mazak CNC? Programs, CNC status, axis loads, spindle rpm, temperature, overrides. What kind of ROI can be expected? “Anywhere between 3% and 15%, depending on how efficient your operation currently is,” explained Rowland. In September 2013, Mazak implemented a test cell with 12 machines.

“We have our own types of software,” said Rowland. “This software was exclusive to this type of machine because of the controller type. We looked at adapters, the interface and monitoring. Since then, it’s expanded into the powder paint and assembly sides in the factory.”

Mazak wanted to understand why its machines would sometimes sit idle. “With this software, you’re able to look at the machine output across a schedule time,” said Rowland. “We’re currently using Memex software. We can look at the reports very easily. We get gauges that show different aspects of the machine and calculates OEE. The biggest thing we were looking at was runtime vs. downtime. We had detailed downtime summaries in a daily report, along with the machine efficiency numbers.”

Idle-time reduction requires operator awareness. “It’s not one operator per machine these days,” explained Rowland. “Most operators have to move about between multiple machines. We added two floor monitors, which allowed operators to see their equipment and how their actions impacted production. It added spare tooling to allow quicker changeover of tooling from shift to shift.”

The data opened Mazak’s eyes. From November to December in the test cell, there was a 26% reduction in downtime hours. Utilization was up 6.1%.

Then, from November 2013 to December 2014, utilization was up 11.4%, which is an average monthly savings of $27,506. Downtime dropped from 604 hours in November 2013 to 182 hours in December 2014.

Benefits of the MTConnect implementation included live, accurate data in real time. “You can see where different pieces of equipment are,” explained Rowland. “The biggest benefit is providing a management tool. You get immediate feedback on changes. Any asset can be utilized. Several software suppliers support the MTConnect standard.”

Mazak is now monitoring more than 30 machines. “In our fabrication department, we’re expanding monitoring to other equipment, such as CNC lasers, CNC punch presses and powder paint lines.”

To see the full article, please click here.

Also read: MTConnect Connectivity Guide

Making Sure MTConnect is a Good Fit

MMS Online – April 2015 – Burlington, ON

Written by Mark Albert

Every machine shop’s story is different, and every shop’s story has lessons to be learned by other shops. This story is about a manufacturing company whose recent path included a successful implementation of a machine monitoring system. The inspiration for installing this system can be traced to the fortuitous discovery of MTConnect, the shop floor interoperability standard that is growing in scope and importance for both suppliers and users of machine tools and other shop floor equipment.

This shop’s path continues. The monitoring system is proving to be a critical steppingstone toward adopting the concept of data-driven manufacturing, which makes it possible for the shop to base its decisions on reliable data and the essential information it reveals to production managers. However, as compelling as this story is, it has to be told  without the name of the shop or the names of those who played key roles there, given the climate of confidentiality  and intense competitiveness prevailing in this sector of the aerospace industry.

The lessons and concepts this story has to offer are valuable, nonetheless, and too significant to let pass. For example, after discovering MTConnect, this shop started small with a manageable, modest implementation; consolidated early benefits and lessons learned; and then created a sustainable plan for continued investment that will yield more far-reaching improvements.

WITH OEE IN MIND

The story starts with the shop’s overriding goal to boost its overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). OEE is a measure of how well a manufacturing operation is doing. The most common way to calculate OEE is to multiply machine availability, performance and quality, where each of these three factors represents a percentage of an ideal total or optimal level. For now, the company can calculate only availability. But this is a great start, because not long ago, its management was most concerned about its perception that the shop’s utilization rate was below what it could and should be.

Today, with an MTConnect-enabled machine monitoring system from Memex Automation (Burlington, Ontario) in place since September 2014, the shop is hitting 65 percent or higher utilization, which is up from 53 percent when the system was first installed. A plan is in place to improve utilization to 70 percent. The ultimate target is reaching the 85 percent utilization that is widely regarded as the level characteristic of world-class manufacturing organizations.

Of course, the shop wants to measure and improve its ratings for performance and quality, too. However, one year ago, boosting utilization was the priority, and at the time, managers had no reliable handle on this calculation. And that is where MTConnect comes into the story.

At the beginning of 2014, the company was home to more than 60 CNC machines. Although it has pursued a steady policy of aggressive new product development while maintaining ample production capacity, introducing products and consistently filling orders on time were not the only reassurance management was looking for to be sure the company was on the right track. What was missing was shop floor visibility and adequate productivity benchmarks.

Measuring (and improving) machine utilization became the focus of management attention. This one metric would  help ensure that the company was adding machines only when needed and that, when needed, the right machine was being added. The company’s first response was to create a new manufacturing engineering position to concentrate  primarily on improving utilization. This position was filled early in 2014.

It soon became clear that the shop needed the ability to monitor its shop floor. Initially, data on machining activity  was collected the old-fashioned way, with a clipboard and a stopwatch. At best, this step yielded a quick snapshot of which machines were busy and which were not, and that helped identify a real utilization gap. But the effort wasn’t sustainable, and there was little time to digest the data find improvements.

Interestingly, shop supervisors noticed that even the presence of someone with a clipboard on the shop floor produced a bump in overall machine uptime. This kind of attention hadn’t been given to the machining areas before, and operators were responding positively to the message that their efforts mattered. A way to monitor uptime and show the results automatically should, it seemed, maintain this momentum.

However, finding and implementing a system faced one huge difficulty: the variety of types and brands of machine  tools on the shop, few of which shared a common format in which reportable data could be collected. Nevertheless, the search for a possible solution was on.

FINDING THE PATH

Within a few weeks, the new manufacturing engineer happened to read about MTConnect in a trade magazine article about a machine monitoring system in place at Mazak in Florence, Kentucky. He immediately saw a parallel between this machine builder’s situation and the one at his shop, so he contacted Neil Desrosiers, Mazak’s MTConnect expert who was mentioned in print. As chance would have it, Mr. Desrosiers was at a tech center near the engineer’s shop  the day he received the message. He graciously arranged a quick visit.

Mr. Desrosiers talked to the engineer about MTConnect and pointed out how it might be an entry way to implementing a shop monitoring system. He also suggested attending the MTConnect conference, which was just weeks away.

Attending the conference in April 2014 proved to be a pivotal event. It gave the shop a basic understanding of MTConnect as an open source, royalty-free standard that is intended to foster greater interoperability between devices and software applications. By establishing an open, extensible channel of communication for plug-and-play interconnectivity between devices, equipment and systems, MTConnect allows sources to exchange and understand one another’s data. A number of other basic concepts were presented at the conference. For example:

  • MTConnect is an enabling technology. A software application using data in the MTConnect format is required to derive practical benefits.
  • MTConnect is not an instant solution, but a tool that will involve a learning curve and some critical decisions that require close study.
  • A number of vendors offer MTConnect-enabled machine monitoring applications, but the choice has to match each  shop’s circumstances.
  • An implementation of MTConnect requires the support of company management as well as the involvement of  machine operators and IT staff.

Perhaps the best advice the company received at the conference was to start small  but prepare for growth. When the shop chose a machine monitoring system, it selected 10 machines that would be the least difficult to connect to the system because they were already MTConnect-compliant.

But even starting small produced ups and downs. One of the first things the shop did was install a large, flat-screen   display panel that showed a dashboard of current activity on the monitored machines. Right away, this step produced an uptick in machine utilization, just like the clipboard effect, but it was surprisingly substantial this time—a jump of 20 percent or more. This level eventually receded somewhat, but it was clear that just having this information in a highly visible display created a positive effect on utilization.

Some surprises, though, were unwanted. For example, not long after the system was running, a number of monitored machines were mysteriously bumped off the network for no apparent reason. The cause turned out to be an upgrade to the Web filters that the IT department had installed on the company’s network. The upgrade altered the Web  addresses of certain machines, making them unrecognizable to the monitoring software. The lesson learned was to keep the IT department informed of certain technical issues and requirements. The proper addresses were quickly restored.

More lessons were learned along the way.

A SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH

Here are the steps the company took to get this machine monitoring system off the ground and the key lessons  learned at each step.

Go easy at first. Of all the machines in place at the beginning of 2014, 32 were identified as top priority for monitoring. Of these, 10 Okuma lathes had an option for MTConnect-compliant data reporting already installed. The shop worked with Okuma’s local dealer and its U.S. headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, to prepare these machines for monitoring. This involved acquiring and installing an appropriate MTConnect agent (a software utility that formats data so it can be shared on a Web-based network) for each machine. Because the machines were already hooked up to the shop’s network via Ethernet cables for DNC file transfer, no new wiring was necessary. This step was completed in late April to early May 2014.

Go light. The shop evaluated several machine monitoring systems, concentrating on two that had “light” versions  that focused on basic monitoring for shop visibility. Essentially, these versions provided simplified dashboards that showed the status and availability of each connected machine as well as all monitored machines as a group. Both systems were capable of providing a number of detailed analytical reports.

MiniViz, a free-to-use version of ShopViz by TechSolve (Cincinnati, Ohio) was sampled first. Working with this machine monitoring software helped the manufacturing engineer and the shopfloor supervisors get acquainted with building databases and evaluating reporting needs. TechSolve’s licensed version of this monitoring system, however, was available only as a cloudbased application, a step that the shop wasn’t prepared to make at the time.

The shop had also been exploring Memex’s MERLIN Lite for this phase of its implementation. This application is a subset of this vendor’s Manufacturing Execution Real-time Lean Information Network (MERLIN), which is a complete manufacturing execution system and communication platform. The Lite version includes mainly the features designed to collect, store and organize data from machine tools, and prepare visual displays and detailed reports. Like the instrumentation on the dashboard of a car, displays of real-time machine utilization are  interpretable at a glance. The pricing structure for this software also made the startup cost attractive to shop management. The transition to this software began in July 2014.

The IT department created a local server to host the software, which could be downloaded remotely. A few phone calls and Go-To-Meeting sessions were all that was needed to set up the database and load some of the initial reporting functions. This step was taken in August 2014.

Share the benefits (but not the pain). With the monitoring system in place and the software running, the shop had options for what information to display. The best way for different stakeholders to respond to this information also had to be determined at this point. Currently, the flat-panel screen displays either a dashboard of real-time utilization as a component of OEE or a split screen that includes a shop layout with all of the machines reporting their status in real time.

These tips emerged from the shop’s experiences during this phase of implementation:

  • Have stand-up meetings with each group of operators to answer questions about the system and explain the meaning and value of OEE.
  • Share a vision of future system features that enable operators to report and track their contributions to productivity (setup activities, maintenance chores, feature checking, tool replenishment and so on.)
  • Set a reasonable baseline for machine availability. Initially, this was pegged at 57 percent, based on the initial monitoring period. Supervisors are pleased when a machine is operating above this level and concerned when it is below. As answers and suggestions flow from the good questions now being asked during this initial period, encourage positive actions to apply the improvements.
  • Use data for positive, appreciative questioning. “I’ve noticed one of your machines has been down all morning. How can I help?” for example.
  • Send help fast. When a machine is down, the best response is to have the production supervisor check it out in  person. In most cases, these visits become impromptu training sessions about best shopfloor practices. This  approach is especially valuable because it enables less experienced operators to help themselves if the problem  recurs.
  • Look for patterns. This shop has programmed to email a daily report to the production manager that summarizes machine time for all monitored machines. One of the patterns that became apparent from reviewing these reports is the high number of optional program stops that were occurring. Optional stops give operators a chance to clear chips, check dimensions, inspect inserts between cycles and so on. However, the number seemed excessive. The new thinking is that reducing the number of optional stops and using only the unavoidable ones more efficiently will significantly increase machine availability.

PLAN FOR GROWTH

After the initial 10 lathes were hooked up to the monitoring system, the manufacturing engineer made a case to management for adding one or two more machines each month starting in November 2014 and continuing at least through 2015. This is possible because the shop owners have agreed to set aside money monthly to fund expansion of the machine monitoring network.

The first additional machines to be connected were a pair of lathes in the cell with the original set of 10. The next two  machines in line for hook up do not have MTConnect-compliant controls, so adapters will be installed to convert the native format of data generated by the CNC into the MTConnect format.

The company is now planning its next move toward calculating OEE. This will require additional operator  interaction to complement data automatically collected by the machine monitoring software. This data includes information about performance and quality that must be entered by the operator to complete the OEE equation. Both performance and quality fall into the category of production data that does not necessarily come from the machine tool. For example, performance is determined by how fast parts are made compared with the optimum rate defined by a part standard—the amount of time it should take to make that given part on a particular machine tool. Likewise, the quality factor is simply the ratio of good parts to total parts.

One option the shop is considering is installing tablets with touch-screens at each workstation to facilitate data entry. This option is supported by the MERLIN Operator Portal, which provides menu-driven input screens that prompt the operator for information. This portal will also enable the operator’s data entry to tie in with the company’s enterprise resource planning system.

BETTER DECISIONS

One of the main take-aways from this story is that utilization improved by 22 percent in six months because of little  more than making utilization data visible to the shop floor and management. For many shops that have implemented a machine monitoring system, these results represent the “low-hanging fruit” that is easily garnered once a monitoring system is in place. To get to the next level, more targeted efforts will be needed for the shop to keep improving, and admittedly, these efforts will be more strenuous.

In the yet-to-be-written chapters for this aerospace shop, the company has identified three specific objectives as possible priorities:

  • Establish real-time monitoring of performance to standard. The ongoing clipboard-style data collection shows room for improvement.
  • Develop a maintenance department dashboard that monitors sensors reading coolant level, coolant temperature, lubrication condition, spindle temperature, unusually high current draws, tool crashes, and other events that  generate service or repair requests.
  • Tie workorder numbers, part numbers and operator assignments into the MERLIN database. This step will enable managers to pull the data on recurring part runs to quantify how processes vary. Having complete, unbiased records will help the shop improve part repeatability.

Although the plans and strategies are still evolving, it is clear that pursuing them sets this shop squarely on the path to establishing the basis for data-driven manufacturing. And finally, this observation about the road ahead: Machine utilization, OEE and data-driven manufacturing are means to an end, not ends in themselves. The focus has to stay on delivering great products that are an unbeatable value to our customers.

To see the full article, please click here.

Memex Automation receives $800,000 in federal funding

Canadian Metalworking – March 20, 2015 – Burlington, ON.

Memex Automation has qualified for up to $800,000 in Government of Canada funding. The manufacturer of Machine to Machine (M2M) productivity software will direct funding towards the continued development of its flagship product, MERLIN (Manufacturing Enterprise Real-time Lean Information Network) software.

The funding announcement took place today at the company’s Burlington head office in a joint press conference with Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, Gary Goodyear, and local Burlington Member of Parliament, Mike Wallace, along with senior company executives.

The Government of Canada’s repayable contribution, through FedDev Ontario’s Investing in Business Innovation (IBI) initiative, is aimed at strengthening the innovation ecosystem in southern Ontario by supporting new entrepreneurs, early-stage businesses and angel investors.

IBI provides a repayable contribution of up to one-third of eligible costs of a project. A key element to the Memex Automation’s qualification for this initiative was the successful completion of its $2 million non-brokered private placement completed last August, representing two-thirds of the project cost. The company will be responsible for repaying all funds advanced without interest commencing in 2017.

“Advanced technologies are increasingly being adopted by our manufacturers as they seek to improve their competitiveness,” said Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for FedDev Ontario. “This investment is an example of how our Government is helping manufacturers stay in the region to create new jobs and foster innovation.”

“Memex Automation is changing how manufacturers operate by providing ways to maximize the efficiency of existing machines on the shop floor,” said Mike Wallace, Member of Parliament for Burlington. “Our Government is proud to support this innovative technology that will help businesses in such a key sector of our economy.”

“We are grateful for the support from the Government of Canada’s Investing in Business Innovation initiative from FedDev Ontario” said David McPhail, President and CEO of Memex Automation. “Memex Automation is a high-growth company that is adding knowledge-based jobs in Canada while we transform the productivity of global manufacturing firms with our shop-floor-to-top-floor communications technology. This important funding will be invested in accelerating the development and world-wide customer adoption of our MERLIN (Manufacturing Enterprise Real-time Lean Information Network) software solution.”

 To see the full article, please click here.

$800K for Burlington company

CHCH – March 19, 2015 – Burlington, ON.

A Burlington company is getting a big financial boost.

Memex Automation is getting an $800,000 investment to help it develop new automation technology software. Manufacturers can use the software on their products to track the productivity and efficiency of their machines.

Federal economic development minister Gary Goodyear talked about the importance for Memex, as well as the city of Burlington. “This particular project will create 16 high-quality jobs right here in the Burlington area.”

“What’s brilliant about this particular project is, if other manufacturers adopt this technology, they too could expand, and grow, and create more jobs in their own plant. That’s the idea behind the federal government’s initiatives in partnering with these types of projects.”

During the announcement, the president and CEO of Memex thanked the government and said it was a great day for the company.

To see the full article, please click here.

Harper Government Supports Memex Automation Technology to Improve Manufacturing Productivity

Government of Canada – March 19, 2015 – Burlington, ON.

Astrix Networks Inc., operating as Memex Automation, will bring to market a new version of its technology that helps manufacturers become more productive, thanks to an investment of up to $800,000 announced today by FedDev Ontario Minister Gary Goodyear and Burlington MP Mike Wallace.

Founded in 1992, Memex Automation supplies companies with products that allow manufacturing machines to communicate with each other and with production management systems. Memex Automation will use the federal funding to commercialize the latest version of its product MERLIN (Manufacturing Execution Real-time Lean Information Network) and to test and commercialize additional features to be rolled out in the coming years.

Manufacturers use MERLIN to measure the efficiency of their production capacity. By monitoring production as it happens, companies can increase their productivity by reducing downtime between jobs.

The Harper Government’s repayable contribution, through FedDev Ontario’s Investing in Business Innovation initiative, is aimed at strengthening the innovation ecosystem in southern Ontario by supporting new entrepreneurs, early-stage businesses and angel investors.

Following the announcement, Minister Goodyear and MP Wallace will visit ADFLOW Networks, an innovative technology company that delivers award-winning Digital Signage and interactive marketing solutions to leading retailers and brands across North America. The company received a repayable contribution of $99,093 from FedDev Ontario to expand its facilities and establish a technology innovation centre.

Minister Goodyear and MP Wallace will also host a roundtable with students and recent graduates at McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business in Burlington campus to discuss opportunities for the Government of Canada to support aspiring entrepreneurs.

Quick Facts

  • Memex expects to create 16 jobs and maintain 22 during the project.
  • Memex Automation has also attracted $1.6 million from a team of investors who are members of the Niagara Angel Network.
  • Memex has been awarded the 2013 PEM Plant Engineering & Maintenance Award for Best Company with Fewer Than 50 Employees. It was also awarded the 2013 Frost and Sullivan Best Practices Award for Machine Monitoring Systems.
  • FedDev Ontario’s Investing in Business Innovation funding is available for early-stage businesses with fewer than 50 employees; southern Ontario-based angel investor networks; and not-for-profit organizations that provide skills development and seed financing to new entrepreneurs.
  • Since its creation in August 2009, FedDev Ontario has invested more than $1.2 billion, resulting in partnerships with thousands of organizations and additional leveraged investments from almost exclusively non-government sources to support businesses, organizations and communities in southern Ontario.

Quotes

“Advanced technologies are increasingly being adopted by our manufacturers as they seek to improve their competitiveness. This investment is an example of how our Government is helping manufacturers stay in the region to create new jobs and foster innovation.”
– Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for FedDev Ontario

“Memex Automation is changing how manufacturers operate by providing ways to maximize the efficiency of existing machines on the shop floor. Our Government is proud to support this innovative technology that will help businesses in such a key sector of our economy.”
– Mike Wallace, Member of Parliament for Burlington

“We are grateful for the support from the Government of Canada’s Investing in Business Innovation initiative from the FedDev Ontario. Memex Automation is a high-growth company that is adding knowledge-based jobs in Canada while we transform the productivity of global manufacturing firms with our shop-floor-to-top-floor communications technology. This important funding will be invested in accelerating the development and world-wide customer adoption of our MERLIN (Manufacturing Enterprise Real-time Lean Information Network) software solution.”
– David McPhail, President and CEO, Memex Automation

To see the full article, please click here.