Most coders have long understood the benefits of having information flow freely. Information wants to be free — as the old saying goes. Free to flow into OEE calculations, or daily production planning, or inventory reports.
Yet until recently, you could visit almost any machine shop and find valuable production information locked away. Machine availability? Completed part counts? Warnings and alarms? Locked away inside the machine tool, visible only to the operator physically present at the machine. Or locked away on a whiteboard, in handwritten and easily-erased scribbles.
In the past, getting that information out of the machine tool might have meant an expensive hardware integration. PLCs communicating with PLCs via expensive proprietary “standards” or basic 24-volt I/O. But modern machine tools are challenging this. Open standards such as MTConnect, based on web technologies, are at last liberating this information.
More and more, coders are able to treat machine tool data as it should be treated: as a commodity, free to flow where it is needed — to your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or wherever your business decisions are made.