Complete Digital Factory Integration and the Industrial Internet of Things

May 9, 2016| Fabricating & Metalworking

A collaboration among Mazak, Memex and Cisco, utilizing the MTConnect standard, makes groundbreaking progress toward the total digital integration of factories, where access to real-time manufacturing data is used to improve overall productivity efficiency and responsiveness to customer and market changes.

Tomorrow’s factories will use Multi-Tasking machines, advanced manufacturing cells and robotic automation systems, together with complete digital integration to achieve free-flow data sharing. In such an environment, connectivity of machines and devices allows for enhanced process control, operation monitoring, and analytical capabilities – all within a plant-wide or multi-plant cybersecure network connected to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The joint efforts of machine tool builder Mazak Corporation (Florence, KY), manufacturing communications platform provider Memex, Inc. (Burlington, ON), and IT leader Cisco® Systems, Inc. (San Jose, CA) achieved a significant leap forward into this environment with the successful digital integration of the Mazak factory, which now accesses and uses real-time manufacturing data to improve overall productivity and agility, along with responsiveness to customer and market changes. This project also resulted in the development of a launch platform, called SmartBox, for an easy and secure entrance into the IIoT.

With this launch platform, Mazak sought to achieve the following project objectives:

  • Create a digitally integrated platform to further improve manufacturing efficiency, particularly in regards to machine utilization and associated downtime.
  • Track machine utilization accurately using Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) as a standard measurement.
  • Produce machine, machine operator and plant productivity analytics, and Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports that management and production teams can act on.
  • Establish a secure and scalable plant-wide network to connect machines (new and legacy) and other equipment to track OEE.
  • Provide the means to grow the use of sensor technology for monitoring the cutting characteristics of machines, thereby enabling predictive maintenance.

The SmartBox launch platform project incorporates several advanced technologies, one of which was the open, royalty-free MTConnect® manufacturing communications protocol that fosters greater interoperability between manufacturing devices and software. The MTConnect standard provides connectivity and the capability to monitor and then harvest data from the entire production floor: machines, cells, devices, and processes. The standard makes this possible because it’s based on XML and HTTP Internet technology for real-time data sharing.

On the software and hardware side, the full-featured MERLIN manufacturing communications platform from Memex works in tandem with hardware elements that includes the Industrial Ethernet 4000 Series Switch. MERLIN monitors and provides operational metrics and KPI reports on operations, analytics of machines, test stands and other equipment in a manufacturing plant. The software connects to any machine, old or new, using the native MTConnect protocol or hardware adapters for older machines that permit them to communicate via MTConnect. MERLIN software generates numerous operational metrics and standard reports and automatically sends them to a variety of departments, cells and managers. Reports can be generated on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis through an email alert engine, including daily production, quality, constraints, throughput, operator and utilization metrics

MERLIN metrics and reports typically focus on a specific machine and display performance-based gauges and readouts that often resemble automobile speedometers. Other reports use graphs that compare all connected machines and are often based on a variety of critical metrics categories, such as uptime and stoppage.

The Industrial Ethernet 4000 Series Switches from Cisco offer an industrial machine connectivity solution for a secure, scalable way to connect machines to OEE platforms. The all-in-one 4000 switch supports the MTConnect open standard that’s used to track machine operation, utilization, and overall efficiency. It not only connects machines to OEE solutions, but it also provides security and computing capabilities. The switch’s technology resolves the problems typically associated with access, management and scalability so that both IT and manufacturing-operations people can work together to drive machine efficiency and visibility.

By combining MTConnect, MERLIN, and the 4000 switch, the SmartBox provides connectivity of machines and devices for enhanced monitoring and analytical capabilities, along with cybersecurity. The unit mounts to the side of a machine without the need for a direct connection to a machine’s electrical cabinet. With several standard input or connecting ports, this launch platform quickly and easily connects any standard off-the-shelf sensors to the system for machine-data gathering and condition monitoring. One SmartBox can serve several machine tools, along with other associated manufacturing equipment, depending on the application.

The unit offers network isolation that prevents unauthorized access from both directions, meaning to or from the machines and equipment on a network. It also satisfies the critical security concerns of IT departments when connecting legacy equipment to a plant’s main network for the purpose of gathering manufacturing data through the MTConnect protocol. The SmartBox is one of many innovative components in the dynamic iSMART Factory concept that enables complete digital integration of advanced manufacturing cells and systems to achieve free-flow data sharing in terms of process control and analytics. The iSMART Factory concept also incorporates Smooth Technology, a complete process-performance technology platform that represents a key first step towards digital factory integration and includes the various levels of the new Mazatrol Smooth CNC, as well as advanced machine hardware and servo systems.

Of the 65 machines, paint test stands, and other devices connected through MTConnect at the Kentucky factory, the initial complete installation of a machine-monitoring system encompasses SmartBoxes, six horizontal machining centers (HMCs) in an automated flexible manufacturing system, three other HMCs in a similar automated system, and six large bridge-type milling machines. This beta test section of the plant represents a cross-section of equipment and has helped establish a performance benchmark and related training protocols that easily expand across the entire machine-tool manufacturing plant.

Almost as soon as Mazak produced reports on its plant floor, the company experienced a six-percent increase in utilization. Without any other actions taken, these immediate gains resulted from operators simply being aware of how their time management affected machine utilization.

A series of 60 in display monitors presents real-time utilization data in the test section of the plant and cycles through a series of KPI reports that are viewable for short periods of time using MERLIN. The Cisco switch enables network isolation that creates a higher level of cybersecurity for enhanced machine monitoring and analytics. The majority of reports focus on a specific machine, and display performance-based gauges and readouts. Other reports compare all connected machines according to a variety of critical metrics, such as uptime and stoppages by category.

Almost as soon as Mazak produced reports on its plant floor, the company experienced a six percent increase in utilization. Without any other actions taken, these immediate gains resulted from operators simply being aware of how their time management affected machine utilization. To date, efforts to reduce downtime – as based on factory-floor report data – have yielded a more than double-digit percentage improvement in machine utilization for the monitored machines. As a result of this windfall machine capacity, the company reduced operator overtime by 100 hours per month and brought 400 hours per month of previously outsourced work back in house.

Also a first for Mazak, top management, as well as everyone across the company’s shop floor, has access to the same actionable reports and/or monitored data through mobile devices. Shop floor employees now have easy-to-interpret, visual report formats that give them at-a-glance information about how machine tool conditions are influencing efficiency. Bar graphs that summarize activity across several machines simultaneously inform supervisors and managers of trends useful for decision making and long-term planning, such as when additional operator training may be needed. The company is now fully aware of program stops, feed holds, spindle overrides, tool changes, and other reasons why a machine is idle. By analyzing collected data, personnel are able to identify and easily fix such downtime-related inefficiencies to improve overall utilization.

The company has also gained a security strategy for individuals outside its facility network as a result of the network isolation provided through the Cisco technology. Another new advantage is that individuals, such as equipment suppliers, can log on to Mazak’s network and have access to only those machines the company permits through SmartBox technology. But the most significant gain is their capability to perform predictive diagnostics through monitoring sensor packages on machines and other equipment. Instead of having to reconfigure an entire system’s network software (a past requirement for incorporating such sensors), the company now uses predictive diagnostics through a SmartBox, regardless of machine type, model, or age.

The results of the collaboration among Mazak, Memex and Cisco, utilizing the MTConnect standard, represent groundbreaking progress toward the total digital integration of factories, where access to real-time manufacturing data is used to improve overall productivity efficiency and responsiveness to customer and market changes.

Mazak Corporation, 8025 Production Drive, Florence, KY 41042, 859-342-1700,

Memex Inc., 3425 Harvester Road, #105, Burlington, ON L7N 3N1 Canada, 905-635-1540, Fax: 905-631-9640,

Cisco Systems, Inc., 170 West Tasman Drive, San Jose, CA 95134, 800-553-6387,

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MEMEX - Measuring Manufacturing Excellence Logo

Two New Devices Focus on Securely Accessing Data in Legacy Machines

April 202016 | Brett Brune | Smart Manufacturing magazine

A trio of Mazak, Memex and Cisco is beginning to sell SmartBox, a device meant to securely manage manufacturing data—information on axes, spindles, temperatures, cutting times, downtimes and part counts, for starters—culled from machines that have been laboring in a sort of silence for decades. At the same time, a pairing of Forcam and Wago plans to release a similar device it calls the PFC100 Industrial MTConnect device before July.

SmartBox uses I/O links to connect machines and produces MTConnect code in real time. It can use an adapter board from Memex and must be connected to a Cisco router, John Rattray, VP of sales and marketing at Memex, said in an interview with Smart Manufacturing magazine at the MC2 conference in Dallas. It can also use Memex’s factory- and machine-shop-floor-monitoring software, Merlin, to map existing signals and analyze and correlate the data so shops and plants can use it to improve productions.

Companies in the aerospace, defense and medical industries welcome the Cisco router requirement because it assuages their network security concerns, he added.

“We’re talking about IP connections in terms of Ethernet connections,” Rattray said. “You don’t need to have all the security in there to make the connection work. However, one customer of ours, DP Tool in New York, had experienced a situation where a guy who was maintaining a machine put in a USB stick into it and a virus on this USB stick spread to the company’s manufacturing network and whole admin network. It cost the company an enormous amount of effort and grief to get that fixed. You can run without security switches. But smart manufacturers are recognizing we need to secure and lock down our shop floor networks.”

The SmartBox has a “level three” managed switch that will shut the device down automatically if a USB stick comes its way or someone unplugs a particular Ethernet connection, Rattray added.

The emerging device from Forcam and Wago has a combined MTConnect adapter and agent inside the device, as well as a built-in security firewall for cybersecurity, Forcam USA Inc. CEO Mohamed Abuali said. He demonstrated a simulation model at MC2, saying it cost less than the trio’s device.

The Forcam/Wago product will cost less than $1,000, he said. And the Mazak/Memex/Cisco device will cost $4,000 on the low end but could be used on four machines, Mazak President Brian Papke said.

Companies using legacy CNCs will soon be able to choose between bolting their new data-retrieving device together with a Cisco network router or a “quicker solution that can connect to any network,” Abuali said. “The alternative [to these two options] is you have to retrofit the machine and upgrade the controller, which can cost thousands of dollars. In many cases, you cannot even retrofit.”

Both devices are intended to help manufacturers around the world connect their machines securely to a network. About 14.5 million machines still lack connectivity, Rattray said.

Of course, the idea is to then analyze the data to make the best decisions possible about manufacturing and machining processes. And some of those decisions can be made without human involvement, to be sure: “For instance, if a temperature sensor starts to rise above a threshold limit, the machine can send an alert and notify people before it fails,” he added.

Merlin lets companies “take data and make it manageable,” said Papke, who serves on the board for MTConnect. Otherwise, companies end up with “digital exhaust.”

“Forcam wants to define real-time production—from any machine of any age,” Abuali said. “That’s a critical state.”

Memex Chief Technology Officer Dave Edstrom is “very pleased to see more of these type boxes come out—because, as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships,” he said.

But he couldn’t stop himself from making a quick comparison with the offering from Forcam/Wago: “The integration of what Mazak is doing with the SmartBox, with Memex and Cisco—making it easier to connect—will resonate very well with manufacturing. You don’t have to sell someone on Memex’s ability to connect anything. And you don’t have to sell anyone on Cisco’s ability to network a lot of devices together and do it securely. So that’s why we think SmartBox is a game-changer.”

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Smarten Up

April 2016, Machine Metrics | Quality, Kip Hanson

When I started on the shop foor, machine tools were dumb. Communication levels weren’t determined by protocols or baud rates but by which machinist could yell the loudest. NC programs were loaded from paper tape, tool offsets made with a hammer, and part quality results recorded on handwritten forms.

What a change a few decades make. Today’s technology allows shops to monitor virtually every aspect of production, from what tools were changed yesterday to how many minutes the spindles sat idle last week to what jobs are running on which machines right now. So much has changed, in fact, that some say the next industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, is upon us.

Getting everyone on the same page

One proponent of this revolution is David McPhail, president of industrial communications platform provider Memex Inc., in Burlington, ON, who counts Mazak Corp. among key global customers for the company’s flagship product, Merlin. McPhail points to data driven manufacturing and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as two examples of the technology companies can leverage to improve productivity and part quality, if only they have the will to overcome fear of the unknown.

“Change of any kind is hard, especially when people don’t understand the technology behind it,” he says. “But when someone thinks to themselves, ‘if I don’t do anything, then there’s no risk,’ it brings about the worst kind of paralysis. Manufacturing companies must learn to embrace technology if they are to gain a competitive advantage.”

Those advantages are numerous. Lights out production, shorter lead times, improved tool life—the list goes on. One often-overlooked benefit of integrated machine communication is better part quality, says McPhail.

Towards a Service – Oriented Business with Connected Machines

March 7 , 2016 – Doug Bellin

Mazak Corporation is pulling ahead of its competitors with an innovative connected machine deployment. A global leader in the design and manufacture of machine tools, Mazak has partnered with Cisco and machine – to – machine solutions provider MEMEX Inc. to drastically improve digital integration across all its processes.

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NTMA – The Record

Kuss Filtration Deploys MERLIN IIOT Manufacturing Software in USA, China, Brazil Factories

March 2016 — NTMA- The Record,VOLUME 37 / NO. 3

In 2008, Cisco first used the term “Internet of Things”, or IoT, to describe the intelligent connectivity of smart devices by which objects can sense one another and communicate. The data shared between these devices offers the potential to profoundly change how, where and by whom decisions about our physical world are made.

Manufacturing companies craving competitive advantage are actively seeking ways to implement machine-to-machine connectivity their shop floors. They refer to this movement as the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT. IIoT adoption accompanies a changing of the guard in manufacturing plants. New managers consider technology an everyday appendage, not an exotic novelty. So while it’s true that there’s a herd mentality in manufacturing that can stifle innovation, it’s also true that the herd is starting to move.

So how do manufacturing companies adopt IIoT? It starts on the shop floor with technology that equips industrial machines with the necessary interfaces for connecting, collecting and analyzing manufacturing data. To do this they need a proven framework for plant-wide and multi-plant communications. That framework will in turn provide actionable information for machine operators, factory managers, engineers, production managers and senior management to dramatically improve productivity and profit.

Kuss Filtration Inc., a global filtration product OEM, has embraced IIoT with MERLIN Enterprise Edition for a multi-plant rollout of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) software. MERLIN will be used in Kuss factories in the USA, China, and Brazil. The purchase includes 43 licenses of MERLIN and is a follow-on to a 10-license sale in June of 2015.

MERLIN is an IIoT shop-floor-to-top-floor communications platform that connects industrial machines and provides manufacturing analytics in real-time. Specifically, MERLIN delivers a 10%-50% average productivity increase, and earns 20%-plus profit improvement based on just a 10% increase in Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). It consistently achieves payback in less than four months with an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) greater than 300%, and connects to any machine, old or new, utilizing native MTConnect, other protocols or MERLIN hardware adapters for older machines.

“Kuss is committed to quality through our operating management system and use of Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing techniques, which has earned us the ISO/TS 16949 certification in addition to many awards and recognitions for design, innovation and product excellence,” says Kuss Filtration’s President and CEO Hasnain Merchant. “MEMEX’s MERLIN has proven itself, and now we intend to enhance our manufacturing excellence and profitability with MERLIN in three of our factories.”

Kuss will use MERLIN to extend its reputation for unparalleled quality and innovation. The company has over 60 years of experience providing air and liquid filtration solutions to a diverse global market. Today, Kuss Filtration is comprised of six locations in the U.S., Brazil, Europe and China strategically placed to service its growing global customer base.

“Kuss Filtration is a great example of a world-class company embracing the power of our MERLIN communications platform,” says MEMEX CEO David McPhail. “MERLIN proves that the Industrial Internet of Things isn’t a theory. IIoT is an implement now competitive advantage for the smartest factories on the planet.”