'Industrial internet of things', 'cloud computing', 'MTConnect', and 'big data' are a few terms manufactures are increasingly seeing in industry magazines and hearing at trade shows. The manufacturing industry has always been slow and thoughtful when it comes to adopting new technologies. Equipment is expensive, payback periods long, and employee training barriers stymie implementation. New technologies are often fragmented and proprietary, forcing users to wait and see which technology providers look like they will survive for the long term and support their products.
Because of the above reasons, and many more, the manufacturing industry is known to have a 6-10 year technology adoption and upgrade cycle. In contrast, the consumer electronics industry adopts and upgrades on a less than 2 year cycle.
Despite the long adoption cycles being based in reason, these market forces are killing our industry. Great companies are formed out of great new technology ideas and products – but no startup can survive a 6-10 year wait. Other industries with faster adoption times are teeming with new ideas, businesses, and markets. Silicon Valley is an example of the logarithmic growth an industry can see when it's so easy for a new company to sell its crazy and innovative products to new customers.
Without risking our livelihoods, how can we make the manufacturing industry an easier place for new technologies to flourish? Standardization. Just as tool taper standardization helped the industry test and adopt new tooling technologies with low monetary risk, data standardization will help us do the same with new software. Easy shop monitoring, predictive maintenance, easy robotic integration, smart just-in-time manufacturing systems and countless other technologies are in reach.
Data standardization is already with us in the form of MTConnect, an open standard for gathering data from manufacturing equipment.
Look for our next blog post on how exactly MTConnect can help your shop. In the meantime, check out the awesome resources on MTConnect.org!
-Eric Fogg, MachineMetrics COO