Honda Meets Mazak

Neil Desrosiers, applications engineer – MTConnect specialist at Mazak

I recently had the honor to speak at the 13th Annual Lean Network Conference and Exhibition in Columbus, Ohio. The event is, for the most part, an internal Honda conference with attendees from several of its manufacturing facilities. Also in attendance were some of Honda’s supplier companies and other special guests and presenters.

As a guest presenter for software provider Memex Automation, who was exhibiting at the event, I spoke about Mazak’s use of MTConnect and Memex software and the key roles both play in our Mazak iSMART Factory™ concept.  My presentation was entitled “Building the Mazak iSMART Factory™,” and its focus was on Mazak’s work toward fully digital-integrated manufacturing operations, both here in the States and Japan.

My goal was to expose Honda engineers to how, as part of our Mazak iSMART Factory™, we have implemented what we call Pure MTConnect. Pure in the fact that all the devices – including sensors – intended to be monitored are using MTConnect, as opposed to other protocols. This ensures quick, easy and seamless future system growth and expansion beyond that of simple utilization tracking.

Practically all those in attendance of my presentation were Lean experts. And with many being manufacturing engineers along with those in quality and other engineering sectors, they were well aware of what to do with data and what they wanted in terms of manufacturing factory analytics. But what I realized was lacking was an ability to capture that data live through a secure network.

Discussions centered around how to collect the data when there are 20 or more different brands of equipment, along with legacy equipment in one facility alone. Everyone wants to conduct overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) studies, but they lack the raw data and they wish to automate the collection of it from various facilities.

Currently, those individuals on the Honda factory floor are tracking/providing the data, but it’s typically as much as seven or more working days old. There is no real-time analytics, and the delay in data skews the overall picture and slows reaction time to shop floor dynamics.

It wasn’t the Lean concepts or data analysis the attendees needed, it was the physical aspects in terms of how to connect equipment and automate the data collection process then study that data and determine target improvements. My presentation showed how MTConnect together with Memex’s Merlin software and hardware boards accomplish all those objectives at Mazak.

In addition to data collection, my presentation addressed the issue of networking and the security of legacy equipment. Because all equipment is interconnected, companies such as Honda voiced concern about how to prevent compromising the security of its internal network.

The event was a meeting in the middle, so to speak. Honda’s level of Lean was at one end of the spectrum, and Mazak’s level of connectivity at the opposite end. Honda has the systems in place; they just need to tie it all together with software such as Merlin.

Third party monitoring has been around forever, but each system had its own ‘black box’ operability tied into specific products. So for a shop with ten different machines, there would be that many individual black box systems/products collecting the data. MTConnect boils that down to one very flexible system, and any data management software could be used, as long it is compatible with the protocol to collect not only utilization data but also equipment health data.

In automated manufacturing applications, the interconnectivity of MTConnect allows machines to ‘read’ the status of a robot and vice versa. Picture a multiple machine cell with several robots doing the loading and unloading. The machines, in this instance, can actually pick and choose the robot that loads them based on information obtained by monitoring robot activity. For example, one machine knows that a certain robot been having problems with dropping parts – all based on gripper alarms that have occurred – and select a different robot to use.

This ‘dynamic logic’ is the next plateau for MTConnect. Machines actually making informed decisions based on real-time data happening all day long.

For those shops wishing to ease into MTConnect, Mazak offers what it calls its Demo Dashboard package. It’s a cost-effective monitoring solution minus the calculations, analytics and data storage of full-blown data management software packages. Whether a mom-and-pop job shop or 150-person factory, our dashboard gives them a simple form of machine monitoring and an affordable way to get their feet wet in the MTConnect pool.

Our software runs on a PC and displays a simple dashboard that shows the raw real-time live status of any two MTConnect-compatible machines or pieces of equipment. The ideal dashboard application is out on the shop floor and for self-managing operations. We also offer licenses for the software, so a shop could monitor an unlimited number of machines and equipment.

We’ve recently taken our concept one step further and created a Maintenance Dashboard. This one collects only health information/data from the same machines within the Demo Dashboard network. So, with both dashboards, a shop can see which of its machines are experiencing PLC alarms or conditions that need immediate attention. Plus, the shop’s maintenance department can configure the dashboard to send out email notices to the proper personnel in the event of such alarms or conditions.

Whether you’re a small shop or Honda, companies today must track or measure manufacturing operations to improve them. And MTConnect makes it easy and efficient to do so.

For all those eager to learn more, Mazak encourages you to attend Neil Desrosier’s MTConnect Boot Camp. Go to

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 Mazak 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 or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.