MTConnect is the open-source set of standards that aims to create a common platform upon which controls, devices and software interconnect and communicate with each other. Think of the standardization of thread sizes and its impact on our economy and manufacturing in the early 20th century, and you'll understand MTConnect's potential to turn all aspects of manufacturing on its ear.
Up until now, shop floors and plants reflect the disjointed state of manufacturing in general - machine tools, coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), work- and tooling-automation devices, robots, computer numeric controls (CNCs) and all manner of equipment and tools operate mainly independent of each other. For example, to create cellular manufacturing solutions is labor and data intensive. Data collection and retrieval of legacy performance metrics are, at best, automated but compartmentalized.
What MTConnect could do is allow any machine, control, equipment or business built on it's platform and with an Internet connection to share data, accept instructions or corrections, and communicate with any like-empowered entity. It is fulfilling one of the most important promises the Internet first offered manufacturing.
"MTConnect is a basic first step in linking shop floor technologies and moving towards the goal of seamless manufacturing operation. By establishing an open and extensible channel of communication for plug-and-play interconnectivity between devices, equipment and systems, MTConnect allows sources to exchange and understand each other’s data. That common communication is facilitated by using widely accepted XML and Internet Protocol technology to provide managers with near real-time data from throughout a factory. This thus empowers them to develop applications aimed at providing more efficient operations, improved production optimization and increased productivity."
For a live example of MTConnect in action, check out the MTConnect Demo section, where a collection of various technologies utilizing the MTConnect protocols can be monitored online.
AMT - the founding organization of MTConnect - has also created the MTConnect Institute, a non-profit group established to further the cause and which includes an advisory group and technical steering committee.
Pay these guys a visit. Lend 'em some support. This is what innovation looks like. It also looks a lot like your future, regardless of where or how you serve manufacturing.