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Data Beyond Your Business

The internet opens a whole new way to think about data sources, raising concerns about network security and data validity. Learn about the two major ways to access such data: accessed and transferred in bulk for storage; and accessed on demand.
Sep 22, 2023

Data is the foundation of a digital manufacturing system. Incorporating data from sources beyond your business can significantly enhance the potential benefits a company can gain from the investment in your manufacturing infrastructure.

The internet opens a whole new way to think about data sources. This raises concerns about network security and the validity of data retrieved from these sources. However, the benefits of using these data sources correctly can be substantial. One of the greatest benefits is that someone else generates and maintains the data. You can usually access the data for free or for a reasonable access/maintenance fee.

Access to data from external sources falls into two major categories: data accessed and transferred in bulk for storage within your system; and accessed on demand.

Data accessed from the first type of external source may be valuable, but using data in this form is not ideal. Concerns with using this type of data source include:

  • Is the data up to date? It was the best data available when uploaded, but you usually cannot determine if or when it becomes outdated.

  • To stay current, someone (manually or automatically) must periodically keep uploading fresh data sets to your system. If that data must be manipulated or configured for use in your system, that effort must be repeated each time the data is updated.

  • This type of data requires computer, database, and/or storage resources to store and manage the data retrieved from these sources – an added expense.

The preferred method for accessing data from external sources is “on demand.” In this case, your digital manufacturing system directly accesses data from the source when it is needed. In this case, the external source appears to be a digital manufacturing system, as though the data is located within your facility. The value of this approach for accessing data from an external source is that you always have the latest data available from that source, and very little of your computer and network resources are required to access that data.

The same concerns about data accuracy, validity, and semantics must be applied to data sourced from external sources as they would be for any other data.

Other factors to be considered when relying on external sources include the following:

  • What are the commercial terms associated with accessing each data source?

  • Are there initial or reoccurring costs associated with each data source?

  • How reliable are these data sources? Will they always be available?

  • What is required to transform the external data into a form that works for your business?

  • What security functions need to be implemented to ensure that the interface to these data sources cannot be compromised?

It is incumbent on implementers of digital manufacturing systems to creatively assess all data sources that may provide value to your business.

Some online sources for data include:

  • Cutting Tool, Gauge, and Probe Data/Specifications

  • Equipment Operation and Maintenance Procedures

  • Local Utilities – Energy and Water Consumption

  • Material Specifications and Safety Data Sheet

  • Environmental and Weather Data

There is no lack of data sources to feed the decision processes in your digital manufacturing systems. The key for any implementation is to thoroughly evaluate all available internal and external data sources that can provide value to your business.

You can take a deeper dive and uncover more details about data and data sources for a digital manufacturing information system in AMT’s digital manufacturing white paper “Digital Manufacturing: Data Sources.”

John Turner
Director of Technology for FA Consulting & Technology (FAC&T) and member of the MTConnect Institute.
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