TALKING TECH : Mazak iCONNECT – Industry 4.0 in practical format


In discussion with contributing editor Steed Webzell, Greg Cocks, Senior Manager – European Sales Engineering at Mazak Europe, reveals all about the company’s new iCONNECT online service

With a growing need for manufacturers to centralise the management of their various machine tool information sets, Mazak is introducing iCONNECT, a new online platform that delivers highly practical customer service functions through digital connectivity. Accessible to registered Mazak customers, iCONNECT provides a host of user benefits, including remote machine diagnostics, monitoring and maintenance, as well as professional training resources.

The development of iCONNECT was no small task. In the first instance, as one of the biggest machine tool builders in the world, Mazak has a sizeable customer base. Providing these customers with quick and easy access to their Mazak information, while adhering to relevant regulations and ensuring complete system security, was a challenge, but one the company was determined to get right. The goal was to deliver a practical, useful, cost-effective online customer service tool.

“Our approach was very much based on ‘voice of the customer’, where we went to great efforts to find out what our users actually wanted from iCONNECT,” states Greg Cocks, senior manager – European sales engineering at Mazak Europe.

Various service levels
So, what can iCONNECT provide? Well, three service levels are available, not dissimilar to Amazon Prime membership in terms of structure: a free web service for registered users that provides access to a number of useful customer service features; a subscription service (called M2M) that offers an additional set of higher-level services; and in future the option to make one-off payments for access to even more options.

Users of the free service can look at machine manuals and download their service information and spare part ordering, for example. They can also access FAQs and download free trials of production support software. Further features at this level include the ability to view maintenance videos, engage in online chats with Mazak representatives and access an e-learning catalogue containing training materials.

“You can see whether the machine is currently running; the 24-hour utilisation log of that machine; the program in use; the machine’s operating parameters; the tools in cut; alarm status; and much more,” explains Mr Cocks. “Imagine you are a small business owner who runs shifts. With iCONNECT you can easily monitor the utilisation of machines from home. For example, what state are the override buttons; is everything running at 100%; is an operator in front of the machine? You can also perform a CNC back-up, uploading your control parameters and programs to the cloud.”

The M2M subscription model connects customers’ machines securely to a cloud server via Cisco IoT hardware. Another option is remote support, where Mazak can dial into the machine’s control and talk the customer through a new application or support a maintenance task. There is also a spindle analysis function and much more. Moving forward, Mazak will continue growing the advanced service functions available on iCONNECT.

For practical purposes
“With all iCONNECT services, including the free ones, it’s about the practical application of the technology, rather than buzzwords that don’t really mean anything to most within the machining community,” says Mr Cocks. “When developing iCONNECT we had to think about how the services would benefit our customers, how they would make machines more efficient, and how users could make more money from their investment.”

The highly secure iCONNECT is currently in the roll-out phase and will go live towards the end of the summer, when all Mazak customers will be able to register for access.

“We’ve taken a careful and methodical approach to furnishing iCONNECT with functions that customers actually need – at the lowest possible cost supported with industrial-grade hardware – so they can see a clear return on their investment in this technology,” concludes Mr Cocks. “We’re already seeing an eagerness from customers to on-board quickly, so we anticipate high uptake.”

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