What Would An Alien Think?

Yes, you read it correctly, alien, as in science fiction, visitors from another world, coming over to talk with humanity, perhaps just to exchange views on the galactic weather, or to set up an inter-stellar soccer league. Whatever the reason, imagine the surprise when the aliens reach Earth and find out that the seemingly dominant life form, after millennia of evolution, still cannot agree on a common language with which to communicate. Imagine their further surprise when they find out that rather than learning from their mistakes, the cream of humanity, of course represented by electronics manufacturing professionals, has perpetuated the problem into the world of automation, where a common language of communication also cannot be decided upon. Perhaps the aliens will think that we simply don’t like to communicate, so perhaps the idea of including Earth in the milky-way soccer tournament is not going to happen, yet.


As mankind has developed, we could be forgiven from the human language perspective. The world has until relatively recently been very large with different areas across the world being developed in relative isolation. The same could be said for the development of SMT and related automation, such as placement machines, with so many vendors of so many types of equipment from all over the world.

Today though, we are actually sending data around the whole world in a few milliseconds. We have brought technological standardization to devices like mobile phones, such that any handset from any vendor in use anywhere on the planet, can call and communicate to any other. Sounds good, until you realize that the guy who called you only speaks another language. Having a standard to move data from “A” to “B” is not enough. Different formats and content of data collected on the electronics manufacturing shop-floor remains as “garbage” in the cloud if not normalized into a common set of expressions.

Many of today’s standard communication protocols have been designed with flexibility and maximum scope application in mind, rather than managing data content. It is like they are containers with just a label on the side about what they contain, which may or may not be what you want.

The frustration is like that we used to have when plugging in a USB device into Windows of old, where though the device and connection and USB protocol were standard, the device was simply not recognized or usable without the installation of a device driver, which had to be installed before you plugged in the device…. oops! After years of pain, Windows no longer has this issue for most devices.

Imagine that we have a Smart Factory up and running, and we want to introduce a new machine into the site. Even if a physical connection could be made, unless the new machine uses the same protocol and language definitions, a whole lot of work is going to be necessary, probably with a lot of trial and error, before that machine can be included into the main operation of the factory.  It is all about plug and play, and this is the real value behind OML. Not only machine connections, manual process connections, but also all other supporting events and operations can be captured and neutralized. This is the ultimate plug and play enabler.

It is going to be a lot easier for aliens to learn OML, than having to learn the 6,500 or so spoken languages in the world today. Let’s learn from this, so that when we introduce an alien machine into our factory, we can just get on with it.

We invite an open discussion on this, and other topics in this community, via the forum. Please come in and voice your opinion, make yourself heard.