Northampton startup hopes to give manufacturers an ‘Edge’ on productivity

  • Bill Bither, co-founder of MachineMetrics, explains how the live feed from the green box known as the Edge is displayed on a laptop and provides data on the efficiency of each running machine. Behind is Graham Immermar, the director of marketing. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bill Bither, co-founder of MachineMetrics, explains how the how the live feed is displayed machine and provides data on the efficiency of each running machine. Behinds is Graham Immermar, the director of marketing. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bill Bither, co-founder of MachineMetrics, explains how the how the live feed is displayed machine and provides data on the efficiency of each running machine. Behinds is Graham Immermar, the director of marketing. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bither shows how the live feed is displayed on a machine shop’s floor, giving data on the efficiency of each running machine. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bill Bither, co-founder of MachineMetrics, explains how the how the live feed is displayed machine and provides data on the efficiency of each running machine. Behinds is Graham Immermar, the director of marketing. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A operator’s view of the data from MachineMetrics which tells how each machine is running and allows them to provide feedback. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/30/2018 11:14:40 PM

NORTHAMPTON — At VSS Inc., a Greenfield contract manufacturer of components for the aerospace and defense industries, data from its machines, displayed on large screens in the factory, provide information about whether production goals are being met.

“The real-time running tool allows me to see at any given moment how the shop or individual machine is doing,” says Marc Eckstrom, the company’s production control manager.

Extracting these performance data, and making them useful to the company, is the result of software and equipment from MachineMetrics, a four-year-old Northampton-based startup that is at the forefront of using data science and artificial intelligence to increase productivity and efficiency in manufacturing.

“We’re the only company using this data to give feedback to our customers for them to do better,” MachineMetrics CEO and co-founder William Bither said. “It’s predictive analysis using data science.”

The benefits for companies like VSS, which use what’s known as computer numerical control machining to make metal and plastic parts, is illustrated in MachineMetrics recently receiving $11.3 million in venture capital funding.

Aaron Fleishman, principal at Tola Capital, which led the round of funding, said in a statement that real-time shop floor visibility is a first step toward the digital transformation of manufacturing.

“Manufacturers have to digitize if they want to remain globally competitive,” Fleishman said.

And the new funding will allow MachineMetrics to continue its growth, anticipating that its workforce, both in Northampton and satellite offices, will double from about 25 to 50 employees over the next year.

Already, the company is moving its world headquarters from the increasingly tight space on the second floor of a Strong Avenue building to the Coolidge Center building at 47 Pleasant St.

Bither, who started his career at United Technologies in Connecticut and founded his first software company, Atalasoft, in 2000, recalls seeing white boards at manufacturers where information was collected, but not extracted directly from the computer-guided machines.

“I wanted to make a big impact in industry,” Bither said. “I saw a huge opportunity in manufacturing, which produces the most data but has the least digital penetration. The big problem we saw was that data was not being leveraged on the machine.”

Bither spent several years perfecting the hardware element, called the “Edge,” which is easily connected to machines, then transmits data to the cloud and provides the real-time information on the screens, tablets and smartphones.

“The dashboard displays in real time if the machine is running and displays production goals versus what is being produced on the floor,” Bither said.

He calls this the “internet moment” for manufacturing.

“Because we’re pulling data from thousands of machines, we’re able to gain a unique understanding of their problems,” Bither said, observing that the program can tell a company if something is wrong with the machines, and instructions to deal with the problem, potentially saving wear and tear. “These insights are delivered back to our customers so they can take action to gain a competitive edge.”

“We develop the solution that can provide necessary visibility into their production,” said Graham Immerman, director of marketing for MachineMetrics.

Immerman said surveys show manufacturers typically only getting 70 to 80 percent production. By embracing MachineMetrics, he said, they can stay competitive and become more productive. “Without data, they are just flying blind,” Immerman said.

VSS, formerly Valley Stamp Steel, is one of four customers in what Bither says is the “aerospace corridor,” with two others in Greenfield and one in Holyoke, along with a growing number of companies, including Fastenal, Snap-On Tools and Shiloh Automotive,

Bither credits Steve Capshaw, president at VSS, as an early adopter. He worked closely to build out the first version for MachineMetrics that was brought to market in 2016.

Though it can seem “big brother-ish,” Eckstrom said use of the data put expectations on all company employees to meet goals. “It’s created an onus on the employees to be more successful,” Eckstrom said.

MachineMetics has 15 developers all day focused on writing software for the different machines, which have different protocols. Bither said the company will be hiring more programmers, but he expects to eventually tap out the talent in the Pioneer Valley.

Still, he doesn’t anticipate having any other place to call home.

“This will become a global company starting in Northampton,” Bither said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy