Last month we held a hackathon with Skyline Technologies, a Wisconsin-based company that specializes in building solutions for the manufacturing sector. Roughly one-quarter of the jobs in that region are in manufacturing. The manufacturing industry is already experiencing a revolution with the introduction of highly intelligent machines, self-service business intelligence, and role-based displays.

At Microsoft, we wanted to help build an end-to-end solution that would make the next generation of manufacturing software easier to use. Skyline seemed like the logical choice. They have a track record for building successful manufacturing projects on Windows Azure. Recently, Skyline completed a large-scale project for Trek Bicycle, saving the bicycle manufacturer over $15,000 a month. Skyline went on to be recognized as the 2013 Central Region Azure Partner of the Year.

Together, we are creating a Windows 8 front-end to provide role-based displays for manufacturing employees. The solution uses key elements of Windows Azure to let customers efficiently collect, store, and analyze the data from thousands of manufacturing facilities, and provides the user with a natural user interface to get information quickly and with minimal training.

It was great to see the level of commitment of Skyline employees. At the end of the hackathon, teams demonstrated convention-based configuration, Azure Storage for data persistence, Reactive Extensions for real-time reactive processing, authentication/authorization with Windows Azure Active Directory, and a Windows 8 display capable of receiving real-time updates from a virtual factory.

We're not stopping there. Development is on-going and another weekend hackathon will take place in just a few short weeks. Developers are anxious to see the project come together as a demonstration of the power of Azure, .NET, and Windows.

When phase 1 is completed, the source code will be released under the Microsoft Public License. It uses dependency injection and is highly decomposable and extensible. Developers can use as little or as much of the framework as they see fit.

Thank you to Skyline for a successful collaboration showing how we can build the applications for tomorrow’s industry.

An introduction to the manufacturing project is available here, and Jason Young will have an on-going series of posts about manufacturing, the framework, and the underlying technologies.