SFA meets 2017 Manufacturing Technology Trends

manufacturing technology trendsBeing a technology-related company, part of what we do is about keeping up with trends. We were definitely excited to see we meet the criteria of this beautifully articulated piece from the ARC Advisory Group on 2017 Manufacturing Technology Trends to watch for.

“The automation industry appears to be evolving at a faster rate right now than at any time in its history,” writes Craig Resnick of ARC, which is a research and consulting group that keeps up with industry changes, especially in terms of IIoT technology. “Commercial technologies continue to infiltrate the industrial automation space, especially wireless and mobility solutions.”

“One of the biggest end user challenges remains unscheduled downtime,” Craig says. ” IIoT-enabled solutions, such as remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, can help minimize, if not totally eliminate this, which would deliver a rapid ROI (return on investment).”

With machine monitoring solutions such as Predator MDC and Scytec’s DataXchange, as well predictive maintenance solution Bigfoot CMMS, we combat the issue of downtime and meet the needs that Craig mentions. It is also worth noting that DataXchange can be integrated with Bigfoot. As far as wireless and mobility solutions, we offer many hardware options, as well as many of our software options being able to be accessed via Smart phones and tablets, where you can receive notifications of any machine issues.

“The Industrial Internet of Things…offers tremendous potential to transform and improve business processes,” Craig continues. “But prospective end users need help to quantify and justify the associated investment, and – in some cases – the associated risk.”

If you need any help with convincing the decision maker of your shop floor to consider these solutions, or if you have doubts before you make these investments, give us a call today! We are toll-free at (877) 611-5825 and we also have a responsive chat feature on our website. We can also be contacted via social media.

 

Greg Mercurio interview with Manufacturing Tomorrow

Manufacturing Tomorrow Greg MercurioGreg here at Shop Floor Automations had an opportunity to speak to Manufacturing Tomorrow about how the manufacturing landscape is changing these days, Industry 4.0, as well as the concepts of machine monitoring and OEE. Here are some quotable bits from the Greg Mercurio interview in question:

“In a nutshell, we provide software and hardware solutions to manufacturing shop floors to help decrease downtime and improve OEE,” Greg said. “We help those working on shop floors gain extra time, productivity and profits.”

On Industry 4.0: “For years, the shop floor as been an island of its own and with the latest climate from the US government and other countries, more companies are seeking integration and connection to the corporate world.”

On how manufacturing will change in the new USA political landscape: “I think we’re going to be very busy in 2017 and hope that’s a trend that will build as time goes on.”

Greg Mercurio is President of Shop Floor Automations. He is a long-time resident of San Diego County and a family man. Shop Floor Automations will soon be celebrating two decades in business. 

To read the whole interview via Manufacturing Tomorrow, click here. You can also call us at (877) 611-5825, and we encourage you to share this article on social media

Hire a Professional Technician – It’s Worth It

shop floor cabling

Click on the photo above for a larger view

With the popularity of YouTube, Reddit, WebMD, and similar sites, we are definitely a culture obsessed with DIY (AKA “do it yourself”). While this is great for cooking or hobbies, it is not necessarily the answer for everything pertaining to a job focused on manufacturing production. Here are the top 3 reasons you should hire a professional technician when implementing manufacturing hardware and software solutions versus going it alone:

Reason 1: Don’t assume the price tag to consult with a professional is going to be outlandish. Take for instance the techs at SFA – you have the option of bringing them to your shop all over the USA, or getting a very affordable Support contract, where they can help you over the phone with a remote session. It’s sometimes as easy as them seeing a photo of the hardware that is having a problem, or having access to your screen where you are running into a software roadblock, and having it fixed within a half hour or less phone call. Some problems may take longer to fix, but wouldn’t it be nice to know it’s a problem that can be fixed without flying a technician out to you?

Reason 2: Hardware needs to be handled and wired a certain way. Your run of the mill computer and related products, such as a commercial wireless internet router and even commercial USB connectors/cables, are an entirely different entity compared to manufacturing hardware implements. Hardware for powerful and expensive manufacturing machines need to be wired and placed a certain way to help with baud rates, and manufacturing shop floor cabling (as you can read in this previous piece) are durable yet complex. It is best to let a technician install it for you, or tell you how to install and wire it over the phone, so you can ensure data will transfer correctly, you don’t potentially void a warranty, and that you also protect your investment.

Reason 3: Free up more time to get back to work, rather than struggling with something that is potentially foreign to you. You made a great decision in making an investment to increase productivity and OEE, and if you went with SFA, you have a group with years of experience behind you to help you in-person or over the phone. You’ve got a job to do, and so do we – and our job is to make yours easier. Why not take advantage of a Support team based in the USA that will actually pick up their phones or reply to emails?

Want more reasons why to use our technicians? Give us a call today at (877) 611-5825. You can also fill out a contact form here, or chat with us on social media.

Where is USA Manufacturing going?

made in the USA This is an archive of our January 2017 topical newsletter:

What exactly is going on with the welfare of American manufacturing? Are the horror stories of all our jobs going to robots and China unfounded? Here are two good pieces of news, and one factor we should consider, in regards to this industry in the USA:

1) Manufacturing jobs that were already in America continue to grow. With organizations such as Workshops for Warriors training a new workforce, and movements like MFG Day encouraging a younger generation to show interest in our industry, the seeds of growth are being planted. Bloomberg News also declares that manufacturing is the strongest it has been since August 2009, with notable improvements this past December.

2) Manufacturing jobs reported to be moved to America from overseas. There is talk of Apple moving production of iPhones to America, while a Chinese garment company that makes clothing for brands such as Armani, is definitely moving to America. There is also the infamous story of Ford canceling a factory in Mexico and instead, investing Millions into a Michigan facility. With these moves, more manufacturing jobs will be created to keep the Made in America movement growing.

3) Whatever is broken in this industry won’t be fixed overnight, is the hard truth. This article from The Economist is a fascinating read, as they point out that not all of America’s manufacturing problems are caused strictly by globalization. The President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing said it best “America felt left behind as manufacturing jobs disappeared, and no single election cycle can erase that,” said Scott Paul. “As President-Elect Trump prepares to take office, the question becomes how best to restore the American dream for our working people – and that path, for many, lies in the heart of a resurgent manufacturing sector.”

CONTACT US Toll Free: (877) 611-5825

Link to original newsletter HERE

Legacy SFA Blogs – Edition 4

shop floor automationsPreserving your history is important, whether it’s backing up your work on a computer or doing a complex archive project. At SFA, we are working every day to preserve our history as we approach two decades in business. We hope you enjoy these archived pieces of news from our Shop Floor Automations Blog! 

The premiere of the WiFi USB Connect made the weekly wrap up for MFG Talk Radio the week of October 28th. MoldMaking Technology also talked about the same product in their December 2016 issue (on page 43).

Modern Machine Shop had us in their publication twice this past Fall. They featured us in their November 2016 FABTECH section (look back to page 166), and they featured our ad on the Multi Connect in the September 2016 issue (page 246).

Back in August, Fabricating and Metalworking did a piece speaking about all of the solutions we were going to have at IMTS 2016. We also mentioned Moldmaking Technology earlier – they published a piece from us about why spreadsheets are no longer valuable to the manufacturing industry and why graphical job schedulers are a better ROI.

To wrap it up with something cool we saw this past holiday season – machine tool brand Okuma featured us in one of their blogs. They said our popular G-code shirt was one of the top 10 holiday gifts for machinists, and we are very flattered they thought to include us in their post!

We would love to increase your shop floor’s OEE and productivity. Call (877) 611-5825 or use the chat function on our site to see how we can help! 

Why Customers use DNC Software

dnc softwareWhat is DNC Software? Aiding in the process of Direct Numeric Control (sometimes considered Distributed Numeric Control), DNC software helps with total shop floor control. Via our DNC Communications page:

Manage your CNC programs, machine parameters, & offsets with DNC Software. Enjoy a wide range of CNC communication options from your PCs for drip-feeding, downloading, & bi-directional communication. Upload via parallel, RS232, RS422 Ethernet, & wireless Ethernet for thousands of CNC machines. With Microsoft Office®  & Windows® Explorer-compatible user interface (Windows 10 O/S supported), use familiar features for drag & drop, cut, copy, paste, shortcut menus, object-based menus, toolbars, tool tips, & available online help.

Improve CNC revision control while using existing ERP & MES bar-coded paperwork. Eliminate time wasted walking back & forth between your CNC & PC with a Remote Request function. Consider a 32-Bit, Multi-thread, Multi-tasking, Open-Architecture DNC Software solution that works wired & wirelessly. Simplify operations with one network for all of your CNC machines, Robots, PLCs, & part makers, grouped by building or cell.

Now that we have a window into what DNC Software can do, why do some customers use DNC Software?

My old CNC communication network had failed. I could not send files to my CNC sometimes for hours, then it would randomly work. Because of the intermittent failure, we kept trying for a long period of time to keep using our old system. After measuring the time loss for system failure, it was clear we needed to change it out. Now we can even send files via DNC which before did not work as it was supposed to have. –Michael, MiniMachine

Our programs were so large that we couldn’t download them onto our machines, so we started using a drip-feeding system from you guys. Then, we changed over from there to now doing a data server on our machines, but we’re still using your guys’ software (DNC through SFA) to build all of our programs.  -Josh, HRE Wheels

Our DNC system is running so well, that after over 2 years, I have moved the keyboard and monitor off my desk and into a corner. It requires no maintenance and provides us with a trouble-free system. – Mark, Tech Manufacturing

We were trying to control over 8000 programs, revision levels, and updates – the Predator system was recommended to help minimize the man hours and mistakes of doing this manually. We installed DNC and a CNC Editor, and have had no downtime with full control. CMW currently manages approximately 8000 part programs. The system seems to be indestructible – we have had no problems. -Wayne, Carroll Machine

I sought out SFA mainly for DNC for our CNC machines. We have experienced faster, easier file transport. -Daniel, Benét Laboratories for the US ARMY

We needed to be able to communicate our CNCs and improve the ability of our mill. I’ve been using DNC through you for a long time.  -Shane, Power Repair Service Inc

We were looking for a system that would communicate through a wireless network, so we could get rid of the switch box and old wires running all over the machine shop. DNC Software helped us eliminate our old switch box…The customer support was great. They were very supportive and fixed errors quick when we had a couple of problems. -Rajikumar, Nell Joy Industries

Read more customer reviews on DNC, and other products from SFA, by clicking here. Look at our free DNC software resources to give it a dry run by clicking here, or if you are ready to make a purchase, call us at (877) 611-5825. 

Comfort for Cloud Technology Concerns

machine monitoring

Click graphic for a larger view

If you use cloud-based machine monitoring or have been thinking about it due to the affordable cost of it, there is likely one big question on your mind: what happens to my data?

We have provided a configuration graphic for your reference in this blog about where exactly the data is pulled from, where it goes, and how it gets back to you. Other than this concern of how the data is grabbed and presented, there are a few other concerns people can have with using a service that is cloud-based versus on premise. Let’s explore those concerns here:

What is the cost and what kind of commitment do I need to make?
The $45 per machine, per month option from machine monitoring solution DataXchange has been a very attractive addition to many shop floors. The best part is that this monthly option does not require a long-term commitment, and it includes software updates, plus support.

Paying as you go is a great option for customers to feel if at any time it is not working for them, they can try something else. It also allows them more financial freedom to invest money into other areas of their business, such as marketing or hiring more people to fill the manufacturing skills gap.

I am uncomfortable with my data not being only on my company’s network. From the 2015 International Conference on Computational Science, a study on the sources of uncertainty in Cloud technology state that the biggest parameters of uncertainty are effective performance, bandwidth, available memory, and the number of processors available via the Cloud technology provider. DataXchange meets the demand of all these needs.

The study also stated that Cloud tech which has load balancing and adaptive scheduling, and explaining these concepts in detail, can help those with uncertainty in committing to the Cloud. With DataXchange being developed from over 15 years of experience in creating OEE software solutions, they have thought ahead to meet consumer uncertainties when it comes to the valuable data of customers.

A publication called Enterprise Tech also states that Global IT spending should increase close to 3 percent in 2017 – the projected $3.46 Trillion spent this year on worldwide IT is in part due to the Cloud infrastructure being so significant, as time goes by.

What existing results are out there that can convince me to adopt Cloud monitoring?

Shop Floor Automations has been a trusted reseller of Scytec’s cloud-based machine monitoring through DataXchange for years. You can read this case study about how one manufacturer used DataXchange through Shop Floor Automations for a 10 percent efficiency increase in just over two years.

Cloud-based machine monitoring has helped many of our customers. One such manufacturer has even been able to run their existing five-axis CNC machines for 24 hours at a time at increased productivity, rather than feeling the need to invest in more machines to achieve their production goals. That definitely speaks to the trust of this Cloud-based program!

If you are interested in learning more about cloud-based machine monitoring, or any kind of machine monitoring software, please contact us today! We are available at (877) 611-5825 or you can reach us via this website’s chat function, as well as on social media

 

The Case for Change: Automation & IIoT

manufacturing technology trendsEmbracing manufacturing shop floor automation and the Internet of Things (IoT), or in our case, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), will help the American manufacturing sector as it tries to keep pace with the millions of MFG jobs that need filling. Implementing automation tactics such as machine monitoring, DNC software, job scheduling, CMMS, and more, does not intend to replace people who could do these jobs, but rather to make up for the fact that there is a sufficient skills gap in manufacturing. These tools also help to make the jobs of those who are still in this industry, or just entering it, more efficient and easy.

NIST (the National Institute of Standards for Technology) stated on a study previously published on their site that “intelligent automation systems could make greater contributions to US manufacturing” and also provides many factors as to why automation, and yes, increasing Robot density level (Robots per ever 10,000 manufacturing workers) can benefit the Made in America movement. Especially considering that in 2008, we had 4.7 workers per every retiree in this country, but by 2050, it is projected to drop to 2.7 workers per retiree, which will no doubt effect the manufacturing sector.

An article from Information Week regarding the aging workforce encouraging the IoT movement stated in a piece that “small companies need technical support to implement new technologies.” Aside from Government measures such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Commitees, there is also the significance placed on the willingness of businesses to take the leap to embrace new tech. The George Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute did a 2012 survey of Georgia manufacturers and while 24% of these shops said technical skills are an issue, 27% also said they were not willing to spend funds on employee training. Adding certain automation tools that are quick to learn could benefit both these issues, as they can often be more affordable than expected.

The benefits of IIoT towards lean manufacturing should also be considered. “Applying the industrial internet of things (IIoT) enables new means for removing waste,” says the ARC Advisory Group, responding to an inquiry from tech publication Ziff Davis. “For example, IIoT can be applied to equipment for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. Maintenance is performed when needed rather than on a fixed time period, which can reduce maintenance costs by 50%.”

The bottom line here is that embracing IIoT and automation on manufacturing shop floors is just a natural progression of how this industry is changing. In the 1700s and 1800s, we had manual machines for manufacturing. The 1940s were when we were first introduced to NC (numeric control) machines, then we gained CNC (computer numeric control) machines. Each time these new innovations came around, it was likely a culture shock, but embracing these changes has made our industry what it is. It’s time to keep moving.

If you are interested in how automation and the IIoT can help your shop floor, we would love to help! Call (877) 611-5825 or contact us via one of our social media channels.

New Shop Floor Man Comics

shop floor man

Click to see the whole comic

Shop Floor Man, our manufacturing comic book hero, has been on some new adventures since we last posted the Halloween strip here on our blog. Let’s see what other machinist hijinks he has gotten up to, since we last left off.

Since the holidays just passed us, it was natural that this time of year entered into Shop Floor Man’s realm. In this strip, we learned the real reason why machine monitoring was implemented into our cartoon protagonist’s shop. Santa always knows when someone is doing something naughty, even on a manufacturing shop floor!

Then today, we saw that Shop Floor Man looks to have made a New Years Resolution by replacing complicated, antiquated job scheduling techniques with graphical job scheduling. This is sure to save him lots of time and aggravation.

If there are any manufacturing or machinist themed adventures you would like to see Shop Floor Man explore in future comics, we would love to hear from you!

Contact us here, or via one of our social media channels. We are also available at Toll Free at (877) 611-5825. Remember – our solutions are better than our comics.

3 Reasons Not To Buy a New CNC Machine Tool

cnc machine tool With the start of a New Year, you may be thinking about purchasing a new CNC machine tool, or tools, for your shop floor to help with productivity. You may be of the mindset that a brand new machine would be great, similar to the feeling of buying and sitting in a brand new car, but there are three factors to consider as to why buying a new machine right now is not the best time:

Repurposing money for a new machine into helping fill the manufacturing skills gap is a wiser move. With a huge portion of this industry retiring from the workforce within the next decade, the loss is definitely being felt. With a younger workforce slowly coming on board, the solution may seem to be to invest in newer equipment, similar to what the new work force is bring trained on.

The issue here is that buying a new machine, which can cost five to six figures, especially more if you are investing in multiple machines, is money that is being spent on tools. What about the people who work on the tools? Especially if you are leasing new equipment, it will be hard to pay it off with less of a work force.

The best strategy would be to spend thousands of dollars not on new machine tools, but on a new workforce. Giving them solutions to make legacy machines operate more smoothly has the potential to help production surpass goals, as well as keeping the Made in America manufacturing workforce afloat.

New machine sales haven’t been prevalent in over two years. According to EDA, a data-driven market insight company, there was a huge spike in buying or leasing new machines between 2000 and 2001, with a minimum of 2k machines sold per month between August 2000 and January 2001. February 2002 was when new machine sales/leasing finally dipped below 1k units per month.

machine purchase

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This event seemed to trigger a trend for low sales of new machines until October 2003, when sales started to recover. Sales and leasing of new machines hit a healthy stride until January of 2009, sales significantly dropped.

Since that point, sales and leasing of new machines has been up and down – new machine sales or leasing has not surpassed 2k per month since December of 2014. Sales or leasing of used machines has always been consistent, and even surpassed new machines once in 2001, for half of 2002, more than half the year in 2003, once in 2009 and once as recently as October 2015.

Leveraging the tools you already have saves time and money. Adding supplements to the tools and equipment you already have will save you precious time, teach you new skills, plus the benefit of money being saved by not buying new machines or losing production time by staying with what you have and not changing it.

Time spent by manually tracking data or using spreadsheets for job scheduling can be replaced with machine monitoring or graphical schedulers. Instead of hoping programs send to machines or dealing with programs too large to download to machines, use DNC software to drip-feed (it will also save you the time from going back and forth to the PC, or bringing your laptop all around the shop). If you are constantly replacing cabling due to a caustic shop floor environment, maybe now is the time to go wireless.

If you are interested in more info, we invite you to give us a call or chat with us on our site. Call (877) 611-5825 and make the most of your New Years shop floor resolutions today!