Helping Machinists Cope with Work Stress

Are you creating stressed out machine operators, and not even aware of it?

machinist stress relief sourcesThe manufacturing industry is experiencing a lot of growth, but it is also creating a demand for machinist stress relief resources. According to an interesting article in the August 2017 issue of MetalForming Magazine, 52% of workers say they are stressed on a daily basis and 60% say their work-related pressure has increased in the past 5 years. This information no doubt reflects on a newly revitalized manufacturing field.

“Workers shouldn’t suffer in silence,” quotes Bill Driscoll in the press release, who is a district President for Robert Half’s Accountemps program. “A stressed employee can have detrimental effects on the department or company, including decreased morale and productivity.”

There are internal actions you can take, such as team building exercises or casual weekly/monthly meetings to address issues. Otherwise, here are some of the concerns your workers have which can be addressed with the help of a manufacturing integrator:

Concern #1 – Heavy workloads: While heavier workloads in manufacturing can mostly be attributed to trying to fill a skills gap, there are ways you can help your machinists get their work done faster, even while short-handed. Machine monitoring software can be used to increase OEE by monitoring machine utilization. DNC software can be used to help with CNC communication failures, which can cause downtime. A good alternative for DNC if you have a smaller shop or want to make a smaller initial investment is using USB connect hardware for drip-feeding. Using CNC Editor software can help to ensure programs are correct and prevent operators from having to manually manage/compare files.

Concern #2 – Looming deadlines: Deadlines are crucial in manufacturing. When spreadsheets are used to track jobs on the shop floor, the information is inaccurate and the time it takes to manually update the sheets is a waste of time. When a machine goes down, it can also be hard to accurately shuffle around the production jobs needing to be done at the last minute. Using a graphical production planning software system, AKA job scheduling software, will help machinists see in real-time how moving jobs effects all other jobs and it can help with utilization.

Concern #3 – Unrealistic manager expectations: Before you get defensive, this is merely us being the messenger. If workers already feel overwhelmed with problems 1 and 2, then if you give them more work, they are going to feel as if they are being given unrealistic guidelines to work with. What can you do, in order to understand your operator’s concerns? Ask the machinists to share the data with you from the tools mentioned above. Look at real-time effects of moving jobs on the shop floor, or see what is happening with OEE. These tools are not only for your workers, but they will help make you a better boss!

If you want more information on any of the solutions above to help your operators feel less stressed on the job, please fill out a contact form or call us at (877) 611-5825. 

 

October 2017 Shop Floor Automations Case Study

Our favorite part of the job is learning the results our customers get after integrating our productivity solutions.

In this new Shop Floor Automations case study, our customers at Stollen Machine talk about how our hardware helped combat downtime.

shop floor automations case study

Thanks to Stollen Machine’s Instagram Account for this photo of the MMS article

In this October 2017 case study published in Modern Machine Shop, Doug at Stollen Machine says his inferior cabling was causing communication issues with his machines. After researching and weighing the pros/cons, he decided to go with our Wireless Connect devices in his multi-generation shop.

Investing in six hardware devices from Shop Floor Automations helped to replace an old system that wreaked havoc on Stollen Machine’s shop floor. The study found that they were able to get back 15% more time daily, which is invaluable in the manufacturing process.

Hardware isn’t the only way we help customers, either. Another customer of ours, Tech Manufacturing, attributes using machine monitoring through Shop Floor Automations for helping with overall productivity just by monitoring utilization. With many other solutions on hand, we look forward in the future to sharing more of these case studies with the manufacturing industry.

Check out our other case studies, or if you would like to share your story of how we helped your productivity, participate in a case study today. For more information, call Shop Floor Automations at (877) 611-5825

A little info about Shop Floor Automations: SFA was established in 1998 and will soon be celebrating our 20th anniversary in business. We have attended trade shows such as IMTS, WESTEC, FABTECH, and more. We support efforts to fill the skills gap, such as MFG Day and writing about organizations who focus on this cause. Our focus is to help the Made in America movement by supplying tools and support to combat downtime, increase OEE, organize your shop floor, and help with machine communication issues. Contact us today!

Manufacturing ROI & Manufacturing Integrators

Manufacturing ROI - shop floor automationsAs a manufacturer, you have a lot of daily concerns, such as downtime and productivity. Is your manufacturing ROI an issue that is falling to the wayside?

With a new year coming up fast, your ROI (or return on investment) should be bumped up to one of your largest concerns, if it is not already. You may remember when we did a previous blog explaining different types of costs for a manufacturer. For this blog post, we wanted to take the time to explain the top 3 ways that working with a manufacturing integrator like Shop Floor Automations will help you with ROI!

#1 Reduce procurement costs:

The only time you ever want the amount of money you are spending on raw materials to go up is because your productivity is at sky-high levels. Unfortunately, you may be spending a lot on raw materials due to downtime on the machine interfering with the quality of products. You may even be spending a lot on paper for spreadsheets and other shop floor documents. Using tools such as machine monitoring software can help you increase utilization of machines, and combining products like job scheduling software and PDM software can help you go paperless. Do you still use floppy disks or constantly invest in CAT-5 cable that needs to be replaced and restrung once a year? Invest in new hardware that will replace these processes and old media sources. These solutions should help bring down some significant procurement costs.

#2 Time-sensitive efficiencies:

Manufacturing is one of the most time-sensitive processes in the world. Certain quantities need to be done perfectly and they need to be on time. What happens when downtime takes down one of your machines? Or you have to spend time manually updating spreadsheets for your production schedule? Or your CNC’s have communication failures on a regular basis? Using the tools of DNC software for CNC communications, machine monitoring for combatting downtime, and graphical job scheduling to be able to see production changes in real time, all make for the perfect trinity to help jobs get out to customers on time.

#3 Marketplace advantage:

American manufacturing is coming back to a place of significant prominence. While the industry deals with a skills gap combined with reshoring, you need to make sure you can take on as many jobs as possible to stay ahead of the competition. If you spent less time updating spreadsheets, invested in less overtime to fix human error and were able to prevent more downtime on your shop floor, imagine how many more jobs you can take on. Implementing any of the tools mentioned above can help with productivity and cement your place in this industry as a top manufacturer.

If you are interested in these solutions, please fill out a contact form or call us at (877) 611-5825 

DNC Software & Hardware – Peas in a Pod

dnc software hardwareHardware for DNC Software

If you have recently made the decision to add DNC software to your shop floor to help with productivity and CNC communications, you are off to a great start.

Did you also know that adding hardware to DNC software solutions is the best way to leverage this business decision? Here are three pieces of hardware that best compliment DNC software:

Option 1: Wired CNC Connect. This device supports 100’s of CNC’s per each Server PC that has a seat of DNC software on it. Simply run Ethernet cable to each machine and place the device on the control for drip-feeding. The IP address converts into a comm port with drivers. By using the network backbone, you are sending the serial signal five feet wth the supplied cable, giving you the most reliable and strongest serial signal. Available in 1 to 16 ports.

Option 2: Wireless CNC Connect. The best option for those who like to move machines around and change the layout of their shop floor often. No cabling required. The device comes with an assigned IP – just to add your network, properly mount the device and it’s ready.

Option 3: Multi Connect. While this device is not available for purchase yet, it is anticipated to be a ground-breaking piece of hardware for manufacturing shop floors. The unit connects to machines via MTConnect, PLC, Wireless, Ethernet, and RS232 Serial. This solution can also be used with DNC Software and Machine Monitoring products, which makes it very versatile.

What are the best DNC software options available? Check out Predator DNC, Predator Touch HMI, Predator EditLock, and ExtremeDNC by clicking here!

Not sure what DNC Software is or why it would benefit you? Click here to learn more. You may also call (877) 611-5825 for more information about any products in this post.  

MFG Costs, Budgets & Integration ROI

mfg costs mfg budget mfg integratorManufacturing costs are a pain.

When you are thinking of investments to help with production, you have to keep in mind your MFG costs and your budget. While it would be great if all of your costs were predictable, they are not.

There are four variables of expenses when running a manufacturing company, and we have done our best to break it down for you with a driving analogy:

Fixed Costs: You get in your car, you set up your GPS and map out the trip. You know how much time it will take to get there and how many miles. You set the path to avoid toll roads, so you know it will take a little extra time, but you’ve accounted for it. Fixed costs are part of the routine in manufacturing. These cover your utility bills, taxes, property costs, salaries for executives or administrative workers, and general facility maintenance. You can even account for a budget of office supplies and basic salaries for sales people and machinists in this category, too.

Variable Costs: When you plan to take your trip, you account for normal traffic patterns that will add a likely delay to get to your destination. It’s an annoyance we have come to both accept and expect for road trips. Variable costs can best be described as costs directly in relation with production. For example – when you produce more, you ultimately need more raw materials. These patterns are predictable and prescribe to the old saying “you gotta spend money to make money.”

Semi-Variable & Step-Variable Costs: When you’re on your trip, let’s say a horrific accident happens, or you hit an unexpected detour. These unforeseen but likely scenarios can add time to your trip, and let’s face it, most people don’t plan for these events to happen. Semi-variable costs account for costs that can vary, such as commissions for sales people or production-based bonuses. Step-variable costs are costs that remain fixed for a period of time, and can suddenly spike up. Let’s say a machine is producing consistently for a long period of time, but then, it goes down – this downtime is not only costly to production, but hiring a specialist to come out and look at it, or replacing it with another machine, will be expensive.

What is the common factor in all of these examples, though?

If you invested in the GPS, it will reroute you, or add time to your route when you hit traffic or unexpected snags in the road. It is monitoring conditions for you to give you expectations and suggestions on how to improve your route.

How does this relate to manufacturing integration solutions & ROI?

Investing in manufacturing integration solutions is the best ROI when taking into account situations that lead to step-variable costs in your production. It’s essentially giving yourself a GPS to help meet and exceed production goals.

If your machines are consistently having communication errors that cause thousands of dollars in stopped production time, then DNC software or hardware is a drop in the bucket to help prevent this from happening. If there are other issues with machines causing downtime that are not relative to CNC communication failures, then machine monitoring can help for better OEE and for machinists to better communicate issues for proper solutions.

If you are interested in Shop Floor Automations helping you combat production issues head on, we invite you to contact us! You can fill out a form here, or call us at (877) 611-5825 to utilize our decades of experience. 

 

New Manufacturing Techniques

People try out new technologies each day. The manufacturing industry is no exception.

They buy new phones, lease new cars, upgrade the software on their phones and computers, or add implements to their homes to improve their quality of life. Embracing new technology is a move that would benefit the manufacturing shop floor industry most.

new manufacturing technologyHere are the Top 3 ways that new manufacturing technology adopted on the shop floor can benefit your company:

1 – You can keep up with the competition. According to recent results from the Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, the National Association of Manufacturers states that in 2017, there is a record-high level of optimism in the manufacturing industry. 91.4 percent of manufacturers said they would increase investments, hire more workers, and that they generally feel good about our industry’s growth. Do you fit in this category?

Are pieces of old tech, like floppy disk drives and handheld terminals holding you back? Are you experiencing communication failures due to lack of CNC memory for your programs? These are all problems that new technology can fix, so that you can get in on this wave of prosperity.

2 – Increase profit. When implementing new hardware and software into older machines, this can help drastically decrease downtime. When there is no downtime to deal with, or less of it, machinists are free to perfect their craft. According to SME, there have been proven studies that show on average, time will decrease 5 percent every time the number of completed pieces doubles.

Therefore, if a machinist has more time to actually do their job than deal with machines going down, that will ultimately make the company more productive. Implementing machine monitoring to track machine trends increases OEE and DNC software can help with CNC communication failure, which are two sure fire ways to combat downtime.

3 – More freedom. When there is less worry of machines going down, this can create a better work/life balance for those who work on the shop floor, and in the front office. Machine monitoring, which is a powerful IIoT (industrial internet of things) tool, is an amazing way to get notifications of what is going on with machines not only on the shop floor, but via email or text notifications.

When this proven solution to deal with downtime is combined with more accountability through the means of graphical job scheduling, PDM, and other resources on the shop floor, there is more trust in the workplace. More people can use their PTO to go on vacation, or workers who are home sick can help give guidance when a machine goes down via a notes section through machine monitoring.

If you are interested in new technology for your shop floor and experiencing the benefits listed above, contact us by filling out a sales form here, or call (877) 611-5825.

 

Mastercam 2018 Rollout

mastercam 2018 rollout

Mastercam 2018 Rollout Event Review

CAD/CAM Consulting Inc. recently held a Mastercam 2018 rollout event at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA. Shop Floor Automations (SFA) was lucky enough to participate as a vendor whose solutions integrate with Mastercam software.


Guests of the event not only got to sit in on informative demonstrations of new and improved Mastercam features, but they also got to walk throughout this beautiful museum full of aviation history. Lunch was served and a raffle took place at the end of the event – SFA even got to give out our Wireless CNC Connect and the Wired CNC Connect


Click here to watch our video from the event & subscribe to our YouTube channel


Some of the enhancements reviewed for the event were general, which include analyzing the toolpath, analyzing the distance along the curve, lathe coordinates, and more.  Overall design enhancements, as well as tool enhancements, mill enhancements (2D and 3D), lathe enhancements, and mill-turn enhancements, were discussed.

Detailed presentations given to attendees touched on customizing your interface with nifty features such as the Quick Access Toolbar. A litany of commands are at your fingertips and your tabs can be customized to your ease of use, which includes selecting the option of displaying large icons. We were also informed that posts from Mastercam which are three versions back or newer can also be updated to the Mastercam 2018 version.
mastercam 2018 rollout

How does SFA work with Mastercam? The three best solutions are:

# 1 – DNC Software: Once Mastercam is done building your programs, send them to your machines with DNC Software. Able to store 1000’s of programs securely, you won’t have to worry anymore if your programs are floating around the shop, or if the program is too large for the CNC memory. This is a great upgrade if you find your current CNC communication methods are failing.

# 2 – Hardware: A more economic approach when compared to DNC Software, some opt for our USB Connect hardware (available in units which can be mounted on a machine or in a rugged, portable unit) or they gravitate towards our Wired/Wireless, CNC Connect devices. No longer run from the machine to the PC, or risk damaging your laptop by carrying it around the shop floor. Expensive memory upgrades will now be a thing of the past.

# 3 – Machine Monitoring: Okay, it’s more of an accessory to Mastercam, but it is a great addition to your shop. Monitoring downtime and other machine trends help to increase OEE and drives real-time improvements on your shop floor. Customers report productivity increases of up to 25% just from monitoring the utilization of their machines. Imagine the time you’ll save with Mastercam plus machine monitoring in your shop!


If you want more information on this event or any of the solutions mentioned above, Shop Floor Automations would love to hear from you! Fill out our Sales contact form, or call (877) 611-5825. 

Why Customers Use CNC Machine Tool Hardware

Shop Floor Automation Hardware Evaluated

When working with a CNC machine tool, it can sometimes be frustrating for machinists and those on the shop floor. When you have a big, expensive machine that can do amazingly complicated tasks, yet there are certain tasks it cannot handle, it is understandable. Upkeep can also be a chore. There are workarounds that can get a machine of any age working great again, and CNC machine tool hardware is one of them.

cnc hardwareCNC machine tool hardware can fulfill any number of purposes. It can make a machine with a USB port go wireless. It can help replace old media, such as floppy disks or PCMCIA cards. They can replace cabling on the shop floor, help drip-feed programs that are too big to download at machines, plus many more benefits.

Why do some of our customers invest in machine tool hardware? Here are some of their reasons:

I bought the Portable (USB Connect) unit for some of our older machines and it definitely saved us a lot of time and a lot of money from running around, doing it with a laptop. Especially a lot of the older units with floppy drives in them, the PCMCIA cards, and they kind of died out.  -Randy, Fredon Corporation

Heat and humidity were wreaking havoc on our old RS232 cables…we went wireless with a MOXA system sold by SFA. Their customer service and tech support is top notch. – Stollen Machine & Tool Co. via Instagram

My old-style floppy drive stopped working, and since I am a returning customer, I looked into the floppy drive emulator. Guy Barrow helped me and he always does a great job. SFA solved my problem by giving me a much better transfer system and once again supplying good customer service. -David,  Top Line Tool

To read more customer reviews on our hardware, software and support, click here. If you want to learn more about our hardware or other solutions, call (877) 611-5825 or fill out this form to have an Account Executive get back to you. 

SFA meets 2017 Manufacturing Technology Trends

manufacturing technology trends

2017 Manufacturing Technology Trends

Being 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 Smartphones 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 Mercurio

Greg Mercurio talks Industry 4.0, OEE & More

Greg 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