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. 

 

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 

Summer 2017 Predator Software Updates

Predator SoftwareSummer 2017 Predator Software Updates

Shop Floor Automations is excited to share with you these Summer 2017 Predator Software Updates:

  • In August, July & June, there have been the following updates to MDC:
    • v11.0.248 (August 10, 2017) Improvements for Favorite Reports. Improved New Events Touch manual collection of user logins, machine downtime, good parts, scrap parts, and more. Machine Events Reports improved. Bugs fixed for Machine Downtime and Cost chart legends, and overall load on the database instance has been reduced. Many more improvements made.
    • v11.0.246 (July 14, 2017). Improved MDC APIs and bug fixed with running reports from View Components.
    • v11.0.245 (July 7, 2017). Duration of Chart has been added to header.  Automatic and manual refresh logic improved. Multiple display elements improved. Overall chart performance, use of arrow keys, part serial number permissions, and similar features improved. More updates, as well as some bug fixes, included in this version.
    • v11.0.241 (June 8, 2017). Chinese, Japanese, and Korean style reports added. Improvements made to MDC Service Manager, View Machine Status, View OEE Status, Chinese language resources, Production Trend Analysis Chart display, and more features. Bugs fixed and more improvements made.
    • Android compatibility was also improved for MDC in late June 2017.
  • On July 16, 2017 – Predator Tracker v11.0.55 was released. Same as PDM – FIPS compatibility with FLM v11.0.0.2. improved. New imports and API abilities added. Improved process for Check in/Check out to Departments, Locations and Groups. Bugs fixed with View Components reports, editing tool rework operation definitions, and more.
  • On July 15, 2017 – Predator PDM v11.0.174 was released. FIPS compatibility with FLM v11.0.0.2. improved. Part serial number permissions, importing manufacturing/quality requirements, online help, and PDM APIs have been improved. Bugs fixed with assigning icons to custom commands, and more.

There have also been updates for Predator CNC Service, Predator Travelers, and Predator FLM over the summer.

If you would like more information, please contact SFA by calling (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form at this link

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.

 

Why Up-To-Date Software Matters

shop floor software updates

Don’t Ignore Software Updates

We’ve all had those annoying reminders on our computers and our phones about a software update being imminent. Sometimes, we say to ourselves “I’ll get to it later,” but this train of thought is a mistake. This is especially true with shop floor software updates.

One of our seasoned technicians gave some feedback on why keeping your software for your shop floor updated is so important:

“Software updates frequently have new features that support a broader range of protocols. For example, the last release of Predator DNC added support for Fanuc FOCAS to allow hardware-less program transfers. In terms of Predator MDC, support for Gerber, Siemens, and OPC was added in v11.”

He continues with another reason these updates are crucial:

“In terms of security, Predator DNC v11 added SecureDNC to help isolate unsecured controls on the shop floor. Staying up to date is important because of the constant improvement in our security features that help defend against cyber attacks.”

Yes, it can be annoying to keep up with software updates, but as you can see from this blog, it is a vital task to complete. If you want more shop floor insight, call Shop Floor Automations at (877) 611-5825 or fill out this form, and we will get back to you at your convenience.

Cloudy with a Chance of OEE

OEE, IIoT & The Cloud

“By 2020, a corporate ‘no-Cloud’ policy will be as rare as a ‘no-internet’ policy is today.” This is a bold claim from Gartner, a respected information technology research company. With the growing dependence on this technology, Cloud IIoT Security is becoming a major concern in the manufacturing industry.

IIoT Cloud OEE MFGShop Floor Automations is a big proponent of Cloud tech, especially in terms of the Industrial Internet of Things, or the IIoT. One of our hottest sellers is DataXchange from Scytec, with its $45 per month per machine pricing policy for Cloud-based services. We also realize that secure drip-feeding is a concern of note, as well, in the manufacturing community.

For those who are apprehensive about adopting IIoT Cloud tech or any kind of software/devices to help with drip-feeding via DNC Software, here are three resources to help you make an informed decision:

Cloud tech is more reliable than you previously thought.  A publication called Enterprise Tech 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. In keeping with this fact, 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!

Implement a cybersecurity assurance program along with your Cloud solutions. The Cybersecurity Assurance Program (UL CAP) for industrial control systems from a global safety science organization UL was introduced for IMTS 2016. “UL CAP is intended for control system manufacturers who need support in assessing security risks while they continue to focus on product innovation to help build safer, more secure products,” states Mark Albert from Modern Machine Shop. “These steps will help protect the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The program should benefit OEMs, machine tool builders, system integrators, and retrofitters who want to mitigate risks by sourcing products assessed by an expert third party.”

Secure DNC makes DNC software communications safer.  This is a Windows application designed to be installed on Windows-based CNC machines, CMMs, test stands, and other equipment. This application from Predator DNC supports a wireless or wired Ethernet interface via TCP/IP. It not only supports older versions of Windows, which reduces the need for costly Windows updates on CNC machines, but it is also a good measure against unauthorized access via hackers. Read more about Secure DNC here.

Ready to get started? Contact Shop Floor Automations for better, and safer, OEE through IIoT. Call (877) 611-5825 or contact us on social media

Top 3 Reasons for Product Data Management

Top 3 Reasons for Product Data Management in MFG

Getting organized is consistently on the top 10 list of New Years Resolutions. It’s now March, and we wonder how many people have actually stuck to this resolution. If getting organized at your shop is a concern, here are the top 3 reasons why you should be investing in product data management (PDM) through document control software for your manufacturing operation.

pdm Reason1 – PDM helps you go paperless. If you are tired of buying file cabinets and losing track of documents, then PDM is the best way to manage incoming documents paperlessly. For the rest, we suggest scanning them, making sure they are properly saved, then safely shredding them. Also, an approach of truly brilliant people that you can adopt into your routine is called the “touch only once” rule – when a piece of paper is brought to you, whether a file or a piece of mail, deal with it immediately, when at all possible, so it is off your plate.

Reason 2 – PDM makes your job easier. Using manufacturing-driven, open architecture PDM document control software can do more than you might have imagined. It is designed to organize & control CNC programs, setup sheets, safety procedures, quality documents, & other files with complete document control plus file revision control.

PDM can also be integrated with other software, such as DNC software and CNC editor. Keep in touch with your Quality and Engineering Departments, while feeling assured that if an audit happens, you’re covered.

Reason 3 – Simply put, it’s the law. Granted, while it is not required that you have adigitall organization system like PDM for your important documentation, you are required to keep track of the documents. If keeping tidy isn’t motivation enough, then the law definitely should be.

As a manufacturer, you need to abide by legal code 21 CFR 820.40 – establishing and maintaining procedures to control documents (more info here). As a business, you need to keep tax documents and any related records for anywhere from three to seven years. Employment records need to be kept for a minimum of a year and payroll records kept a minimum of three years.

Feel bad you haven’t been keeping organized? Even a branch of the USA government can relate to having issues with tracking documentation! The US Department of Reclamation (also known as BOR) had documents scattered in a few different locations and began to make an attempt at document control. They pooled what they learned in this process into a report called “Maintain Asset Data Integrity and Reap the Benefits of the ‘Internet of Things.’”

If you are ready to see what PDM can do for you, or aim for better OEE, request a PDM software demo with Shop Floor Automations. Call (877) 611-5825, or chat with us via one of our social media channels

Hunting Bigfoot CMMS

Hunting BigfootHunting Bigfoot CMMS

There are many elusive creatures and mysteries in the world that people dedicate their lives to finding. One goal which may seem equally elusive to many shop floor workers is in getting rid of downtime. If you are hunting for a solution to help with downtime and plant maintenance, then you should be hunting Bigfoot CMMS.

In a nutshell, some of the best features of Bigfoot CMMS for plant maintenance software are:

1) Keeping organized to reduce downtime – Automatic reminders prevent PMs from falling through the cracks, which reduces equipment downtime.

2) Saving time – A request form saves maintenance department one hour per day by not having to field or respond to calls or emails for non-emergency maintenance requests.

3) Reporting – Identifying what work has been done on equipment over time & what’s overdue.

4) Analysis – See how much it costs to maintain a piece of equipment over time, when it’s down, & why.

Want to see measurable results? One company was able to reduce downtime by 76 percent with Bigfoot CMMS. Another company reports being able to decrease downtime by 90 percent in a span of two years!

bigfoot cmms One amazing aspect of Bigfoot CMMS is that it can be paired with the machine monitoring solution of Scytec’s DataXchange. These are both solutions that Shop Floor Automations can customize and integrate onto your shop floor.

Something technologically to note about Bigfoot CMMS is that it has an app you can access from both Apple and Android phones. This flexibility is definitely an attractive feature for Bigfoot users.

Check out our most recent article on Bigfoot CMMS in the February issue of MFG News by clicking here. For more info, contact sales via this form or call (877) 611-5825.