An Exciting Visit to Open Source Maker Labs


Open Source Maker Labs Visit 

The future is what you make of it, and when it comes to the people who use Open Source Maker Labs (OSML), making is literally their future. The digital fabrication lab in Vista CA was the location of the latest NTMA San Diego Chapter meeting, where members learned about what OSML is up to.

The presentation began with a sample of what the kids, and adults, who visit work on. The mission statement of the makers who come in is to formulate an idea, design it, redesign it, prototype it, then polish the final version.

Some of the focuses at OSML are in metalworking, welding, 3D Printing, woodworking, electronics, and much more. Aside from the physical aspects of creating, those who create also learn how to use CAD (computer aided design) software, and how to work with coding and computers.

One of the projects they are most proud of is their involvement in the Vulcan1 rocket launch from May of this year. As a collaboration with the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) at UC San Diego, OSML’s lab was used as a resource to do a “cold flow” test of the team’s 20-foot-tall liquid-fueled rocket.

OSMLThe test utilized a steel-framed test rig, made by OSML’s Dan Hendricks and his daughter in a 14-hour project, to hold the object in place for a test of the rocket’s control valves and fluid systems. OSML also hosted a launch party at their lab for those who could not make it to the launch site, when Vulcan1 went airborne.

They had a few visitors for MFG Day 2016, including other businesses and a home-schooled family, which speaks to the future of the manufacturing industry. One of the members, an instructor from Kearney High School in San Diego County, reflected on how one of his former students, who is actually employed here at SFA as a technician, would have loved to come to this lab when he was growing up.

OSML is open evenings and weekends for makers of any age, with monthly membership prices varying from $60 a month to $140 a month. The lab has tools, equipment, work space, and other resources to bring their concept to life. Some of the tools available are CNC machines, 3D printers, laser cutters, a panel saw, soldering tools, a computer lab, and more. Membership includes (among access to tools) free classes, free parts and materials, project kit discounts, meet ups, free parking, free maker humor (as you can see in the photo to the left), and coffee with snacks.

See our photos from our OSML visit .

To keep OSML thriving, as you can see what they look like on a weekend in this video, they are always in need of new members. They also would love a donation of an old Haas machine and are always open to suggestions on how to further help OSML.

For more information on OSML – go to, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. You can also call them to ask how else you can contribute at (760) 998-1522.

Check out our NTMA San Diego Chapter page. You can also contact Shop Floor Automations, a proud NTMA associate member, by calling (877) 611-5825 or reaching us on social media.


Shop Floor Man has Arrived

shop floor man

Shop Floor Man

Wow! The response to our new creation Shop Floor Man has been wild. We at Shop Floor Automations had an idea to try and represent what our customers, who work in the manufacturing industry, go through via a comic strip character. The reception is more than we hoped for.

“With an eye toward a younger manufacturing audience, the company has launched a Web comic series,” says Jedd Cole of TechSpex. “With the intention of carving out a space for manufacturing-related humor on social media, especially Twitter.”

“The comic appears in two-panel stories in which the main character, Shop Floor Man, shows life with SFA’s solutions compared with exaggerated horrors he faces elsewhere,” Cole continued. “Other comics will riff on familiar trials faced by machinists everywhere, as well as other industry-related humor.”

Shop Floor Automations (SFA) is doing its job to attract a younger manufacturing audience by working its social media channels and developing a comic strip series called Shop Floor Man Presents,” Christina M. Fuges of MoldMaking Technology writes.

“Finally, there’s a cartoon character metalworkers can embrace,” Chris Koepfer from Production Machining writes. “He is the brainchild from a collaboration among the owner and two employees of California-based Shop Floor Automations (SFA)…the entire company contributes ideas and feedback for the comic, which makes it fun for the employees to get involved and share their shop floor experiences.”

“With a younger MFG audience on the horizon, SFA is looking to make an impact within the social media landscape, just as the company has made its mark in the shop floor automation field,” Manufacturing Tomorrow published on October 13th.

See our archive of Shop Floor Man comics

“This is great for social media,” Fuges of MoldMaking Technology stated. She wrote about how our Marketing Coordinator “heard how social media isn’t valuable for this line of business, but believes this could not be further from the truth.”

“Obviously, the comic serves as a marketing and promotional tool for the company. But it’s also an intriguing entrance into a sphere not many other manufacturers have explored to date, one with the potential to tap into the lived experience of younger, millennial audience,” Cole of TechSpex continues, from his piece. “In the sometimes convoluted Venn diagram of manufacturers, millennials and social media, Web comics could be a particularly effective way to bridge culture gaps and to foster community through shared experience.”

Fuges agrees with the point of view of our Marketing Coordinator in getting a younger audience into the manufacturing industry, no matter the job focus. “You have middle school kids, high school teens and college-aged young adults who we are trying to get into this industry, or people like the military veterans being trained at organizations like Workshops for Warriors. These people of these various age groups are attached to their devices and social media, and we can reach them and show them this industry is a community.”

“Laughter and humor are part of the fabric of life and enjoyed by almost everyone,” says Koepfer at Production Machining. “Shop Floor Man can demonstrate that manufacturing can be a fun industry in which to work.”

Want to see more of Shop Floor Man, or have feedback on some future adventures he can go on? Tweet SFA on Twitter at both @SFA_inc and @ShopFloorHumor. You can always call us, too, at (877) 611-5825!


Wondering what happened during your shift?

predator mdc v11

Click the image above for larger view

Production Data with Predator MDC

Break down what happened during production into visuals. There has been a cool new Predator MDC v11 Timeline View update you need to see.

If you are trying to keep pace with other shops, you are constantly trying to figure out what happened with meeting your production goals. With machine monitoring from Predator Software via MDC, you can start the dialogue with your shop floor and its managers.

Use the timeline dashboard via the Predator Machine Monitoring Client Software for a stand-up production meeting. A manager can load this onto a shop floor screen and review with the team what the machines did yesterday during second and third shifts.

Most managers are at home during these time periods, so the review meeting will most likely take place at 9 a.m. the next day. The pie charts in the Productivity Summaries will sum up the data in the Machine Timeline.

What are some new features you can expect from the latest v11.0 update to MDC?

  • Predator Touch HMI, Events Touch & DNC Touch
  • Predator MDC for Android Phones
  • Predator MDC Executive Real-time view from any browser
  • Analog and Digital Input for Legacy Machines using Predator MDC Adapter
  • Scrap Part & Downtime Pareto Charts
  • Multiple OEE reports, Dashboards & Charts
  • New Shop Floor Layout & MDC Executive options
  • Support for: Windows 2012, Windows 10, Oracle 12, Microsoft Access 2016, Microsoft Access 2013, Microsoft SQL Server 2016, Microsoft SQL Server 2014
  • New Chart Colors & Refresh options
  • New Downtime charts & Status Display Pie Charts
  • Event Trend Charts, Machine Utilization Charts, & Toolbar Buttons

There have also been lots of updates and fixes to existing features, such as My Favorites, HTML-based online Help, Measurement Dimension Wizards, and more! If you want more information, contact Shop Floor Automations on social media, or call us at (877) 611-5825.

MFG Day 2016 Continues

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Hardinge Group hosts MFG Day 2016 event

More MFG Day 2016 Events

MFG Day 2016 itself may have passed, but there are still monthly celebrations of the American manufacturing industry going on. Our customer, the Hardinge Group in Elmira NY, held an open house on October 12th.

We opened our doors today to participants of Manufacturing Day,” a representative said about the event on their Facebook page. “They got a sneak peek of our experience in Engineering, Automation, Robotics, and of course, our four heavy hitters – Turning, Milling, Grinding, and Workholding.”

The importance of MFG Day is to not only celebrate this industry but to pull the younger generation in to keep American manufacturing going. “We’ll be keeping an eye on these young stewards of the Manufacturing World,” Hardinge says.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing was the industry with the highest employment in New York, where Hardinge is located, up until 1993. Manufacturing was also the dominating field providing the highest American employment rates from 1990 until the early 2000s. As of 2013, manufacturing was the provider of the most jobs only for seven States.

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Hardinge Group hosts MFG Day 2016 event

The Manufacturing Institute has said that 3.5 Million manufacturing job vacancies will need filling over the next decade due to previous workers retiring and a jobs surplus created due to business growth, but sadly, 2 Million jobs are expected to sit unfilled because of a serious skilled labor gap. With a lack of resources for school children these days who are interested in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering & math), it is crucial that current members of the manufacturing industry step in to fix this problem.

There are also current solutions happening right now to fill these jobs, such as the efforts of Workshops for Warriors to get military veterans into these jobs. There are also unconventional methods, such as Wisconsin’s Workshop for the Blind, or the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program to “place inmates in a realistic work environment…and enable them to acquire marketable skills to increase their potential for successful rehabilitation and meaningful employment upon release.”

It is definitely appreciated when companies like Hardinge open their doors for the future generation to learn more about this industry. We have also seen similar efforts from our customers at Amarillo Gear Company. We hope that these efforts will help to occupy that skills gap and keep manufacturing in America.

Read more of our MFG Day 2016 posts. Otherwise, tell us what you think via social media, or call (877) 611-5825 to share what is happening with your shop floor!


MFG Day Comic was a Success

mfg day shop floor man

MFG Day Shop Floor Man Comic

One of the final posts we put up about MFG Day 2016 was a specially themed Shop Floor Man comic to celebrate the day. It received a good amount of buzz on social media, and we wanted to share it here. 

Shop Floor Automations is an official endorser of MFG Day and we realize the importance the holiday has. It is so important that future generations be involved and get interested in the manufacturing industry. Be it a machinist, a programmer, an engineer, etc. – the industry must continue to thrive. We reviewed the reasons why manufacturing makes a difference for the USA in this previous post.

Shop Floor Man is our newest creation to help exemplify the benefits of upgrading your shop floor. He is a reflection of the frustrations and crazy things that happen in this industry, and we hope you enjoy his presence on the interwebs!

More about Shop Floor Automations and how we help shop floors:

  • Check out our archived newsletters with industry topics & event wrap-ups here
  • Read testimonials & see videos of what our customers have to say about us here
  • Check out the FAQ section about our software & hardware solutions here
  • See our case studies here and we have webinars coming up here
  • We are on social media here, and you can call us at (877) 611-5825 for more info!


MFG Day 2016

MFG Day 2016Happy MFG Day!

To celebrate this day, we share some insight below from a few of our customers and experts from this field. 

To review some quick facts as to why this industry matters to America:

1) Workers in a manufacturing-related job can make about $15,000 more per year than most other job fields.

2) For every dollar spent on this industry, the economy gains an 81 cent profit.

3) Organizations like Workshops for Warriors (WFW) are able to thrive while helping those who served our country get training and jobs in the manufacturing field. PTSD and other factors can make it difficult for veterans to return to the workforce, and WFW gives them a great venue to explore a new career.

“The pay is good, and for me, I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I can turn a piece of raw material into a finished product,” says Ben Molinar, who is a Shop Operations Manager for GMI Group. “Also, knowing that the parts that I am making will go to a customer somewhere to be used in their operations is a pretty awesome feeling.”

“Something different every day, something exciting every day,” James Baker of Amarillo Gear says, of working as a machinist in the manufacturing field. “It was a blessing to be part of it, and it’s been 20 years into programming and 30 in the machinist field.”

“For me, it’s something I feel I’ll always do,” the CNC supervisor told us during this interview. “It would take a lot for me to want to leave this field.”

James encourages kids who enjoy working with math to pursue a job in manufacturing. “The machine shop is where you actually use math, trigonometry, algebra– it’s in the machine shop. I can program, understand and axis machines, and live tool equipment.”

Ben told us in his interview that there are other benefits to consider in this line of work. “I can go anywhere in the world and work. Because of my experience and background in machining, I have been able to work all around the globe.”

As a huge “PS” to this piece – we also have a 10% off promo for our entire store all this weekend as a “thank you” to shop floors everywhere (use the code “mfgday”).  Share with Shop Floor Automations what you are doing for MFG Day by using the hashtag #MFGDay16 on Twitter and including @SFA_inc in the conversation.

Shop Floor Automations, an official endorser of MFG Day, has been a leader in solutions towards manufacturing shop floor OEE and Continuous Improvement since 1998. Call us today for your shop floor needs at (877) 611-5825.

Why MFG Day Matters


mfg dayWhy MFG Jobs are Important

SFA is a firm believer that you can not only serve your customers, but you can learn a lot from them, too. That is why we love to chat with them about what they are up to on their shop floors, to help solve the problems they are having, and to also see why they chose a Manufacturing related career.

One of our customers had some great stories to tell, and we felt this would be a perfect addition to MFG Day 2016. Read on to see how being both a Machinist and Programmer for manufacturing shop floors has changed James Baker’s life:

Why did you first get into machining and why have you stuck with it? “At first, I was a young married man with three small children and I didn’t want them to be hungry. That’s what started me in the machinist’s field. I was able to go back to school. Now, I’m 52 years old and I’m still enrolled in continuing education for my career, and also for music, for math. It was my family first, and then it became very inspiring. It was something different every day, something exciting every day. It was a blessing to be part of it, and it’s been 20 years into programming and 30 in the machinist field. For me, it’s something I feel I’ll always do. It would take a lot for me to want to leave this field.”

What areas of interest would be appealing to the new generation for entering the manufacturing field? “I encourage all the young people out there that the machine shop is where you actually use math, trigonometry, algebra– it’s in the machine shop. I can program, understand and axis machines, and live tool equipment. We have 35k programs online. It’s a big deal.”

“It’s not me that’s done it – it’s the help I’ve had” -James on his career success

Other than going back to school, what other benefits have you seen from working in the manufacturing industry? “The machine shop business has helped put my kids through college and provided for us a wonderful home. Two of my children are in IT. The oldest son works for LinkedIn, our daughter has her Bachelors in business administration, and our youngest son is a restaurant manager, while also teaching tuba and low brass for middle school students. They are all great with technology.”

Were your kids naturally inclined towards technological or educational pursuits, or did you have to encourage them a little? “I started my kids on computers when they were in elementary school and they were quite talented, even as children. I also love teaching my grandkids math. One granddaughter is 11 and I help her with the math they are giving her. Pre-algebra work programs like “this train leaves at that time, etc.” I love working with my grandkids on pre-algebra. I have a math problem on my fridge at home and my grandson wrote a long division question in the quadrillions, and he is 10 years old! My scientific calculator errored out when I tried to replicate it, so I did the equation on paper, and he was right!”

It sounds like you’ve already done a lot for the future generation, in terms of getting them interested in manufacturing, mathematical or technological pursuits, but does your shop have any MFG Day 2016 plans? “We have done things where Boyscouts come out to the shop for MFG Day in the past. We also do plant tours on a reoccurring basis of our shop floor for all the middle schools, high schools and colleges that desire to go through the plant every year. We work very closely with local area schools. We care very much about manufacturing in this area and want kids to advance with the field.”

Do you have any advice for the future generation, in terms of your success? “It’s not me that’s done it – it’s the help I’ve had.”

James Baker is a CNC Supervisor at the Amarillo Gear Company. Find them online at

Shop Floor Automations is an official endorser of MFG Day 2016. Interact with us on Twitter at @SFA_inc and use the hashtag #MFGDay2016 and you may also fill out our contact form.

Manufacturing is Happening Every Day

mfg day infographic

Click Infographic for Larger View

The manufacturing industry is a big boost to our economy.

The Manufacturing Institute reports that 47 percent of exports from the United States come from our manufacturing sector alone, which is a big deal.

The NTMA (National Tooling and Machining Association) states that for every dollar invested into American manufacturing, $1.81 is gained by the economy. It may seem small, but it’s still a profit – if a Million dollars were put into the manufacturing sector just this week, it would make back that Million, plus turn a profit of $810,000! You can see more facts about why this industry matters to our country by reading our the infographic in this post.

Shop Floor Automations cares a great deal about the manufacturing sector, as well. Our goal is to help our customers, who work on the shop floors and produce these goods, communicate better with their machines and get the most use out of them. We work with machinists, engineers, programmers – we speak to many different people in the manufacturing industry on a daily basis.

One such customer that we have helped is Ben Molinar, who is a Shop Operations Manager. Here is some of his story below:

What inspired you to get into manufacturing? “My reasons for getting into manufacturing are pretty simple. The pay is good, and for me, I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I can turn a piece of raw material into a finished product. Also, knowing that the parts that I am making will go to a customer somewhere to be used in their operations is a pretty awesome feeling.”

It seems like you are very inspired by manufacturing! “Manufacturing is happening every day, all over the world. The technology is always changing, so there is always something to learn and ways to improve.”

If you could say anything else about manufacturing to try and convince the future generation about why it’s a great job field, what would you say? “I can go anywhere in the world and work. Because of my experience and background in machining, I have been able to work all around the globe.”

Ben Molinar is a Shop Operations Manager at GMI Group, formerly Gulf Manufacturing, which has locations in Texas and Louisiana.

Have a great story to tell about why you got into manufacturing or are you doing something special for MFG Day? Contact us on social media, or call (877) 611-5825 to talk about what is happening on your shop floor.