Made in America Strong

American Manufacturing

How to Help American Manufacturing Stay Strong

The state of the economy is always a concern with any company in any line of business. With the American manufacturing industry experiencing growth in the past couple of years, there have also been some shaky areas in its foundation.

While there is growth, there is still a significant skills gap to fill. There are also still concerns about reshoring jobs AKA bringing manufacturing jobs back to America. Growth in the manufacturing industry can be a double-edged sword.

As a citizen of America and someone who is passionate about this industry, you may be wondering how you can help American manufacturing sustain itself. Here are the three top ways you can get involved:

1 – Volunteer for organizations helping with the skills gap. There is always extra work that needs to be done for non-profits. Even if you don’t have manufacturing-specific technical skills, or if you have peers who do not work in this field who want to help, any number of skills are needed to fulfill different tasks. A good example is Workshops for Warriors, who always needs volunteers with Marketing experience and for specific office work to be done. You may even be able to volunteer for some of these organizations remotely if you do not live in the area.

2 – Donate to schools or programs teaching STEM or manufacturing-specific courses. Students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are sometimes lucky enough to find programs provided by their schools, such as Cardinal Manufacturing at Eleva-Strum School District. Otherwise, some kids may need to partake in these activities outside of school with places like Open Source Maker Labs (OSML). This fabrication lab is always seeking donated equipment to help their students create more. Another source of assistance would be to contact local Community Colleges who have manufacturing-related courses. See if they need any materials for the students of those programs – they could need anything from welding masks to extra pads of paper.

3 – Contact politicians. It can be easy to forget that the people who run this country work for us. We can remind politicians that the best ways to enrich our industry are to increase competition against global manufacturing by fixing our taxes/regulations, as well as building a national strategy to help our infrastructure, and increasing R&D (research and development) tax credits or funding possibilities. Even creating more grants, scholarships, and national skills certification programs in the areas of STEM would help our industry greatly.

There are many other areas in which the government has a level of influence to help. On a lower level, you can speak to your city council about locally making more manufacturing opportunities available. You can even try to contact your State Representative(s) or the Governor of your state. The highest levels of influence for manufacturing in politics would be through Cabinet officials in the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Transportation, Defense, Labor, and Education. Agencies that affect our industry are NIST, ARPA-E, NSF, OSTP, SBA, DARPA, AMNPO, the Economic Development Administration, and the US Commercial Service.

If you are looking to help your shop floor be more productive before you can help on a larger level, please contact us. We can help with OEE, productivity issues, and help you stop wasting money on downtime. Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form here

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 hardwareDNC Hardware for CNCs

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 visiting our DNC software landing page!

Not sure what DNC Software is or why it would benefit you? Check out why some customers use DNC. You may also call (877) 611-5825 for more information about any products in this post.  

Top MFG Learning Stories

manufacturing education

James McCanless, an Air Force machinist, shows metal cut products to visiting students

Let’s give our kids the chance to discover manufacturing-related jobs.

Fall is coming, and with it, the entrance of students into their high school senior year, as well as those entering college and postsecondary programs. With students on our minds, especially in regards to the future of manufacturing and upcoming MFG Day, here are the top 5 manufacturing education stories we think you should hear about lately:

  1. SME-EF & NASA helps Wheeling High School – The SME Education Foundation has teamed up with HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) to give these gifted STEM students a chance to make hardware for the International Space Station. Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math are all areas more students need to get interested in, and with amazing organizations like NASA stepping in to help, it is creating an interest for kids to get into manufacturing.
  2. A Quick Spotlight on Jim Filipek – With MFG Day coming up quick, it is so crucial for those in the manufacturing industry to share their insight and their passion with the younger generation for working in this industry. Jim Filipek and his family have been part of the manufacturing industry for years, and after 11 years working in it, he taught in a high school machine shop for two decades, and since 2009, has been a full-time coordinator/instructor for the College of DuPage’s Manufacturing Technology and Welding programs. Great job, Jim!
  3. The 3D Experience Center at Wichita State University – The National Institute of Aviation Research has teamed up with Dassault Systems and Wichita State University to provide the venues for future products and technologies to be developed while being part of a network of companies and experts. What is called the Innovation Campus spreads across 120 acres and over 25 buildings, where students can work on robotics, virtual/augmented reality, reverse engineering, additive manufacturing, and more.
  4. The North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program – The NCTAP is an incredibly successful apprentice program to get young people in the manufacturing industry. Especially since they have programs that start as early as the 11th Grade in high school, this is a very important and valuable program that shows these students there is financial prosperity to be had in these careers – even while learning on the job!
  5. Check out Edge Factor – Do you have NetFlix and Hulu? Who doesn’t? Imagine a video platform similar to these two programs specifically geared towards the manufacturing community. It exists! Check out our interview with Edge Factor’s founder and what inspired this multi media platform to be created. With more and more students connected to streaming sources for entertainment, this could be a great venue to cultivate interest.

Already working in manufacturing and want some resources for better OEE or productivity? Call us at (877) 611-5825 or fill out a form here to contact us. 

MFG Costs, Budgets & Integration ROI

mfg costs mfg budget mfg integratorManufacturing costs are a pain.

MFG costs and budget comes into play whenever productivity improvements are considered. Costs are sadly not predictable.

There are four variables of expenses when running a manufacturing company. We have broken it down into a driving analogy for our readers:

Fixed Costs: You get in your car, you set up your GPS and map out the trip to avoid tolls. You know how much time it will take to get there and how many miles.

Fixed costs are part of the routine in manufacturing. These cover utility bills, taxes, property costs, and salaries (not counting commission). This also includes office supplies, too.

Variable Costs: When you plan to take your trip, you account for normal traffic patterns that will add a likely delay. 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 to production. For example – when you produce more, you ultimately need more raw materials. These patterns are predictable –  remember 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.

Semi-variable costs account for costs that can vary. This includes commissions for salespeople or production-based bonuses.

Step-variable costs, however, are costs that remain fixed for a period of time, and can suddenly spike up. Unexpected machine downtime, for example, costs money due to stopped production. You may even have to hire a specialist to come out or replace it with another machine.

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.

Get in touch with Shop Floor Automations for more insight! You can fill out a form here, or call us at (877) 611-5825. 

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.