Manufacturing Productivity Tips

Manufacturing productivity does not happen or improve from luck. It comes from preparation, research and implementation.

What kind of manufacturing plan should you make for 2019, and for the foreseeable future? Whether you are an independent shop or a large production operation, you need to think about the bigger picture.

This is definitely a topic that manufacturers are thinking about lately. A whitepaper from SME ToolingU states:

  • 80% say that machine availability (OEE) is a priority
  • 60% of manufacturers say continuous improvement is a priority
  • 56% state that production planning is priority

We felt particularly inspired by a Modern Machine Shop article in their December 2018 issue. Mark Albert wrote about IIoT road maps, and while solutions vary for shops, the basic steps of the plan work for anyone.

“The roadmap shows where a manufacturing company is starting out,” Mark states. “Then defines how to proceed along a continuous series of implementations.”

Here are the manufacturing productivity steps you should be taking:

  • 1) DISCOVER – Look at your current productivity state, trends in technology and the initial idea of what you want to implement.
  • 2) DEFINE – Think of the problem at hand deeply. Will the solutions you were initially thinking of investing in fix these issues? Will it integrate with any existing tools you have on hand, such as CAD-CAM or ERP?
  • 3) ANALYZE – Evaluate the digital maturity of the solution. Who will this come naturally to, who will adapt to it and who will reject it?
  • 4) VALUE – Look at the scope of the project, map out ROI, see if you can take place in a pilot or trial, and read case studies. Have proof of why it is beneficial!
  • 5) EVOLVE – Once you have invested in and adapted to the solution, go further. For example, in machine monitoring – expand to different machines, learn more features past basic functions, or upgrade to different versions to gain more benefits.
  • 6) IMPROVE – Aim for continuous improvement in manufacturing. Even if you get your OEE to a specified goal in a certain amount of time, why not aim higher?

Ready to get started? Call (877) 611-5825 or have us contact you

Manufacturing Management

According to SME’s ToolingU Manufacturing Management Supervisor Essentials Course, just because you’re a manager doesn’t automatically make you a leader. Leaders cope with change and complexity.

Have you taken the time to lead your shop floor recently? Do you know things needs to change?

Typically, those who need automation tools are the machinists, production workers and shift supervisors on the shop floor. Production managers also find these solutions, but often, those who are directly making parts bring their requests to the production manager.

The best approach for the production manager or anyone wanting change would be to present these solutions to decision makers at the company. Usually, the Quality, Engineering and Maintenance departments above Production Management won’t have this authority, so let’s go further.

The first step is proving the value of automation solutions to Departments such as Purchasing, Finance/Accounting or even as high up as the President/Owner. You can check this article from MFG Talk Radio on proving manufacturing ROI to help in this mission.

Other than showing how manufacturing automation can help your organization, here are other steps you can take to improve production:

  1. Situational Analysis – Identify the shop’s areas of success and where improvement is needed within the organization initially.
  2. Correct Project Planning – The best process for planning projects is to define objectives, determine the realistic scope/budget, create a work breakdown structure, then delegate approved tasks out. If you’re not in management, draft a plan to present to a higher-up.
  3. Forecasting – Can you predict or measure demand and control costs? Looking at production for the next three to five years may seem like a long time frame, but this is the most common strategic plan used.
  4. Organization & Planning Tools – The correct resources will help your company’s longevity. They range from budgeting, charts, and scope, to your staff and staffing choices.
  5. Monitor & Control – Yes, we always recommend machine monitoring, but there are other observations to make. Once a month, curate productivity reports. Do operations research and evaluate your schedules based on historical data.

Ready to move forward? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out an online contact form.

CNC Software for MFG Productivity

Many manufacturers seek out CNC software to increase their productivity. Whether they have older machines and small shops, or the latest technology and many employees.

Manufacturers also want software that can be used via wireless, wired, Ethernet, RS232, USB, and more connections. Here are some solutions manufacturers ask for that you may find useful:

OEE Monitoring: Some manufacturers have basic set ups that tells them when machines are down. While this is a great first step, a truly productive manufacturer wants more info. Why were machines down? How long are processes taking? Machine monitoring software helps to evaluate and improve these issues.

One shop floor network: Making sure programs make it to the machine is a crucial issue on the shop floor. Related issues such as revision control and saving the machinist time are also important. DNC software assists in managing programs and communications for thousands of machines.

Protocols: While not technically software, people want new methods of shop floor communication. Protocols such as MTConnect make this task non-proprietary and less cost prohibitive. As far as compatible software, machine monitoring is the most popular solution in this category.

Other software for the shop floor: PDM helps shop floors go paperless and prepare if an audit occurs. There is also CNC Editor to make sure programs on the shop floor are good to go. Tool Crib software is also helpful in your quest for productivity.

Ready to get more information on these solutions? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form

Need An “Automate CNC Machines” Game Plan?

Planning to automate CNC machines or other manufacturing equipment? Here are three steps before starting:

First, Create a Healthy Technology Relationship: “These tools have been developed not for nefarious reasons, but to improve the way we do business or the way we live.” Production Machining Senior Editor Chris Felix explains this topic in their April 2018 issue.

Monitoring equipment and implementing other automation tools is not meant to penalize or micromanage operators. “The implementation of data-driven manufacturing…collects data about and reports on the effectiveness of the manufacturing process. Data from tooling can help to refine cutting parameters to improve accuracy and reduce scrap.”

Basically, any shop floor automation solutions will involve an investment. You want to make sure that those using machines and equipment will take advantage of these tools.

Next, Consider Demand-Driven Manufacturing: “This has become the new market norm because of advancements in real-time analytics and IIoT,” says Stefan Krauss in January/February 2017 Today’s Medical Developments issue. “Manufacturing companies will need to integrate real-time demand information into their operation or risk losing…to the digital leaders that do.”

“Start with an internal audit of end-to-end operations to identify weak spots and insertion points where new features can be introduced.” Doing this will allow you to evaluate what goals are obtainable on your shop floor.

Then, Integrate IIoT: “An IIoT platform is a set of hardware and software facilities that assist and support [an] application for industrial companies using the internet to connect devices and equipment,” says Mark Albert in the Modern Machine Shop November 2017 issue.

“The use of the internet is now commonly called the industrial internet of things. Such platforms may provide an operation environment, computer processing capability, data storage structure, and program building blocks for application developers.”

Ready to start the conversation? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out our contact form

How to do USB to RS232 Transfers

USB to RS232

Modernizing your manufacturing equipment is easier and more affordable than you may otherwise assume. Operators love USB to RS232 transfers of machine programs for many reasons.

This CNC upgrade hardware helps machinists save time, it assists with basic program revision control and the devices that perform these actions help increase memory. Also, since these devices are positioned close to the control, it allows the machine to run at its maximum baud rate.

Here are quick videos with easy steps in which to perform USB machine transfers:

The devices come in pendant models that are dedicated to one machine. There is also the popular portable model, which saves machine operators even more time.

Our list of CNC machines that USB Connect hardware is compatible with includes Siemens, Anilam, Bridgeport, Cincinnati, Fadal, FANUC, Haas, Yasnac, Brother machines, Mitsubishi, and others. Special models also perform Mazak and Switchbox functions.

Ready to learn more? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form

DNC CNC Software

DNC CNC

Our article on DNC software functions and benefits was published by MoldMaking Technology recently. “A company’s programs are their livelihood on the shop floor. They make the parts that keep a business going.”

The three different DNC CNC benefits discussed were remote requests, compatibility (different machines and methods to use DNC), and program revision control.

We also wanted to discuss in this blog a rumor about certain DNC MACROs for manufacturing multitasking. We recommend you read the article for more in-depth information.

Operators with older machines may have limited memory and will need to drip-feed large programs with DNC. Machinists also like using DNC for remote requests or pull mode. While drip-feeding pushes the program (downloaded from the DNC server), the program can instead be requested from the CNC machine.

While remote requests and the diversity of drip-feeding make machinists jobs easier, there is also the added stress of incorrect programs being run at machines. CNC revision control controls this problem and prevents this issue from occurring.

Some operators say they can use DNC in order to perform very basic machine monitoring. Items sent via RS232 can be observed with a specific G-code function.

While this G-code function has been discussed on various machinist forums, we highly recommend you do not rely on it for monitoring CNCs. The information the MACRO provides alone is not good enough. For example – you can feel when your leg is injured, but you won’t know if it’s a sprain or a fracture until you have professional insight.

This G-code MACRO hack will not be able to tell you in-depth when machines are down, why, for how long, what processes can be improved upon, or overall efficiency of your equipment. It also can’t send notifications via email or text when machines are down. DNC can easily be integrated with OEE monitoring software for combined productivity uses.

Ready to start the conversation about DNC software? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form.

RS232 to Ethernet

Operators with legacy CNC machines experience RS232 communication limitations. Because of this, they want to know if RS232 to USB or RS232 to Ethernet upgrades possible and affordable.

You can easily modernize manufacturing equipment with RS232 ports. The LAN Connect device helps with Ethernet abilities.

Benefits of this LAN hardware device:

  • Replace RS232 cabling or DNC software for smaller shops
  • Connect to nearly any machine control with built-in CNC communication firmware
  • Mount inside the pendant or reverse-mouse with a DIN rail
  • The device is assigned an IP address – connects to any standard Ethernet cable from the corporate network
  • Combine Ethernet abilities, increased program storage (via USB stick or internal memory), and larger programs with the LAN-USB Connect

What are the best benefits of this hardware? Run at a maximum baud rate by connecting the device to the CNC controller.

Because of this setup, operators save time versus running from PC to CNC to begin machine operation. IT Departments also prefer this option when they dislike interfacing with serial cabling and complicated DNC software.

So now we come to pricing – the cost to add Ethernet functionality from machine tool builders can be expensive. This third party upgrade is a minimal cost in comparison.

Ready for a quote? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out an online contact form

January February 2019 Newsletter

The following is an archived copy of the Shop Floor Automations newsletter from January/February 2019. The focuses of this email blast are RS232 port upgrades, OEE monitoring and more.

Do you really know what your OEE is?

Overall equipment efficiency (OEE) is a key element to better manufacturing productivity. Sadly, most shops gravely overestimate how well their shop is performing and manage without numbers. 

2019 is the year to know how often your machines are down and why. Improve your machine uptime with reports, charts and dashboards to give you a competitive edge. Two models are available: on-premise with in-house data servers/database, or through flexible, low-cost, monthly Cloud monitoring. 

Give machine operators a voice. Communicate machine data easily and automatically. Interface with CNC machines, lasers, water jets, grinders, robots, and more! Start a machine monitoring trial

Manufacturing in 2018 & 2019 Outlook

American manufacturing last year was incredibly successful. We grew from a $2.2 trillion industry in 2017 to $2.33 trillion in 2018.

How do we keep this momentum going for 2019? We need to face certain issues in our industry head-on.

Other than the ever-present training skills gap, we also need to foster better technology relationships on the shop floor.

Solutions For Your CNC’s – RS232 Port Upgrades

Hardware from Shop Floor Automations is one of our hottest categories of merchandise. It’s a sign that people in the industry are further looking to extend the life of their existing equipment and save money versus buying new machines.

Take a moment to evaluate if any of these items apply to your shop floor:

  • Are you carrying a laptop around the shop floor in order to make sure programs make it to the CNC? 
  • Considering turning an old RS232 port into a USB port?
  • The cost of cabling continues to rise. Are you ready to go wireless?
  • Stuck using floppy disks versus USB memory drives? 
  • Need file control and management of NC programs on one network? 

We have various shop floor hardware solutions that suit all of your manufacturing needs. These investments are affordable and the ROI is outstanding! 

Want more information? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form

CNC Automation for 2019

cnc automation

What are your CNC automation plans for this new year? If you are drawing a blank, never fear – here are three quick ideas!

1 – CNC Data Collection – Do you know often your machines are running? Or worse – how often your machines are down? Set up a machine monitoring trial to see what is actually happening during production!

OEE monitoring software will help you track planned and unplanned downtime. Know how long a broken tool or lockout tagout takes so the process can be improved. Evaluate how to increase manufacturing machine capacity.

2 – CNC Program Revision Control – Do incorrect programs run at your machine frequently? Are programs floating around the shop floor stressing you out? Set up a DNC Software webinar or ask for a demo!

DNC software will assist for controlling correct programs running at machines. The software also ensures that programs are making it to the CNC without communication failures.

3 – RS232 to USB – Legacy equipment can be refreshed for optimized productivity. Turning an RS232 port into a USB port will help in order to utilize modern media and increase memory at the machine. There are many hardware options to help freshen up your equipment!

Other hardware for CNC machines helps to convert floppy drives in order to use USB sticks. You can also go wireless in order to eliminate shop floor cables.

Shop Floor Automations is ready to assist in your mission to increase manufacturing productivity! Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out our contact form.

Manufacturing Tax Benefits 2019

The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) brought about many changes that have set the pace for 2019. There are important manufacturing tax questions we are asking ourselves or should be. Shop Floor Automations has some tips you should check out!

What kind of benefits can manufacturers seek out? Section 179 is a big resource for our industry we should all be utilizing. Especially if there are upgrades crucial to your productivity you want to write off.

“If you purchase or lease qualifying equipment, like CAD CAM software, you can fully deduct the total purchase price from your gross income,” a representative at BobCAD CAM says. “The price limit is set at $500k, but businesses that exceed that limit can take a one-time, bonus depreciation of 50 percent the amount that exceeds the limit.”

Another benefit that has been significant for manufacturers has touched on equipment depreciation. When pursuing equipment financing via loans, nontax leases or tax leases, owners have been able to deduct depreciation expenses. The TCJA will still allow this to be done.

“The centerpiece of the TJCA – a reduction in the maximum corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent – drastically reduces tax liability for many manufacturers,” says Toni Larson, who wrote a piece on Tax Reform in January’s issue of MetalForming Magazine.

Other benefits Larson suggests looking into for 2019:

  • 100 percent expensing for equipment placed in service after 9/27/17 and before 1/1/23
  • Investment Tax Credit (ITC) as well as the aforementioned Section 179
  • Find an expert in equipment leasing who can provide specific knowledge based on your equipment needs and business goals

Get in touch with us about investments you can make for your 2019 manufacturing operation! Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form