Automating Communication for a Better-Performing Plant Floor

When it comes to process improvements on the shop floor, communication can be a known issue – but not necessarily one that is high on the short-term corrective action priority list. Why is that?

The simple answer is that addressing communication issues can be uncomfortable and hard to rectify in some situations, and downright explosive in others. One HR manager reported that a warehouse supervisor and maintenance manager tangled over company policies so much so that “fights worsened until the two departments didn’t want to work together.” Emotions aside, communication issues can also be costly to manufacturing operations.

The Costs of Poor Communication

Morgan Consulting cites communication as one of the biggest “four job skills when predicting both employer and employee satisfaction.” If you’re not working to improve communication on the floor, resulting employee turnover can cost up to a third of an employee’s annual salary, if not more in the current labor market. The search for manufacturing employees can be a time-consuming process as well.

Breakdowns in communication can also be responsible for increased injuries in the workplace. The findings of one study, “Fostering Safety Communication Among Construction Workers: Role of Safety Climate and Crew-Level Cohesion,” proposed “that a positive relationship exists between safety climate and safety communication levels.” And if you’re not safely producing quality product on time, you’ll see the impact in wasted materials, excessive downtime and your bottom line. According to the National Safety Council, the cost of workplace injuries in 2019 alone was $171 billion.

 

One tactic to enhance shop floor communication is through improved manufacturing integration. By seamlessly connecting your personnel to your equipment, your company can open up the possibilities for greater visibility, productivity and, ultimately, profitability. Let’s visit a few examples that can apply to your own manufacturing operations.

Multiple Means of Automated Communication

While your machines are running, they’re emitting useful data to indicate setup time changes, cycle time improvements per operator or per operation, maintenance indicators like temperature fluctuations and more. But what if you could make this data available to a wide swath of shop personnel, supervisors, managers and directors via a number of channels in an automated fashion? Equipment monitoring software, such as the Scytec DataXchange machine monitoring solution, helps manufacturers do just that.

A close up of a lathe, one of many machines that are compatible with machine monitoring software.

Equipment events can trigger machine monitoring notifications via Microsoft Teams for greater visibility to tackle challenges and improve processes quicker.

By expanding the reach of alarm alerts, threshold violations and underperforming utilization data from your FANUC, Mazak, Okuma and other equipment, the more familiar your teams become with the data – and the more potential there is to tackle challenges and improve processes.

  • Shop floor flat-screen monitors. By installing flat-screen monitors throughout your floor with real-time data from your lathes, lasers and other machinery, you are communicating corporate KPI priorities and unlocking key data for all your shop floor personnel. “When production teams own the results and have control over their work, analytics and metrics provide the feedback that keeps them motivated to do their best,” says Louis Columbus in Forbes. The exposure of data through flat-screen monitors ensures operators, machinists and other workers are in sync with the expectations of management, and gives them a position to identify ways to make progress with weak areas.
  • Automated e-mails and text messaging. When operators must wait upwards of an hour for material after they finish a job, their valuable time is wasted, morale is depleted and shipments risk being delayed. The downstream costs can be significant. Proper communication to the materials manager via automated e-mails and text messaging, for instance, can ensure s/he is notified precisely when a specified percentage of parts remain. A modern machine monitoring system like DataXchange matches work/shop orders and part counts to the established threshold and facilitates the notification so managers are prepared for the next material delivery before material levels are exhausted. This makes instant messaging, in combination with dashboards that are accessible through mobile or desktop devices or monitors on the shop floor, a vital way to reduce downtime hours each week.
  • Automated Microsoft Teams messaging. For many manufacturers, lengthy inspection processes can lead to frustration on the floor. This frustration can swell as managers dedicate even more time and resources to determine where the process is breaking down and what improvements may be made. By tracking ODI and machine statuses, a robust machine monitoring solution can detail out the inspection process and notify team member(s) via Microsoft Teams regarding specific events. To start, ODI data collection shares when a machine is ready for inspections, when a part is actively being inspected and how long it’s taking the operator to start running the machine again. The availability of a machine for inspection can be signaled to the Quality team through a Teams notification, thereby removing any speculation or manual calls, e-mails or texts. The completion of the inspection then can be displayed on a dashboard as well as trigger an alert to the operator to run the job. Should a defined period of time lapse before the job begins, a supervisor can receive a Teams message regarding the delay.

With feature-rich machine monitoring, manufacturers have the opportunity to remove communication issues from their corrective action priority list altogether. The display of equipment dashboards through flat-screen monitors and the automation of e-mail, text and Microsoft Teams messaging based on machine events can go a long way toward diminishing material waste, unnecessary downtime and potentially missed sales. See how your manufacturing environment can improve its communication on the floor simply and effectively by attending a demonstration of the Scytec DataXchange machine monitoring software today.

An aerial view of the United States Pentagon.

Securing Your CNC Equipment for CMMC 2.0 Compliance

Companies within the Defense Industrial Base (DIB), like machine, pharmaceutical and aerospace product manufacturers, are increasingly the subject of frequent attacks in pursuit of the billions of dollars tied up in Department of Defense (DoD) projects. The SolarWinds breach, the REvil cybergang hit on a defense contractor and others incidents making headline news are the overt evidence of these escalating targets – but it’s estimated by Black Kite that “twenty percent of America’s largest 100 defense contractors are highly susceptible to a ransomware attack.”

An aerial view of the United States Pentagon.

For manufacturers with FCI, compliance with the DoD’s CMMC 2.0 involves the control of removable media, such as PCMCIA memory cards and USB drives, and impacts the use of such media in conjunction with your CNC machinery.

The DoD is naturally taking action. The safeguard of defense-related information has been named a major priority, says the DoD, leading the agency to unveil its “enhanced” CMMC 2.0 program in November of last year. With three different levels of compliance (“Foundational,” “Advanced” and “Expert”), CMMC 2.0 will undergo implementation through the rulemaking process, which can span from nine months to two years, and then ultimately fold the program into a contractual requirement. This means that any company that processes, stores or handles Federal Contract Information (FCI) must perform a CMMC Level 1 self-assessment.

Proper Protection of CUI

For manufacturers with FCI, CMMC 2.0 compliance involves the control of removable media, such as PCMCIA memory cards and USB drives, and encrypting this media to properly protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). The process of storing and transferring machine programs is already a time- and labor-consuming task: often companies set up a kiosk for programmers to peruse programs, copy the selected machine code onto a USB, trek back to the machinery and copy the program to the machine. One manufacturer estimated that it took them 10 minutes of set-up time to upload a program and get the routers – per part. The total time devoted to this process amounted to around 83 hours a month.

CNC machine programs with PCMCIA media cards and USB drives also make revision control virtually impossible. Programs that were never proven can be exported to machines, machined “not to spec” and lead to the scrapping of parts, rework, or worse, customer rejections. Companies can then find themselves scrambling to repair customer concerns and spending additional time and labor sourcing the correct program, and ultimately going through the machine program transfer process over again.

Now, with CMMC 2.0, machinery using removable storage devices can also lead to noncompliance. Solutions to achieve compliance, however, may hold even greater possible benefits for manufacturers.

DNC for Compliancy, Reliability, and Greater Productivity

A modern DNC networking solution, like Predator DNC as available through Shop Floor Automations, can work towards helping companies eliminate removable drives from CNC manufacturing equipment altogether. Serving as one industrial network for all your CNC machines, robots, CMMs, PLCs, 3D printers and other equipment, a well-designed DNC networking system ensures that only your latest files are tapped from their central location and, when changes occur, the edits are stored back on your file server.

A machinist working with a machine that is running DNC software, removing the need for physical drives and saving time between jobs.

A well-designed DNC networking solution can connect all your CNC machines, robots, CMMs, PLCs, 3D printers and other equipment on one industrial network, thereby removing or reducing the need for removable storage media, like PCMCIA media cards or USB drives.

Even more so, CNC program revisions can be controlled through a bar code or QR code reader to eliminate errors and transfer the proven/released part program every time into the CNC for complete traceability. Securing greater control of your CNC program revisions can lead to a reduction in the amount of rework and scrap that plagues companies utilizing untested programs. All in all, the implementation of a proper DNC networking solution can equate to a more productive team and a more consistent and reliable manufacturing process.

Set up your organization for CMMC 2.0 compliance while realizing significant gains in productivity and reliability – contact a DNC networking specialist at Shop Floor Automations to discuss your unique defense environment today.

4 Ways Machine Monitoring Automated Alarms Can Aid Your Shop Floor

From Streamlining Machine Tooling Changeovers to Reducing Equipment Downtime, Machine Monitoring Automation Can Have Major Impacts on Your Plant Operations

The process of receiving instantaneous equipment alarms and reason codes doesn’t have to be a manual or cumbersome process; learn how to easily funnel this machine data to operators and technicians to initiate improvements to your uptime and productivity.

Who knew robots could be lazy? The truth is, they can – IF you don’t take steps to minimize their downtime. Automating your shop floor is like any other form of automation: the goal is to keep your production functioning properly in order to meet or exceed customer expectations, especially in today’s challenging economic climate.

Your equipment is generating valuable data as it operates, sits idle or shuts down. That’s where alarms and reason codes come in. The sooner you can catch and take action on this data, the sooner your teams can pinpoint issues, understand and predict trends and reduce obstacles to achieve greater productivity and efficiency across your operations.

However, “Do…alarms really change people’s behavior and drive us to a corrective or preventive understanding of the problem or are your key resources just going through the motions?” Author Scott Walton presents this valid concern in Production Machining magazine – but if you don’t have an effective machine monitoring solution in place to affect change, you probably already know the answer.

In this article, we’re going to cycle through four different ways in which your operators and technicians can not only gain better visibility of equipment issues – but become better enabled to take action in an automated and precise manner for measurable gains.

A close up of a smartphone in someone's hand while on the shop floor. The phone is running a machine monitoring app.

#1: Machine Monitoring of Tooling

One valuable aspect of machine monitoring software is its ability to track equipment tooling. When the remaining life of a tool drops below a specified threshold, your tooling department may be notified of the tooling degradation to prepare for the tooling change or order new tooling. A secondary threshold may be established to prompt the actual tooling change operation or to inform the shift supervisor, as another example. These prompts may occur as a supplement to a dashboard, which may be accessed via mobile, tablet or shop floor monitors, that will indicate the life status of the tooling to your teams. This level of visibility takes the guesswork out of tooling operations, conserving valuable labor and time.

#2: Facilitating Lights-Out Operation 

Whether you’re planning to engage in lights-out machining in the new year, or have begun the process to transition a few pieces of equipment, machine monitoring software can be critical to this initiative. The unexpected stoppage of a machine, for instance, can initiate a text message to the operator with a particular reason code, such as PWR (Power Failure) or HOLD (job is being held pending further instructions) and an indication that immediate human intervention is needed. Or by combining a machine monitoring solution with automated part count tracking, in which machine monitoring is reporting the number of completed parts in a shift, an operator may be texted once the job is close to completion. This functionality allows a shift to truly run autonomously with one worker on-call, thus freeing the operator to perform other value-added tasks to improve labor productivity.

#3: Workplace Safety Impacts

Machining volatile materials, such as titanium, have inherent fire risks. While production machinery is typically equipped with fire suppression systems, the disconnect occurs in who receives communications regarding the start of these systems and when those communications are received – and how. Operators, supervisors, plant managers or risk management/EHS officers and others should be granted a variety of means with which they can be notified immediately as these life-threatening situations happen on the floor. Using DataXchange equipment monitoring, you can add both text and e-mail notifications to notify the team(s) responsible for responding to the fire and those involved with crisis communications procedures.

#4: Smarter Reading Monitoring

A machinist assesses the status and progress of a machine by using machine monitoring software, which can alert employees of an issue well before it becomes a costly problem.

A smart factory approach with a machine monitoring system can allow you to notify your teams before a particular temperature – or pressure or other reading – is reached to avoid scrapping and better control production rates.

If your facilities include autoclaves or ovens with temperature monitoring, there’s an even smarter way to manage the resulting data of these units. Temperature that goes above or below a set threshold for too long, as an example, can cause a part to be scrapped – which is an expensive outcome in terms of both time and material. A smart factory approach with a machine monitoring system can allow you to notify your teams before a particular temperature is reached to avoid scrapping and better control production rates. You can take your smart temperature monitoring even further by applying the same approach to pressure, coolant, humidity, and other readings that may be captured with a sensor.

Translating Alarms into Action

By taking advantage of the alarms, reason codes and other valuable data your equipment outputs with each production run in an automated and visible fashion, your teams can be better armed to optimize tooling processes, facilitate lights-out operations, reduce or eliminate workplace safety impacts and carry out smarter equipment readings management.

Let Shop Floor Automations help you fulfill your automation vision with machine monitoring software and machine monitoring hardware. Simply contact one of our manufacturing integration specialists today to get the information you need to turn your machinery data into insights that can make a difference in your plant operations.

What Does a Digital Transformation Look Like on the Shop Floor?

Shaping Your Digital Transformation on the Shop Floor

A digital transformation journey can vary from company to company; find out what it could look like in your own manufacturing environment.

Digital tranformation in manufacturing - Shop Floor Automations

The global digital transformation market isn’t just booming – it’s growing at a steady rate of 20.8% CAGR per year. Because businesses are rapidly implementing these customer-driven growth strategies, it’s critical that you look into automated solutions for your own shop floor.

But what is digital transformation? And why should it be important to your manufacturing organization? Read on to answer these questions with this guide to shop floor digital transformation.

Shop Floor Digital Transformation: The Basics

‘Digital transformation’ is a broad concept that encompasses a “foundational change in how an organization delivers value to its customers,” describes CIO magazine, that includes the folding of new technologies and processes into business operations. The point of this concept is to streamline business in an increasingly digital world by using the technology at our disposal.

Transforming your business into a digital framework doesn’t focus on one singular aspect of the business, such as sales or quality assurance. Rather, it’s a shift in mindset and the overall way that your business functions. By incorporating digital technologies in all areas of your business, you stand to increase overall productivity and efficiency through greater visibility, automation and integration.

“Companies’ adoption of digital technologies has sped up by three to seven years in just months, with companies accelerating efforts for fear of being outflanked by competitors,” says Laura Laberge, McKinsey director of capabilities for digital strategy

What Does Digital Transformation Look Like?

Because digital transformation is a strategic initiative, it’s important to look at some of the specific things that make it successful. Automation is one of the core ways that businesses make this transition.

In the past, data collection and receipt was often a manual process – whether through data entry, handwritten notes and even some EDI setups that require human checkpoints and updates. Shop floor machinery also needed to be manually monitored and tracked. This wasn’t just difficult, but left a lot of room for human error.

Today, the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and other automation technologies have vastly improved the means with which manufacturers can remotely monitor machine utilization and output for significant insights into trends, failure predictions, capacity constraints and more. Advances in user-friendly interfaces and functionality make solutions far easier for operators to adopt and use on a regular basis.

CNC milling tooling - remote machine operation

Today automation technologies have vastly improved the means with which manufacturers can remotely monitor machine utilization and output for significant insights and better decision-making.

Software isn’t the only aspect of a shop floor transformation, however. Hardware can play a key role in increasing the visibility of data collection for uptime improvements, such as through the display of dashboards monitors on the floor, or even increasing program storage and NC program transferring capabilities among older machinery by outfitting them with portable floppy drives.

What Are the Benefits of Digital Transformation?

There are a plethora of benefits of digitally transforming your shop floor. They can include:

  • Increased capacity to meet customer needs and demands
  • Faster and more streamlined machine use
  • Reduction and optimization of time spent operating machinery
  • Greater access to documentation/file organization
  • Fewer opportunities for human error
  • High-level monitoring for all types of machines
  • Remote monitoring capabilities from mobile devices
  • Absorbing new competitive advantage(s) over other manufacturers
  • Faster manufacturing processes to decrease customer wait times
  • Improved overall customer experience to impact retention and business development efforts

Regardless of your desired end result, a well-executed shop floor digital transformation can have a direct impact on revenues, even during times of crisis. McKinsey reports that “organizations that experimented with new digital technologies…and among those that invested more capital expenditures in digital technology than their peers did, executives are twice as likely to report outsize revenue growth than executives at other companies.”

Get Started on Your Digital Transformation Journey

So how do you get started on your own shop floor digital transformation journey? One approach may be to compile gaps in information that are necessary to produce better decision-making across departments. As a preferred manufacturing integrator, Shop Floor Automations has the resources to help you identify and bridge such gaps with the latest available technologies. Contact us to set up your digital transformation consultation today.

Smart Factory Practices: Reasons to Invest in Machine Monitoring Solutions

Why Invest in Smart Factory Machine Monitoring Solutions?

Growth spurred by recovery from COVID-19, skilled labor and material shortages, and more is fueling interest in smart factory practices. Machine monitoring may be the answer for your manufacturing operations.

Are you looking to take on or contribute to your smart factory initiatives? Are you wondering if you should use smart factory monitoring services?

With skilled labor shortages being so common, there’s never been a better time to invest in smart factory practices. Unplanned downtime can lead to many issues – decreases in efficiency and utilization, missed shipments and delays, customer dissatisfaction and more. Without being able to reduce or eliminate unplanned downtime, your plant will suffer.

According to Aberdeen Research, industrial manufacturers lose an estimated $50 billion every year due to unplanned downtime. It’s estimated that unplanned downtime can cost industrial plants between $10,000 and $260,000 PER HOUR.

The Costs of Downtime in Manufacturing

Machine downtime is a major source of reduced efficiency in manufacturing. Many companies underestimate machine downtime and don’t – or can’t – make correct calculations as a result.

Unplanned downtime is particularly detrimental. Unplanned downtime occurs for many reasons and can slow down operations. Unfortunately, overhead costs won’t change.

A machinist is able to work efficiently with her cutting machine thanks to machine monitoring software.

Machine downtime is a major source of reduced efficiency in manufacturing. Many companies underestimate machine downtime and don’t – or can’t – make correct calculations as a result. Machine monitoring solutions can offer a cost-effective approach to achieving smart factory goals.

Neglecting to care for machines can lead to high costs and wasted resources. By eliminating or drastically reducing unplanned downtime, you’ll streamline operations and decrease costs.

Machine monitoring solutions can be a powerful tool to add intelligence to your manufacturing environment.

Benefits of Downtime Monitoring Services

Equipment monitoring services can be the key to unlocking increased productivity, capacity and much more for manufacturers and job shops. Here are four reasons why.

1. Identify Bottlenecks

Once equipment downtime is being monitored, managers and supervisors will always know when a machine is down. With this level of visibility, unplanned events can be investigated for analysis while planned downtime can be scheduled during non-peak times. Was the unplanned downtime a result of an operator error? Did a machine malfunction due to excessive job changeover? By assigning reason codes to machine monitoring alerts, you can develop predictive analysis over time.

2. Make Better Operational Decisions

By receiving data from factory machines, you can also make better decisions. You’ll have a greater grip on capacity availability. You’ll be able to quote jobs more accurately. You can make better choices when hiring and training employees.

You’ll also know when to alter predictive and preventive maintenance plans. The data you’ll get can help you determine whether to maintain, fix, or replace a machine.

3. Empower Employees

When machine data is collected over time, employers can share the data with employees to increase transparency so everyone, as a team, can work towards a common goal of optimizing machine output.

Employees will feel more empowered. Machinery will be better utilized. Your plant operations will no longer rely on tribal knowledge and guesswork, but on real-time machine monitoring data to make well-informed decisions.

4. Increase Efficiency

With the assignment and tracking of real-time alerts, you’re then afforded the ability to focus on cycle time reduction in an automated fashion. Get a clear understanding of your idle times, setup and log times to reduce extra steps, non-value added time and other inefficiencies. What’s more, you can take a systemic approach to pursuing high-priority wastes and making a solid impact to your lean efforts.

Using Smart Factory Monitoring Services to Improve Operations

If you want to streamline your manufacturing operations, consider the smart factory solution of machine monitoring. Machine monitoring solutions can have a big impact on your factory’s short-term and long-term success, making it a compelling investment as market demand opportunities remain on the horizon.

Are you ready to start using machine monitoring software? Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

Cloud Machine Monitoring vs. On Premise: Which is Better for Your Manufacturing Site?

Cloud Machine Monitoring vs. On Premise: Which is Better?

Cloud machine monitoring is often compared to on premise machine monitoring. Which is better for your manufacturing site? Find out in this guide.

The CNC machine market is expected to reach $76.22 billion by the end of 2020. As someone who’s decided to get machine monitoring for your business, you’re making a choice that allows you to keep up with competitors.

However, after making the choice to get a monitoring system, you likely are wondering whether cloud machine monitoring vs on-premise solutions are right for you. Read on to make a more informed choice about remotely keeping tabs on your manufacturing processes.

What Is Cloud Machine Monitoring?

Cloud machine monitoring lets you monitor and manage real-time data using cloud-based technology infrastructure. Your machines never connect to the public cloud, but rather a local computer that relays the data to the cloud data center. You’ll be able to review and report on your equipment from anywhere with Internet access, eliminating the need to go into the office.

Benefits of Cloud Monitoring

Some pros of using cloud solutions include:

  • Provide automatic software updates
  • Provide you with better support
  • Give you licensing flexibility to use only features and functionality desired
  • Allow you to pay as you go, month to month or annual contracts
  • Make the deployment of your monitoring technologies easier
    • You would need to manually maintain on-premise databases regularly, which is added time/cost
    • Cloud monitoring technology leverages the latest Microsoft Windows Servers, SQL databases
  • Improve your security with firewalls, protocols and data center management of uptime
  • Let you access data from anywhere and any device
  • Allow for more flexibility and scalability for your business
  • Faster deployment and set up with an hour of ordering

Downsides of Cloud Monitoring

There are also some cons:

  • Data can be automatically shared with providers and other users
  • Specific industries are not allowed to use cloud technologies
  • Subscription costs are ongoing and may be best to purchase the software
  • Costs associated with changing to on-premise or selecting another provider
  • Edge devices or proprietary hardware may be required to gain access to the cloud provider

How Is On-Premise Machine Monitoring Different?

On premise machine monitoring allows you to keep virtual tabs on CNC machines via software in your own facility and servers. You own everything, both hardware and software-related. Our team is simply responsible for deployment and routine upgrades.

Advantages of On-Premise Monitoring

Some benefits of on-premise solutions include:

  • You having complete control of the location of your data
  • You understand and know all of your costs and maintenance fees before deployment
  • Licensing is an up-front cost
  • Data will never be shared unless you actively choose to share it
  • You have full control of your security (while the cloud is secure, you do not choose your security applications)
  • Some companies and local governments require on-premise monitoring to meet company policies and local government regulations

Disadvantages of On-Premise Monitoring

There are also some downsides:

  • You must perform manual software updates
  • Data can only be accessed near the server
  • Very little mobility
  • No pay as you go plans
  • No licensing flexibility (it’s all up front)

Which Option Is Right For You?

You may prefer cloud-based monitoring if:

  • You are often adding/removing CNC machines from your facility
  • You prefer a scalable solution because of inconsistent productivity
  • You want to remotely monitor your devices from many different mobile technologies
  • You prefer having your provider manage all upgrades and security features

You may like on-premise monitoring better when:

  • You want full control of security and applications
  • You want to perform your hardware and software maintenance in-house
  • Your business and machines have consistent productivity year-round

You can also start on the cloud and then sign up for additional features to convert to on-premise monitoring. We have month-to-month payments vs our competitors, who require 1-year annual payments.

Optimize Your Tech Solutions Today

Now that you know how to choose between cloud machine monitoring and its on-premise counterpart, it’s time to get started. Contact us with any remaining questions that you have about our virtual machine monitoring solutions.

Not only are we happy to provide insight into which service is best for you, but we’re also happy to point you in the direction of that solution. We’re committed to helping businesses like yours ensure that their CNC machines are operating properly from remote locations. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Meet Manufacturing Demand at FABTECH 2021

Shop Floor Automations to Offer Manufacturing Machine Monitoring and Hardware Solutions to Increase Visibility, Productivity

With its recent announcement that it will be the first large-scale manufacturing trade show to return to McCormick Place in Chicago from September 13-16, FABTECH will once again make Chicago the epicenter of the North American metal fabrication industry. The event brings all aspects of the metal fabricating, forming, welding, and finishing industries together to showcase the technology, innovation, and solutions they provide.

Manufacturing machine monitoring solutions - FABTECH Booth #A3441

Schedule your demonstration of manufacturing machine monitoring solutions at the Shop Floor Automations Booth, #A3441, at FABTECH 2021

Shop Floor Automations (SFA), a manufacturing integrator offering hardware and software solutions to manufacturers and job shops throughout the United States, will be exhibiting the Scytec DataXchange machine monitoring solution at Booth #A3441 at FABTECH this year. This solution allows production environments to capture automated, real-time machine data for increased visibility of accurate cycle times, setup times, idle times, machine downtime and more. For manufacturers struggling to keep pace with demand as the United States recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, machine monitoring solutions, like DataXchange, can be the difference between a company’s ability to take on new work versus not.

In the May 2021 Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®, Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, stated, “Demand expanded, with the (1) New Orders Index growing at a strong level, supported by the New Export Orders Index continuing to expand, (2) Customers’ Inventories Index hitting another all-time low and (3) Backlog of Orders Index continuing at a record-high level.”

“Now, and well into 2022, manufacturers need to be able to make demonstrable impacts to machine uptime automatically to generate greater efficiencies to support existing work while increasing productivity for growth opportunities knocking on the doors of so many,” says Greg Mercurio, SFA President.

FABTECH facilitates connections between exhibitors and attendees in order to conduct business, share knowledge, and showcase the most advanced manufacturing equipment and technology in an unparalleled environment. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore three halls filled with cutting-edge technology, new product debuts, and firsthand product demonstrations from over 1,000 exhibitors.

Attendee and media registration for FABTECH 2021 is open now. Visit fabtechexpo.com to register and obtain additional show details. To schedule a DataXchange demonstration with SFA in advance of the show, contact us at www.shopfloorautomations.com.

How To Choose the Right Machine Monitoring Solution

An infographic for Smart Manufacturing, featuring a clip art image of a factory building surrounded by various aspects of smart manufacturing.

If you’re among the 12.28 million Americans who work in the manufacturing industry, you likely are constantly looking for ways to streamline your operations. Machine monitoring systems are a great way to do this by letting you remotely see what your machines are doing in real-time.

Here, we’re going to learn how you can choose a machine status monitoring solution that works for your business. Read on to streamline your CNC processes today.

Research Machine Monitoring Solutions

As with all business-related endeavors, you’re going to need to research machine monitoring solutions at length before making a purchase. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What specific functions do you need to monitor?
  • What data do you plan to monitor CNC machines on?
  • Are the monitoring solutions you’re considering compatible with both your CNC machines, saws, grinders, ovens, robots, etc?
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals that you want the machines to help you accomplish?
  • How will your prospective software solution help meet these goals?
  • How much are you willing to spend on a solution?
  • How long has the company been in business, experience with your equipment, and follow-up support?

Compare Prices and Stick to a Budget

This last question is extremely important when selecting a machine monitoring solution. You need to create a budget and find something that operates within it.

You want a high ROI from your monitoring technology, so find something that costs only around $50 per machine. This price will increase when you decide you want more features, but it’s a good place to start.

Decide Between Cloud-Based vs On-Premise Software

Like any SaaS solution, machine status monitoring technologies have multiple possible deployment options. Some people prefer to use on-site software because they feel that it will be more secure and accessible.

However, Cloud-based technology has multi-factor encryption and only allows authorized users access. It can also be reached from anywhere so you can monitor your machines from home or on your mobile device.

We recommend that you begin on the Cloud and move gradually towards on-site systems (if you still want to). However, we understand that everyone’s needs are different and that you need to consider the deployment option that you prefer.

Look Into the Features That Matter to You

There are a plethora of features that may matter to manufacturers choosing machine monitoring solutions. First, you’ll need to be able to access real-time data from any CNC machine. This is essential to ensure that your current analysis, metrics, and understanding of the machine’s function are always completely up-to-date.

You also will want a solution that can track multiple types of cycle time so you can get a well-rounded feel for how your machines are working. Make sure that you also are able to see your data results from anywhere at any time. You’ll want to report on them as the machines cycle, stop, and determine why the controller is slowed down.  Generating charts will also help you visualize the data to communicate the value of a system.

The bottom line is that you need to keep an eye out for the things that are most important for your individual software needs.

Get Started

Now that you know how to choose a machine monitoring platform for your business, it’s time to get started. Contact our sales team with any questions about monitoring your manufacturing plant’s CNC operations.

We offer month-to-month payment plans so that you can scale your monitoring solutions. This is in contrast with other monitoring software companies that only offer annual plans and have large upfront costs and proprietary hardware.

Our experts will point you in the direction of effective and affordable Cloud and on-premise monitoring solutions. We’ll also talk with you about your specific needs within your industry, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Why You Should Skip Free DNC Software

Shop floor employee working on a laptop in front of a CNC Control

The benefits of DNC software when it comes to managing your CNC programs, machine parameters, and offsets are well known. As a result, many businesses look to offer some form of DNC software or their own, ranging from thousands of dollars to absolutely free. While free DNC software options may seem like a great deal, the limitations they create are often detrimental to your business.

As professional manufacturing integrators for over 20 years, Shop Floor Automations has seen and experienced both the good and the bad DNC software options out there, and now we want to share some of the things we’ve learned about free DNC options with you. Below, we’ll outline exactly why you should look to invest in your business’s success and skip free DNC software.

Drawbacks of Free DNC Software

In short, free DNC software is simply incapable of offering the same value you can expect from full versions. While perhaps useful in the short term for the smallest of shops, those free options won’t be able to deliver any worthwhile benefit if you’re looking to increase your capabilities and production rates. Let’s dive further into a few of the major limitations.

              Lack of Capability & Flexibility

Free DNC software almost always comes with limitations on both the types of machines and programmed instructions it can support. If you are looking to connect various types of machines performing several unique functions, your free software option won’t keep up. Instead, choose an option that allows you to connect any brand, type, and age of CNC machine to ensure your software can grow alongside your business.

              Inability to Grow with You

One of DNC software’s significant benefits is its powerful ability to increase production rates easily and rapidly. While a free version may work for you now, it will severely limit the number of machines you can connect. Anything more than a small handful of devices is going to demonstrate the limitations of free software immediately. In addition, newer machines with Ethernet connection are left out and you will be forced to use other software to manages these machines.  As you begin growing, your needs will quickly outpace the capabilities of any free DNC software option you choose.

Does Free DNC Software Offer Any Value?

Free DNC software options are not all bad. If you are relatively new to the world of DNC software, it may be beneficial to try one of these free options out for a few weeks. While it will not give you anywhere near a clear image of what exactly DNC software is capable of, it can be an effective way to dip your toe in the water. However, we don’t recommend relying on a free option for any extended amount of time. Keep in mind, if you need support or help getting your CNC machine communicating, it usually endss up costing you more since there is no one to call and support is left to an email address with hopes a timely response is provided.

Invest in Your Success with DNC Software

Improving your CNC networking, securing ethernet transfers, combining with PDM for CNC revision control, and integrating with other manufacturing automation software: these are the benefits you can expect from true DNC software. Investing in this software now means upgrading your capabilities, your productivity, and your overall profitability.

Interested in True DNC Software? Try the Real Deal For Yourself.

Whether you have grown frustrated with the abilities of your free DNC software or want to try DNC software for the first time, Shop Floor Automations is here to help. We offer a 30-day software trial run to help you test out the software and be sure it meets your needs.

After discussing your current system and needs, we will work together to help you configure a few of your machines, give you an overview of the interface, and validate bi-direction communication for the full extent of the 30 days. From there, we will let you run things, giving you a chance to truly experience the software without intervention. Participating in this trial comes at no charge, and there is no obligation to purchase the software after the trial ends. Just complete this form, and we’ll walk you through the rest!

We look forward to helping automate your shop floor!

What is the Best DNC Software?

A clip art depiction of several machines at work sorting packages while a shop floor manager assesses the data collected via the machine monitoring software on their tablet.

Known for their ability to streamline shop floor processes, boost productivity, and generally make your manufacturing process easier, industry leaders rely on DNC software across the board. However, when it comes to determining the best DNC software for your specific needs, it can be challenging to sort through all the information and confusion out there. To help facilitate the process, we’ve compiled this brief overview of a few of the DNC software options which exist and how you can determine which best suits your needs.

First, What Are Those Needs?

When you think of ways your shop floor could improve efficiency, what are some of the first strategies that come to mind? Some of the most common problems DNC software provides solutions pertain to:

  • Difficulties with the ability to integrate your software on legacy equipment.
  • A lack of transparency in your CNC network security.
  • Concerns over the elevated costs associated with upgrading older equipment
  • Obstacles integrating existing equipment with other applications in the future, including machine monitoring, tool management, and paperless manufacturing options.

If any of these concerns resonate with you, a quality DNC software can be the answer.

Next, What is Your Budget?

While we never recommend deciding on a solution based on price alone, determining your budget prior to the shopping process is a great first step in finding the best DNC software. Luckily, a wide range of options exist, so finding a great product that meets your budgetary and capability requirements will be possible.

Top DNC Software Programs Compared

3.) CIMCO DNC-Max

Designed to keep things simple while retaining function, CIMCO DNC-Max Software is a nice option for everyone from small shops to large corporate enterprises. You have the ability to access this software from both desktop and mobile devices, helping you easily access information at any time. CIMCO DNC software has the added benefit of seamless integration with CIMCO editing software and offers a wide range of CNC and hardware compatibility. However, while this software is a decent product for the price, there are several other options with additional capabilities for even further benefit.

2.) Ascendant eXtremeDNC

The first 32-bit, multi-threaded, multi-tasking, and open architecture application for the DNC market, this software ensures future compatibility, reliability, and seamless operation for all Windows based operating systems and respective network environments.

Additional offers include:

  • Reliable RS232 communication via wireless & wired connections
  • Support for most CNC controls
  • The ability to self-install or implement onsite
  • Support for Windows 10, 7, Server 2016/2019 – 32-bit & 64-bit systems
  • Premier service provider for over 10 years

A top solution for client/server installations, visit our Ascendant eXtremeDNC Software page to learn more.

1.) Predator DNC Software

At number one on our list is Predator DNC software. One of the most rigorous and advanced DNC software options available, Predator DNC allows you to network all CNCs, EDMs, PLCs, & robots with a singular DNC package.

Additional features include:

  • Eliminated walking time to & from CNC to PC
  • Fast and simple server / client configuration
  • Support for major CNC protocols, including Mazatrol (CMT), Okuma B, and Xmodem
  • Send, receive, or drip-feed hundreds of machines from a single server/computer
  • Highly flexible connectivity options include wireless, serial RS232, Ethernet, & USB
  • Eliminate More Server, FileZilla, CuteFTP, NetShare, and other similar software using SecureDNC
  • Windows 10, 7, and Server 2019 and 2016 are also supported.

If you’d like to check out the benefits of Predator DNC software for yourself, Shop Floor Automations offers a 30-day free trial. Give yourself a risk free way to see software in action at your shop; visit our Predator Software Downloads page and try it out for yourself.

Selecting & Integrating DNC Software with Shop Floor Automations

If you are looking to install DNC software at your facility, Shop Floor Automations can help. We have years of experience and a skilled team able to provide excellent support for you at every turn. If you would like our guidance on which software is best for you, or are ready to get started on your project, give us a call today at (619) 461-4000.