IMTS 2024 attendees can visit Shop Floor Automations for manufacturing integration solutions and support

“Everything we have today is the result of going to Chicago, walking through those doors of IMTS, and seeing all the amazing technology. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s like walking into a living room that’s set up as a CNC shop with people smiling and ready to help you.” 

 — Ashley Miller, Co-owner, ARC EDM 

For those who attended the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2022, like Miller, they know that there was plenty to keep over 86,000 registrants from 110 countries interested in the 1,816 exhibitors. IMTS 2024 promises much more, with many new product launches and networking connections anticipated over the course of the six-day event.

Visit Shop Floor Automations at IMTS 2024 in Chicago

New Products, New Connections

ZOLLER (booth #432018), for one, plans to introduce its >>coraMeasure LG<< automated tool measurement system to improve tool measurement precision and speed by delivering tools to a linear robot that removes tools from the pallet and moves them to a ZOLLER >>venturion<< presetting and measuring machine. Each tool is identified with the ZOLLER >>dChip<< system and tool data is stored in the ZOLLER z.One database and accessible anywhere.

The new HAIMER (Booth #431510) Automation Cube One will also make its debut at IMTS 2024. This fully automatic robotic cell can shrink fit a tool, measure it and send the data to the machine tool in just 60 seconds. The Automation Cube One features a FANUC cobot for handling of tool assemblies and a Siemens Sinumerik One CNC control.

IMTS machine monitoring exhibitor Shop Floor Automations

DataXchange, available through IMTS machinoe monitoring exhibitor Shop Floor Automations, has released new protocol for supported equipment brands, including Okuma, Heidenhain and Siemens.

For those exploring machine monitoring and data collection solutions, Scytec Consulting (Booth #133240) has released new protocol for machine brands like Okuma, Heidenhain and Siemens to connect more data points for greater depth and analysis of equipment on the shop floor with its DataXchange equipment monitoring software. The added collection of Siemens spindle speed rates, for example, can help identify faults for better finish and surface quality due to consistent cutting speed at the tool cutting edge.

The partnership between Scytec and CGTech’s VERICUT® takes machine monitoring a step further through digital twins to simulate your manufacturing environment and identify the presence of variances before production begins on the floor, thereby minimizing or eliminating non-conformances and rework. Attendees seeking an IMTS machine monitoring exhibitor will have first access to the latest Post Check feature of CNC Machine Connect, in which users may replay stored, live-streamed data from the program for even greater visibility and predictive accuracy of your simulations.

IMTS 2024 attendees can visit Shop Floor Automations for manufacturing integration solutions and support

Greg Mercurio, president of manufacturing integrator Shop Floor Automations, says that “It’s the relationships that we start and build at IMTS that make the show such a vital experience. Not only are we able to demonstrate the latest advances in our technology portfolio, but our deep customer connections allow us to match the right solution and service to their environment so they can focus on their producing high-quality product.”

To plan your IMTS show with these exhibitors and others, visit www.imts.com.

DoD contract manufacturing

In an effort to ensure defense contractors are following best practices to protect sensitive data, Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Program (CMMC) rulemaking is inching closer and closer to finalization, with rules proposed by the U.S. Defense Department on December 26, 2023. While these rules are published for comment, the codified version isn’t expected to change too drastically. Townsend Bourne, partner at Sheppard Mullin, noted as much during a recent interview with Federal News Network. “Personally, I don’t know that we’re going to see significant changes from the proposed rule that came out at the end of December and the way the final rule is drafted,” said Bourne. “Most importantly, because DoD has been working on this program for so long, and I think they’re at the point where they think it’s pretty close to final.”

CMMC 2.0 Level 1 Sneak Preview

USB CNC program transfer cybersecurity

Transferring CNC programs via USB can not only require hefty management of manual user authorizations, device logs and documentation, but they can risk USB CNC program transfer attacks and noncompliance with CMMC 2.0.

The progression of this rulemaking process is quickly advancing the impact of CMMC 2.0 to manufacturers of all sizes, especially small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) that will need to carefully manage finite resources to absorb added costs, personnel and training to meet and maintain compliance. One aspect of CMMC 2.0 that will deliver a layer of complexity is the proper storage and control of removable media, like USBs and CDs, which many defense contract manufacturers utilize today to transfer CNC programs, images and other Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) to and from computers and machines. Let’s review a few aspects of the Level 1 requirements clause of 52.204-21, Basic Safeguarding of Covered Contractor Information Systems, to illustrate some of the necessary steps to store and control sensitive data appropriately on these devices.

  • Limit information system access to authorized users, processes acting on behalf of authorized users, or devices (including other information systems).

There should be a clear set of procedures regarding who is permitted access to removable media, their accountabilities related to this access, and how often these procedures are reviewed, validated and updated. Programmers, engineers and others involved in the CNC program transfer process should have unique credentials and the correct identity or role-based permissions across devices and systems. Credentials and keys should be properly managed and rotated to enhance the security of sensitive information. If you’re manually managing user security and authorization related to CNC program transfers via paper or spreadsheets, for example, it can be a time-consuming and involved endeavor that may be prone to errors and noncompliance.

  • Limit information system access to the types of transactions and functions that authorized users are permitted to execute.

It’s necessary to have documentation of the transactions roles and personnel are authorized to execute, so that sensitive data is not processed by those lacking permissions to do so. But do you also have the safeguards to block unauthorized transactions and track those attempts? Again, a manual means to meet this requirement can not only be labor-intensive and riddled with inaccuracies, but near impossible for some DoD contract manufacturers with complex operations.

USB CNC program transfer attacks

  • Verify and control/limit connections to and use of external information systems.

Even limiting the use of removable media can still leave data susceptible, as USBs are re-gaining popularity in cyberattacks. Daniel Wiley, the head of threat management at Check Point, relayed an instance in which a power company employee received a sealed USB device from an Amazon package, complete with Amazon tape. “He thought his wife ordered it. So he opened it up, plugged it in. Everything else was a chain reaction. It was able to break in across their VPN. Let’s just say the power company was not in a good place.” It is imperative for defense contractors to have the proper controls set up to protect your CUI against USB CNC program transfer attacks – but no controls will be completely failsafe.

Roll Credits

It’s estimated that a CMMC Level 1 self-assessment will cost a small entity about $6,000, according to DefenseScoop. For SMBs, this cost could be significantly more depending upon the existing IT infrastructure, processes and know-how of your staff. To understand how an ideal DNC software, which is a system that leverages Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to connect your shop floor equipment on one network, can help reduce or eliminate manual user authorizations, device logs and documentation for more streamlined CMMC 2.0 compliance and prevention of USB CNC program transfer attacks, contact a representative with manufacturing integrator Shop Floor Automations today.

operator at cnc control

Your aged CNC machines and legacy Distributed Numerical Control (DNC) software can work fine…until they don’t. Maybe the PC communicating to the machines starts dropping characters while transmitting the NC code, scrapping parts being machined if not caught by the operator. Or the hardware that has been in place for years fails, sending you on a painful and labor-intensive search for a fix. You’re not alone. There’s countless online machine forums in which IT, operations and engineers embark on such a mission to find the right parameters, mappings, connections or other ways to solve their problem stemming from an antiquated setup. This can often be the impetus for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), contract manufacturers and job shops to start re-evaluating their entire DNC solution.

One professional wrote about their DNC issue on a Practical Machinist forum, “I am trying to set up communication between OKUMA LB15 OSP5000 and a PC…the machine was connected to an ancient PC with old DNC software running on DOS, and it worked fine until the PC had perished.”

The Power of DNC System Integration

But a lot has changed among DNC systems over the past years that can make teams consider upgrading even before reaching a point of failure. Even more so, the integration of modern DNC with other solutions, such as Production Data Management, Manufacturing Data Collection and Touch HMI, can streamline manufacturing data across applications – something legacy DNCs typically cannot support. The benefit of such a proactive approach is often improved CNC workflow efficiency and productivity. Here’s a few recent DNC enhancements that have helped manufacturers realize these benefits by simplifying CNC program management and manufacturing data control.

  1. Wide OS and Database Support: Modern DNC solutions, like Predator DNC, have added support for Windows 2019 Server, including x64 editions, and compatibility with Microsoft SQL Server 2022 and SQL Server 2022 Express. They should also work with Windows 10 and Windows 11 to ensure seamless integration with the latest operating systems and database technologies so you can avoid security risks, elevated IT costs and industry compliance concerns with CMMC 2.0 and other requirements.
  2. Enhanced CNC Equipment Support: Manufacturers migrating to a new DNC or upgrading their current version can take advantage of new protocols for Fanuc Focas and MoriSeiki to facilitate the serial transfer of Cincinnati Press Brake and Punch Press programs, for example, through one central server.
  3. Machine Error Log Centralization: Up-to-date DNC solutions provide access to all command errors in a single machine-specific error log to easily track errors and troubleshoot issues. This consolidation of errors provides transactional visibility across shifts to allow for consistent support on the floor.
  4. Greater Security and Control: For manufacturers in particularly security-sensitive industries, like aerospace, medical and defense, upgrading to a modern DNC solution can enable you to securely access and manage the “EditLock” key switch on a machine tool through the DNC to lock and unlock CNC memory so you can effectively:
    • Control edits of G-code on machine tools
    • Eliminate physical edit keys
    • Report lock, unlock, and sending activity
    • Enable maintenance control with an override switch to disable

At the same time, automatic compression, encryption, and batch file operations features of advanced DNC solutions grant heightened security and control over CNC communication – which is critical when CNC controllers that use outdated Windows OS are left behind when connecting them to the corporate network. A well-designed, secure DNC enables such CNC to remain on the network by installing a small executable on the CNC and bypassing the domain requirements.

  1. An Intuitive User Experience: Modern DNC systems tend to have refreshed user interfaces with color schemes and toolbar buttons that offer an intuitive user experience. Other enhancements, such as improved FTP support, including passive mode and automatic file deletion, simplify the file transfer processes for manufacturers, while comprehensive online help resources give users the self-directed guidance they need to maximize productivity.

The integration potential of modern DNC to other manufacturing applications streamlines data to improve CNC workflow efficiency and productivity, which is something legacy DNCs typically cannot support.

These developments of the latest DNC software can be reason enough to upgrade your existing setup. Through the integration of a modern DNC system with other manufacturing applications under one solution, however, manufacturers can experience even more efficiency and productivity on the floor. Discuss the automation potential of your environment with manufacturing integrator Shop Floor Automations by contacting us today.

Manufacturing Forecasts 2024

As 2023 winds down, it’s an ideal time to consider manufacturing trends and predictions that may affect your goals, plans and budgets for the year ahead.

Overall, there’s an expectation that interest rates will fall in the middle of 2024, fueling more consistent economic growth and acceleration by the end of the year, reports Dodge Construction Network chief economist Richard Branch in Engineering News-Record. Escalating tensions in the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine may present difficulties, however, as will continued labor issues. Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics, recently told the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) that, “The good news is manufacturers will gain economic strength in this country and secure our economic wellbeing for generations to come. But for the individual manufacturer, there will be higher competition for workers in an already labor-scarce market, and that problem will persist for years. The only hope for companies to survive is to drive efficiencies by adopting automation and other advanced technologies.”

CNC Machine Operator worker productivity

Automating for Worker Productivity and Efficiency

For manufacturers feeling the continued pressures of the labor market, they’ve been heeding Beaulieu’s advice and turning toward technology to increase worker productivity while minimizing costs. There’s many examples of this occurring on the shop floor; let’s dive into three:

  1. “I’m trying to upgrade the machines in my shop to a more modern way of communicating with add-ons to keep costs low.” This manufacturer knows it can’t afford to upgrade its machines altogether. DNC software from manufacturing integrator Shop Floor Automations (SFA) was recommended by a user, sharing their experience that “all machines had their serial to WiFi and it was flawless sending from the DNC computer.” That same user leaned on SFA for machine monitoring software as well, noting that management loved knowing when night shift “truly ran great” based on progress reports from the software.
  2. Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere, says Bernard Marr in Forbes. Use cases are often described within enterprise organizations, such as Hitachi’s AI-generated training videos to ramp up new workers in maintenance and manufacturing. But that doesn’t mean small-to-mid-sized manufacturers can’t leverage this technology in 2024. CGTech’s CNC machine simulation solution VERICUT 9.1, for example, uses AI to learn from cutting while simulation occurs to automatically set up tools for optimization and then auto-optimizes NC programs after learning.
  3. From the outset, Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) compliance would seem to decrease worker productivity as the control of removable media, including PCMCIA cards and USB drives typically used to transfer CNC programs, is significantly tightened, if not prohibited altogether. But for manufacturers still relying on such media, they know the inefficiency – and costs – of uploading programs and getting routers per part. The use of one industrial DNC software network for all your CNC machines, robots, CMMs, PLCs, 3D printers and other equipment can help streamline the CNC program transfer process as well as provide revision control. It’s just in time, too, as CMMC is expected to be included in public contracts sometime in 2024.
manufacturing speed

By partnering with a manufacturing integrator, you’ll be best positioned to address enduring workforce issues at the lightning pace of the modern digital economy.

“The only hope for companies to survive is to drive efficiencies by adopting automation and other advanced technologies.”

While manufacturers look to technology to fill the labor gap and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution that will be able to address enduring workforce issues at the lightning pace of the modern digital economy. Only by partnering with a manufacturing integrator that understands your existing environment – and the direction you’re headed toward – will you be best positioned to tackle the trends and predictions awaiting you in 2024. Contact SFA today to discuss your strategic initiatives of tomorrow.

CNC Programmer Transferring Files

PCMCIA card and card readers on aged CNC machines can, inevitably, fail. The reasons can run the gamut: excessive and prolonged exposure to heat, moisture or poor air quality, power surges, improper handling, wear and tear over time, and other factors. Add in the scarcity of viable replacements and, regardless of the cause, the malfunction of PCMCIA cards and card readers can be highly disruptive to your shop floor operations, affecting efficiency, productivity and profitability. There’s two main ways how:

  1. Delays and Downtime. Your cards store critical CNC data like essential programs, instructions and configurations to and from your machinery. If you can’t retrieve or transfer this vital data, at a minimum, you impede the ability to operate efficiently as technicians, engineers and programmers are forced to seek temporary, yet often time-consuming and less reliable, workarounds – thus increasing their workloads and postponing other tasks. You could face essential data loss as historical records and important backups are affected. More significant consequences could impose downtime costs and jeopardize meeting lead times, delivery schedules and customer satisfaction.
  2. Security, Performance and Reliability Risks. If you’re also utilizing PCMCIA cards for software updates, patches or machine maintenance, a reader failure can obstruct your ability to implement necessary improvements or fixes, potentially impacting the overall security, performance and reliability of your equipment.
CNC Programmer Transferring Files

If you can’t retrieve or transfer this vital data, at a minimum, you impede the ability to operate efficiently as programmers are forced to seek temporary, yet often time-consuming and less reliable, workarounds – thus increasing their workload and postponing other tasks.

 

 

From PCMCIA Card Failures to USB Program Transfers

A manufacturer with over 30 machines, including Makino, Matsura, Chiron, Okuma and Kitako, reported having issues loading and unloading programs with the different machine controls through their old laptop. The company brought on a rugged USB Connect unit from manufacturing integrator Shop Floor Automations (SFA) and “the problems have disappeared.” They subsequently purchased another unit for their tooling shop. But for companies changing programs more frequently, the USB Connect series may not be the best alternative option.

PCMCIA cards for CNC program transfers

DNC software, such as Predator DNC, can help manufacturers streamline the CNC program management and transfer process for consistent and efficient results, particularly when involving higher transfer rates and tens of machines. “I’m responsible for helping to design high-quality parts and manage all the planning for manufacturing,” says Flowco Manufacturing Engineer Robert Jackson. “Predator DNC gives me the ability to spend my day doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Compliancy Demands DNC Software

For highly-regulated manufacturers adhering to Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, or CMMC, DNC software often becomes a necessary option to ensure compliance and reduce cybersecurity risk associated with USB program transfers. But sorting through the best options for your shop floor begins with a consultation with a dedicated manufacturing integrator. To start exploring a modern solution to your PCMCIA card failures, contact SFA today.

Ethernet CNC connectivity

Over the years, Windows-based CNC machines, robots, CMMs, test stands and other manufacturing equipment have proven popular, largely due to their Ethernet-based networking using the corporate network. But as Windows operating systems (OS) reach the end of their lifecycle, Microsoft technical assistance, software updates or security fixes no longer become available. The options, then, for manufacturers needing Ethernet CNC file transfers and running CNCs with Windows 2000, 2003 or older OS are limited: upgrading to a newer Windows OS can be cost prohibitive and involve a lack of support from the equipment manufacturer; or there’s no upgrade path available, thereby necessitating that the whole machine be replaced. 

The IT Imperative

To protect manufacturers from security risks associated with OS lifecycle completions, IT departments have led the initiative to remove older Windows OSs from corporate domains and discontinue support, while eliminating the use of FTP or Windows shares on untrusted VLANs altogether. This movement often relegates manufacturing operations to isolate a PC from the corporate network and go back to manually loading files through portable media – which presents its own set of security risks. TechAdvisory.org reports that 25 percent of malware is spread today through USB devices. Even the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) recommends banning portable media devices from the workplace. And for manufacturers subject to CMMC 2.0, the continued use of removeable media devices may involve severe restrictions or nonacceptance altogether.

Manufacturers needing Ethernet CNC file transfers and running CNCs on older Windows operating systems have limited, cost-efficient options. 

All of this leads to a collision course of lost productivity for the shop floor and some major challenges for IT, as programmers struggle to minimize time spent physically transferring files to equipment and maintain accurate version control and IT strives to minimize risk. The good news is that there are other Ethernet CNC file transfer options available than the common scenario above.

Ethernet CNC file transfers

CNC machines running on outdated operating systems lead to a collision course of lost productivity for the shop floor, as programmers struggle to minimize time spent physically transferring files to equipment and maintain accurate version control, and some major challenges for IT as it strives to minimize risk.

Fortified Ethernet Connectivity

A modern DNC networking system, for one, allows manufacturers to still take advantage of Windows 95 and newer OS, Ethernet as well as your existing network infrastructure, all while removing them from your corporate domain and eliminating the use of FTP, unsecure USB, Windows Administrator access and more. This secure version of DNC software, like Predator Secure DNC software, still enables you to transfer your CNC programs, CNC variables, offsets, parameters, PLC registers and other production data to and from your manufacturing equipment – but adds a layer of security with automatic authentication, encryption and data compression.

Machine tools with an RS232 connection, or those with an option for it, can be connected to Predator Secure DNC to avoid connectivity risks. You’ll need knowledge of your CNC machine’s communication parameters, including baud rate, data bits, stop bits and parity settings or the network connection, such as FTP, FileShare, etc. Consult with an expert manufacturing integrator to explore any other prerequisites to connect your CNC machines through a next-generation DNC networking system.

Manufacturing Integrator partnership

One manufacturer with a 20-year-old CNC machine started having issues with its floppy drive corrupting and random file saves not working (and then later working). At the same time, they watched as the supply of floppy drive replacements available through eBay steadily decreased. Another manufacturer couldn’t determine how much time machines were broken down or when certain machines should be replaced over others. “At the same time,” explained their machine process engineer, “we wanted to get a full sense of our capacity.” Yet another manufacturer had problems connecting its HAAS machines to its programming computer with R232 serial cables.

Manufacturing integrator is your link from machinery to operators, IT and engineering

What do all of these manufacturers have in common? They all possessed equipment challenges. And all of those challenges were resolved through their partnership with a connectivity expert: their manufacturing integrator.

The Link Between Your Machinery and Operations

A manufacturing integrator serves as the link between your machinery on the shop floor, internal IT as well as Managed Services IT support and your operators, engineers and programmers. An ideal integrator provides the extensive hardware, software, support and project management options to help keep aging and modern equipment productive, effective and profitable. They’re your single source to troubleshoot issues and roadmap new improvement initiatives.

There are distinctions that make a manufacturing integrator so valuable to today’s shop floors, of course. Here’s four of them:

  1. They’re experts in manufacturing equipment. The team at Shop Floor Automations (SFA), for example, has amassed a combined 100 years in CNC machinery experience. They have deep knowledge across a wide range of machines, which has been collected over 25 years. “The troubleshooting page on HAAS’s website wasn’t even as detailed as these guys [SFA] were,” reported the manufacturer with the R232 serial cabling issues.
  2. They have a wide range of available resources. Whether your existing IT infrastructure requires a LAN Connect device or you want to start capturing machine data to optimize Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), a go-to manufacturing integrator should have the broad portfolio of solutions and support to put you on the right path forward.
  3. They’re time and cost-efficiency focused. Manufacturing integrators are skilled in identifying cost-saving opportunities, whether it’s related to how to phase a machine monitoring or DNC software implementation or the optimal set up time and steps involved with adding USB to CNC machines. And because of their technical expertise, they’re best suited to steer – or troubleshoot directly – issues to the most appropriate team. A manufacturing engineer in the oil and gas industry recalled their IT making changes that caused their DNC software to stop working on 20 machines. After calling SFA support, he was able to have the issue resolved remotely within three hours.
  4. They’re dialed into technological developments. They work closely with software publishers, hardware manufacturers and equipment manufacturers to keep ahead of the latest technological advancements in the industry. These relationships influence the documentation, training, recommendations and best practices that a manufacturing integrator designs to keep your machines profitable.
Manufacturing Integrator partnership

Manufacturing integrators are your single source to troubleshoot issues and roadmap new improvement initiatives.

 

Challenges Resolved

As a result of its collaboration with a professional manufacturing integrator, the manufacturer with floppy drive corruptions was able to swap its floppy drive for a Floppy Drive Emulator to eliminate its data failure and loss risk altogether. The other manufacturer seeking downtime visibility now reveals that, “We no longer rely on anecdotal evidence to understand the effects of machine downtime,” due to its implementation of the Scytec DataXchange machine monitoring solution. The manufacturer with HAAS machine connection troubles? Today its machines are running on the same network as its programming computer – wirelessly.

Learn how you can maximize your partnership with a trusted manufacturing integrator by contacting SFA today.

DNC manufacturing integrator for Legacy Equipment

Comparing your legacy, aging equipment – your die-hard lathe or CNC milling machine – to new machinery options is easy to do. In fact, there’s a term for it: “appeal to novelty.” Equating newness to superior quality, writes educator Academy 4SC, is a logical fallacy in which something is claimed to be better simply because it is modern. “This is because we assume that people will try to improve upon what came before them. Thus, when we hear about something that’s ‘revolutionary’ or ‘cutting edge,’ it can be tempting to think that this new product is better.”

Centralizing Control

But seasoned maintenance and operations professionals know that aging equipment can perform just as well, running the same hours per day and days per year if maintained properly. And that can translate into exceptional return on investment: one paper mill in Canada had the highest maintenance costs, but was the most profitable, reported Reliable Plant.

DNC for Manual Machines

Retrofitting your legacy equipment with the help of a DNC manufacturing integrator can keep manual machines profitable, longer.

The challenge then, can lie in centralizing control of your CNC program and legacy machines, largely due to the vast differences in communication protocols and technology. They may not have built-in networking capabilities or support for modern communications, for example. They will have different data formats and serial communication protocols. And there’s specific troubleshooting and debugging processes associated with older equipment that may require log file analysis, network traffic monitoring, diagnostic tool usage that could vary from machine to machine.

There are options, of course. An ideal Distributed Numerical Control (DNC) software, like Predator DNC, can support over 80 different equipment brands and hundreds of CNC control models to send and receive large NC programs. But software alone won’t be enough to drip feed your CNC programs, control file delivery to the proper CNC machine and monitor the activity of the file transfers to the equipment on the shop floor. There’s still the need to add additional hardware, like serial-to-Ethernet converters, to enable network connectivity.

Your Guide to DNC Manufacturing Integration

That’s where the value of a manufacturing integrator comes in. More than a reseller, a manufacturing integrator has extensive experience using protocols or networking experience that can translate between the protocols used by serial ports on legacy machines. They can provide the DNC software as well as the hardware needed to retrofit or upgrade equipment with newer control systems that interface with the DNC more easily. They have the technical support assistance and large knowledge base of resources, including documentation, FAQs and articles, for instant, on-demand access.

Essentially, a full-service manufacturing integrator has the comprehensive understanding of aging equipment, systems and their respective configurations to design an effective, industrial automation and system integration solution to keep your legacy machines adhering to current processes to keep them profitable longer. To start planning your DNC networking project with an expert DNC manufacturing integrator, contact Shop Floor Automations today.

Justify equipment monitoring

When optimal productivity and efficiency are attained on the shop floor, why carry on equipment monitoring efforts indefinitely?

When MOGAS, the leading manufacturer of severe service ball valves, began monitoring their equipment on the shop floor, they started realizing real value within the first two weeks.

“I was receiving frequent machine alerts with operator notes indicating ‘part move’ during tooling downtime for a part that was taking 8 hours to make,” says MOGAS Machine Shop Leadman Hector Reyes, who is a 9-year veteran of the company and handles router workflows to the machines. “After talking with the operator, I learned that the existing fixture was forcing numerous adjustments. By designing a new fixture to better hold the part, we were able to shave off about 5 hours of machine time.”

Monitoring Plateaus

Within a year of implementing the equipment monitoring solution, DataXchange, MOGAS saw a 62.5% decrease in machine time as a result of time-saving alerts and a 10% increase in efficiency. Tech Manufacturing, an ADDMAN company that specializes in medium-to-large, complex parts with tight tolerances, reported reaching an efficiency of 65 percent after bringing on its machine monitoring program. The goal was to achieve 70 percent, recounted Modern Machine Shop, but diminishing returns had started to set in and efficiency improvements were linked “to increasingly minor or increasingly rare events.”

Machine optimization

Within a year of implementing its equipment monitoring solution, MOGAS saw a 62.5% decrease in machine time as a result of time-saving alerts and a 10% increase in efficiency.

For manufacturers looking ahead – or currently experiencing high optimization with their machine monitoring system – how do you continue to justify the expense of such a solution once this state of near perfection is reached?

The answer is simple, says Greg Mercurio, president of manufacturing integrator Shop Floor Automations (SFA). “The optimization of your equipment is not a one-time process,” he says. “The condition of machines change over time: they’re impacted by fluctuating and extreme temperatures; wear and tear; the breakdown of their components; poor preventive maintenance and other factors.” While it can be tempting to think you’ve taken things as far as you can, there’s always the potential for deviation on the horizon. Mercurio explains, “Add in the changing workforce, new hires and a labor pool with mixed technical abilities, and you’ll still face the potential for errors and other issues.” Without consistent machine monitoring in place, those issues can go unnoticed over great lengths of time and threaten optimized states, potentially significantly.

Early Detection for Best Prevention

Justify equipment monitoringMercurio likens machine monitoring to a wearable fitness tracking device. “Even if you achieved your ideal weight, if you’re not monitoring your heart rate, fitness levels and sleep quality, you’re going to have a harder time detecting the signs of a heart condition or other potential health problem,” he says. “The same thing applies to machine monitoring. If you maximized your Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and stopped monitoring your equipment, it’ll be that much more difficult to proactively identify abnormalities or anomalies before they become major concerns.”

To learn how you can maximize your machine monitoring program for the long-term, contact Shop Floor Automations today.

Read the approach to machine monitoring software taken by Senior Aerospace AMT.

The Writing on the Wall

The indicators to diversify your customer base can present themselves in many ways to a company. Value Prop, a B2B strategy consultancy, defines “customer concentration” as when companies have more than 10% of revenue reliant on a single client – or if revenue portions greater than 10% rely on multiple single clients. For Senior Aerospace AMT, a leading manufacturer of commercial and aerospace parts, its single customer of the company – albeit, one of the largest aerospace companies in the world – made up approximately 90 percent of AMT’s business. The company spun this indicator into an opportunity to fine-tune its machining operations.

Aviation machine monitoring

While piloting the DataXchange machine monitoring solution, the AMT team decided to leverage the existing PCs at each work center so there wasn’t a need to train operators on new hardware in addition to new software.

Tom Anderson, AMT Machine Process Engineer, explained, “We wanted to know, how much time are machines broken down? Which machines need to be replaced over others, and when? At the same time, we wanted to get a full sense of our capacity.” Once this visibility was gained, he figured, there would be a better chance to determine potential improvements to cost effectiveness and quality in an effort to retain current business and attract new prospects.

“It was really easy, out-of-the-box. You can collect infinite types of data.”

AMT partnered with Shop Floor Automations (SFA), a California-based provider of hardware, software and technical expertise, for options. The DataXchange aerospace machine monitoring solution, by Scytec Consulting, was recommended after an evaluation of AMT’s requirements. “We wanted to walk before we run,” he noted, sparking a pilot approach to the implementation of the software. Six machines, some with tablets or bar code scanners, were connected by the IT team at AMT during the first phase of the pilot.

The Team Takes Off

“It was really easy, out-of-the-box,” he says. The tools and documentation available through the platform were enough for Anderson and his team to start setting up the program in-house. “You can collect infinite types of data, so we looked to simplify above all else.” For example, machine statuses were set up to indicate the lack of an operator.

Initially the team input 15-20 downtime options to select from; those options were then narrowed to 8-9 with a reason code and the ability to add a note for further information. At the same time, the team decided to leverage the existing PCs at each work center so there wasn’t a need to train operators on new hardware in addition to the DataXchange software.

Learn more about the approach AMT took with its aerospace machine monitoring software by accessing the full success story now.