3 Strategic Ways to Reallocate Excess Budget

As manufacturers across North America spend time reflecting, strategizing, planning and budgeting for the year ahead, leaders are debating how to defend against disruption and strengthen their offense. It’s a great time to ask yourself: How did my department stay on track with its goals? In what ways was my team successful? Where did we go astray, and why? Did we “make bold investments in talent, technology, and innovation?” Forbes stresses that those manufacturers who made the right decisions post-crisis can be on the road to major rewards.

Leverage the Present for Future Success

The good news is that you don’t need to limit your action to these responses to just 2023. There are three strategic ways you can reallocate excess budget now to get a head start on your future goals and positive economic indicators, while minimizing what Deloitte refers to as “historic labor and supply challenges.”

  1. Invest in your team. What opportunities have your shop floor teams identified for efficiency gains? Are you looking to reduce the amount of NC program transfer time and effort to CNCs? Is the ongoing maintenance and changing of RS232 serial cabling consuming already-limited resources? By factoring in valuable team input into your automation strategy early and leaning on your preferred manufacturing integrator for execution, you can invigorate crews while making inroads to continuous improvement initiatives.
  2. Lock in your support and services. Workforce limitations can impede project timelines, particularly as more and more companies are turning toward automation to complement skilled labor. By securing manufacturing integration support and services prior to year end, you can rest assured that your priorities will stay the course – and faster than your competition.
  3. Map out a phased approach. If you’re looking to increase communication on the shop floor or reduce programming waste in the new year, there are tasks that can be completed prior to year end for an efficient and effective start. The piloting of a few machines or setting up of a network connection can be relatively smaller undertakings that can position your organization for success in the year to come. Robert Jackson, a manufacturing engineer at artificial lift manufacturer Flowco, decided on a phased approach to bring on Predator DNC with Shop Floor Automations. “We didn’t have a network at the time, so we chose to start with four machines for the first phase of our implementation,” explained Jackson. It took two days to set up the network wirelessly. Flowco then added 12 machines. Six months later, the company had hooked up 11 more machines to the Predator DNC network and are expecting to do the same to five more in the near future as a result of significant growth.

While next year can hold a lot of promise for companies making the right moves, Deloitte predicts that “supply chain issues including sourcing bottlenecks, global logistics backlogs, cost pressures, and cyberattacks will likely remain critical challenges in 2023.” The remaining part of 2022 can set the stage for success if planned out strategically. Contact SFA for help designing a budget to fit your strategic automation plans for 2023 today.

How to Compare Machine Monitoring Software with These 3 Questions

As manufacturers continue to seek alternatives to overcome the labor shortage, automation remains at the core of corporate strategy. Automation priorities can take the form of cobot programming, networking CNC machines for NC program transfers and machine monitoring to capture and improve upon Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), among others.

Machine monitoring can be a particularly attractive priority due to its low investment options, both in terms of pricing and connectivity, as well as rate of return. But, with so many choices available today, how do you decide what is the best machine monitoring solution for your manufacturing operations? You’ve come to the right place. As one of the leading manufacturing integrators in North America, Shop Floor Automations has over 24 years of experience in sourcing, installing and supporting shop floor technologies to keep your production lines moving optimally.

Three stacks of blocks: the shortest stack says "Cost", the middle stack says "Price", and the tallest stack says "Value". A person in the background is holding the "Value" block with two fingers.

After reading this blog posting, you’ll have a better sense of the significant differences between solutions and how to weigh those differences against your own key criteria to properly compare machine monitoring software.

Vetting Equipment Monitoring Software for Your Manufacturing Operations

In essence, machine monitoring software helps your manufacturing company to increase efficiency, productivity and profitability by automatically tracking the data your shop floor equipment produces when it’s running – and especially when it’s not. Not all machine monitoring is created equal, however. The list below shares some common distinctions related to equipment monitoring software and questions that should be a part of your vetting process as you compare machine monitoring software solutions.

  1. How can your software support legacy and manual machines? Modern equipment often comes equipped with “plug and play” connectivity, which can make the equipment monitoring installation a relatively simple process. Manual machines, like saws and grinders, and older CNC equipment, however, tends to lack these capabilities. Some machine monitoring solutions are not able to natively support this type of equipment at all. Other systems can but require extensive hardware and consulting to get the machine online. Even so, issues may prevail well after initial installation. These issues can necessitate further technical troubleshooting to consume valuable time and effort, and potentially delay your company’s ability to realize a favorable Return on Investment (ROI). By identifying the machine monitoring software that cannot support all of your existing equipment upfront, you lessen the likelihood of purchasing “shelfware,” that is, software that goes unused, a reference to the age when software came packaged in disks and was stored on physical shelves in offices.
  2. What are my licensing options? Software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription models are ubiquitous these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re a fit for every manufacturing environment. An ideal machine monitoring system should offer transparent options – whether you need an on-premise deployment, multi-term pricing, various combinations of flexible user levels or user license scalability to accommodate demand peaks and valleys – to suit your unique needs. Most of all, your ongoing satisfaction should be guaranteed. If the machine monitoring solution isn’t meeting your requirements, you should have the freedom to end your usage within a 30-day period.
  3. Who connects, installs and supports my equipment monitoring solution? Your manufacturing operations can be complex; the implementation and support of your monitoring software shouldn’t be. The process of connecting equipment, particularly legacy or manual equipment, can take effort, time and personnel to initially set up – especially if the responsible parties lack expertise. There are also ongoing adjustments necessary, such as new equipment connections, the troubleshooting of any issues that arise, integration assistance and tweaks to processes to take advantage of software feature enhancements, that warrant the need for a manufacturing integrator to minimize disruption and keep your equipment data flowing.
A machinist stands tall in his machine shop after a hard day of work.

The process of connecting equipment, particularly legacy or manual equipment, can take effort, time and personnel to initially set up – especially if the responsible parties lack expertise. An experienced manufacturing integrator that can source, implement and support a scalable machine monitoring solution can serve as an effective resource to set up new equipment connections, troubleshoot issues that may arise and help integrate machine data with ERP, for example.

For these three reasons and more, you should see that a comparison of machine monitoring software ought to go well beyond functionality assessments. Both your equipment monitoring solution and manufacturing integrator should be able to adapt to the many changes your organization will undergo in the months and years to come – and be an essential part of that change. Learn more about how Shop Floor Automations is the entrusted integrator for manufacturers with 5 to 75-plus pieces of equipment by contacting a representative today.

Integrating Equipment Data with ERP for Bigger Business Benefits

Maintenance, particularly on the shop floor, involves expensive machinery – which translates into high costs for actions like repair work. These costs can represent anywhere from 15-70% of expenses, says IEEE. But maintenance costs may not even be the biggest liability.

 

Equipment monitoring ERP - Scytec DataXchange

Inefficient maintenance processes, like manual data collection, contribute to unplanned downtime and costs, according to Forbes.

For companies with strict quality standards and challenging customer expectations, the cost of a nonconformance, rework or even rejection can be enough to draw the attention of executives due to the shipping, additional labor, materials and reallocated machine time required to correct the defective product. This says nothing of the damage to the customer relationship and the impact on their own tight schedule. It behooves manufacturers, then, to ensure shop floor equipment is always performing optimally with minimal downtime.

The Move Past Manual Downtime Tracking

To do so effectively, manufacturing machinery must be continuously monitored. Today’s smart factory showcases plants with modern machine monitoring software, like Scytec DataXchange, which replaces previous steps of manually tracking, handwriting or physically keying in cycle times, set up times, downtimes, costs and reason codes, and then piecing this data together to understand trends, performance and opportunities for improved efficiency. While these manual processes were time- and labor-intensive to compile, report and analyze, they were also often riddled with inaccuracies, in addition to the time delays that further hinder a company’s ability to react quickly. In fact, Forbes specifically cites these types of inefficient maintenance processes as bad attributes that contribute to unplanned downtime and costs.

Bigger Business Benefits

The utilization of equipment monitoring software becomes crucial, therefore, for businesses working towards the goal “to prolong production performance until it reaches a point that the machine requires complete replacement due to wear and tear or technology change, if justified,” writes Salman Taghizadegan in Essentials of Lean Six Sigma. But the benefits of equipment monitoring systems extend past precise predictive maintenance. Through Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) integration, ideal machine monitoring software can capture and populate data, like these, for an even bigger business-wide impact:

  • Actual set-up and run times. By comparing your estimates to your actuals, you’ll increase the accuracy of your job costing to give you a better handle on your margins and overall profitability. The visibility afforded by these actual times will allow for easier and more reliable planning and scheduling, as staffing requirements become predictable.
  • Machine statuses. Uptime and downtime records and notifications to maintenance, production and management can ensure service is planned for and executed when – and exactly – as needed.
  • Completed quantity. Inventory of raw materials, intermediates and finished goods can be affected in real-time by machine processing, as it occurs.
  • Scrap quantity. Material requirements may be altered based on the volume of actual scrap produced, adding to the dependability of planning and scheduling.
  • Scrap codes. Opportunities to reduce waste may be presented through reason code analysis.

Integrate Machine Monitoring with ERP

While machine monitoring software offers a lot towards optimal maintenance management, its integration with ERP is the lift that expands the effect of equipment data across the enterprise to grant clearer visibility into production, inventory, accounting, lean, planning, scheduling – and yes, maintenance – to help drive greater consistency into each process for more effective decision-making. Learn more about connecting your ERP with machine monitoring software by contacting a Shop Floor Automations representative today.

A Turn Toward Manufacturing Perfection with CNC Digital Twins

The concept of an effective digital twin, or exact replica of your equipment or process on the shop floor, gained notoriety in 2002 despite its early roots in NASA’s space program in the 1960s. Today digital twin creation is happening across manufacturing floors around the world in an effort to speed up and optimize traditional processes. Rather than perform process steps in a particular sequence, manufacturers with digital twins may carry out processes simultaneously for faster results. And there’s plenty of applications for digital twins as well. Manufacturers with a digital twin of a prototype can be tested across multiple simulations or designs to reduce the number of physical iterations needed before production, says the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, or they can be used to analyze product performance, distribution and end-user experience for product design improvements.

Simulating Success

CNC machine simulation software provider CGTech, the makers of VERICUT®, and Scytec, producer of the DataXchange machine monitoring solution, identified another such application for CNC digital twins: quality management. By identifying the presence of variances before production begins on the floor, the partnering companies found that non-conformances and rework can be minimized, if not wholly eliminated. It works like this: CNC machines with modern FANUC oi and 30i series controls are monitored by the DataXchange solution, sending set up information, like main NC programs, subprograms, axis locations, work offsets, and tooling, to compare with VERICUT’s Machine Configuration (VMC) for accuracy verification. Any differences between machine values and simulation values are then updated in the VERICUT simulation to ensure only the intended result. By rerunning the simulation with values from the machine, it’s possible to check that there are no new problems or unexpected errors related to the machine setup.

A screenshot of DataXchange with VERICUT software integration, which servers to provide a simulation of a machine's workflow to catch errors before they happen.

With this latest DataXchange integration with VERICUT, any differences between actual machine values and simulation values can be updated in the VERICUT simulation to ensure only the intended result.

VERICUT shows material removal at the workpiece level, but it can also simulate entire machine tools as they appear on the shop floor. Its Machine Simulation detects collisions and near-misses between all machine tool components, such as axis slides, heads, turrets, rotary tables, spindles, tool changers, fixtures, work pieces, cutting tools and other user-defined objects. A user can set up near-miss zones around the components to check for close calls, and detect over-travel errors.

Honing Predictive Accuracy

In future releases, the VERICUT integration with DataXchange for CNC Digital Twins is expected to introduce these capabilities:

  • Glean post-machining insights to investigate differences between how the part ran on the machine and simulation
  • Investigate potential issues that may have caused parts to be out of specification, review any modifications to the NC program subroutines, or feed rates and spindle speeds
  • Identify and review any errors or problems that resulted in overrides or emergency stops in real-time
  • Compare live cycle times to VERICUT’s predicted run times
A screenshot of VERICUT software, showing the project tree and programs that can be simulated within the software.

Collisions and near-misses between all machine tool components may be recorded in the VERICUT Machine Simulation for refinement opportunities.

The digital twin concept has come a long way since Dr. Michael Grieves first applied it to manufacturing in the early 2000s. But its benefits hold promise, particularly for manufacturers saddled with costly materials, a limited and extended workforce and high customer demands for exceptional quality. To learn more about the VERICUT integration with DataXchange for your manufacturing business, contact a Shop Floor Automations expert today.

 

The Equipment Monitoring Impact on Process

For many companies, monitoring machines can be limited to simply tracking planned and unplanned downtime for maintenance operations. The real-time capture of downtime data can produce valuable trends to help prioritize and implement corrective action to prevent additional equipment failures, as an example shared by Reliable Plant magazine.

Others may include monitoring for production purposes, such as tracking cycle times. There is plenty of intelligence to be gleaned in these areas from equipment monitoring solutions, such as Scytec DataXchange, like machine utilization to determine if there is greater capacity available to take advantage of increased demand. But one manufacturer took its usage of DataXchange a step further to impact process.

The QC impact from equipment monitoring

One manufacturer of structural parts for jet OEMs sought to take their machine monitoring instance beyond downtime and production purposes to better understand what work offset was delivering low-quality parts.

A Use Case For Work Offset Monitoring

With FANUC CNCs, the external work offset (work coordinate system number zero) lets you shift the point of reference for fixture offset entries from the machine’s home position to a more logical position, writes Modern Machine Shop. Senior Aerospace AMT, a manufacturer of structural parts for jet Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), sought to understand what work offset was delivering low-quality parts. Leveraging the power of DataXchange, the company started tracking probing adjustments made to work offsets to begin building a historical reference. This way, they reasoned, engineers can check what change to the offset may have had on a nonconforming part.

The Quality Effect

Even more so, by pulling in tool numbers, tool life, maximum tool life, the maximum load, average load and average and maximum vibration – and applying custom variables to know how far and how long that tool is running – the team can better understand the result if something was changed to see if it made the output better, or if the machine is running less or more. The company even integrates manufacturing data from machinery that provides load percentage of spindle monitoring data from DataXchange. And the manufacturer continues to expand its usage of the system, including setting a monthly cadence to verify part standards in ERP to actual cycle times, to meet the needs of its C-suite. “When it comes to responding to customer feedback for feature enhancements and fixes, I’ve not worked with a software company that is easier to work with than Scytec,” says Tom Anderson, Senior Process Engineer at Senior Aerospace AMT.

Free SFA Needs Assessment

Find out how you can monitor downtime, production and work offsets for maximum impact on your manufacturing operations with DataXchange and Shop Floor Automations (SFA). Reach out to an SFA equipment monitoring expert today for a free needs assessment to compare your current state to what Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and other KPIs you’d like your organization to achieve in the near term.

Shop Floor Automations to Exhibit Machine Monitoring at IMTS 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

La Mesa, CA – June 1, 2022 – Shop Floor Automations (SFA), a manufacturing integrator serving a variety of industries, will be demonstrating the Scytec DataXchange machine monitoring solution at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2022, one of the world’s preeminent stages for introducing and selling manufacturing equipment and technology as well as connecting the industry’s supply chain.

The DataXchange solution leverages Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology to capture and communicate real-time equipment data to a mobile or desktop user interface.

Manufacturing Integrator SFA at IMTS 2022

Manufacturers are encouraged to visit SFA at Booth 133240 at this year’s IMTS for a free demonstration of the DataXchange machine monitoring software solution.

“By gleaning accurate cycle, setup, idle and down times in an automated fashion, manufacturers are better equipped to facilitate more intelligent decision making across the enterprise,” says Greg Mercurio, President of SFA. “The latest software updates of Microsoft Teams integration and robotic/PLC monitoring capabilities to DataXchange further strengthen the value of this solution for companies already struggling with capacity, labor and integration constraints.”

Manufacturers are encouraged to visit SFA at Booth 133240 at IMTS 2022, McCormick Center, Chicago, IL, September 12-17, 2022 for a free demonstration of the DataXchange solution and to explore the entire SFA product portfolio to help resolve the challenges of the modern shop floor.

From preparing CNC equipment for CMMC 2.0 compliance through DNC networking software to increasing CNC program storage with its USB Connect series, SFA delivers real results to boost the bottom line of manufacturers across a number of industries, including defense, pharmaceutical, aerospace, plastic, and industrial products.

For sales inquiries, call 619-461-4000 or visit www.shopfloorautomations.com.

About Shop Floor Automations

Founded in 1998, Shop Floor Automations (SFA) is a manufacturing integrator specializing in digitally transformative hardware, software and support solutions to increase the productivity, efficiency and profitability of plant facilities throughout North America. To add intelligent automation to your shop floor for better communication, control and improvement, contact Shop Floor Automations at www.shopfloorautomations.com.

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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. Or as simple as machine monitoring notifications. 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 more so, what improvements to make. 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. Upon completion of the inspection a dashboard shows the results andtriggers 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 notifications, 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. You may want to establish a secondary threshold 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 on hold pending further instructions) and an alert for immediate human intervention. Or by combining a machine monitoring solution with automating part count tracking, in which machine monitoring is reporting the completion of the number of parts in a shift, an operator may receive a text 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 typically has fire suppression systems, the disconnect occurs in who receives communications regarding the start of these systems and when receiving those communications – and how. Operators, supervisors, plant managers or risk management/EHS officers, and others need a variety of means by which they receive an instant notification 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 part waste – 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 reaching a particular temperature 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 a sensor would capture.

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.