Shop Floor Automations Newsletter – March/April 2018

shop floor automations newsletterThis archived issue of the Shop Floor Automations newsletter was first sent to subscribers April 24th of 2018.

A Place to Belong

There are quite a few organizations out there who are working to close the manufacturing skills gap. They are also teaching a trade to those who not only need the guidance but the steady career path that manufacturing provides.

Shop Floor Automations (SFA) wanted to share with our audience a local organization called Rise Up Industries.

Trainees of the program become machine operators by trade. They are also taught to overcome obstacles from their past to become productive members of society through various life skills classes.

Their motto is “a place to belong” and we were very touched by our visit to their shop recently. We invite you to check out what they are doing over in Santee, CA!

LAN-USB Connect

You have heard it from us before – you can add USB to your CNC of any make, model, and age. You may have also heard we can add Ethernet to your machines. Why not both?

We present to you the LAN-USB Connect. This hardware packs a one-two punch. It’s easy to install, as it connects to your machine’s RS232 port. You can drag and drop files from, and to, your CNC machine memory. Use the Ethernet connection via FTP, and best of all, no special software is required to install and use the device!

Mazak West Event

SFA will be at Mazak West from June 5th to the 8th, 2018. We will be exhibiting Scytec DataXchange machine monitoring software, showing attendees how to collect real-time data from their Mazak machines.

Ask the MTConnect experts in attendance at Mazak West how the protocol benefits you, how to integrate your legacy machines, and how information collected from your machines can help improve both capacity and productivity. Implementing machine monitoring has many benefits – we can’t wait to show you!

Hardware solutions for new and legacy machines will also be on display. Using wireless, wired and USB solutions will increase your shop floor productivity.

For more information, please call (877) 611-5825 or fill out our contact form.

Haas Demo Day 2018

Haas CNC machine Haas Automation is celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Haas VF-1 vertical machining center with Haas Demo Day 2018!

Via your local Haas factory outlet on Wednesday, May 9th, there will be a celebration of the release of this groundbreaking CNC machine.

There will be machine demonstrations and a chance to network with others in the industry. Better yet, you will get some delicious food and refreshments, as well as an opportunity to win a Race Weekend Giveaway! You will also walk away with a limited edition shirt just for attending the event (that we are sure would look great in your closet next to our G-code shirt).

Register for Haas Demo Day 2018 and celebrate how far manufacturing equipment has come! 

We certainly know the significance that Haas machines have on our industry and we carry multiple solutions for Haas users. Let’s see if you have any of the following concerns:

Don’t see your concern listed above? No problem! Call (877) 611-5825 or zip us over a message. We have worked with thousands of customers over the past two decades and can point you in the right direction for improved productivity. 

 

The CNC Floppy Emulator – What It Can & Can’t Do

shop floor floppy diskWe get many calls to our office asking questions about CNC floppy emulator hardware. While we invite you to contact us for more detailed information, we want to answer the most asked question: Does your Floppy Connect hardware add memory to my machine?

The answer is no, but don’t let this deter you! The benefit of floppy drive replacement hardware is not adding memory to your machine, but we will also touch on the subject of file sizes later.

There are three main benefits to this CNC upgrade:

  1. Refreshing, not replacing, legacy machines: Just because your machine still has a floppy drive does not mean it’s time to put it out to pasture, in terms of productivity! Using one of our floppy drive emulators will upgrade your machine and prevent you from spending thousands of dollars on a new CNC machine.
  2. No longer hunting for obsolete storage media: Floppy disks have been extinct technology for several years now. Finding them new is hard to do and will cost you. Meanwhile, getting a 2GB USB stick is as easy as making a run down to a pharmacy, a big box technology store, ordering from Amazon, or buying one from Target and Walmart! Remember, a 2GB stick is the standard with our Floppy Connect, and it must be FAT formatted.
  3. Eliminate proprietary upgrades: Having a tech from the machine tool builder come down to evaluate your machines is expensive. It is also cost prohibitive to have them install their specific hardware to upgrade your machine. Our Floppy Connect is a small investment in comparison and works on a large number of controls, with the list growing daily.

replace floppy with usbHow many programs you can store on the USB stick is another big question we get. Since the customer is going from a disk that was once 720k or 1.4MB to a 2GB USB stick, the assumption is that they can store and send big programs from it. This is incorrect.

A USB stick will hold no more than the floppy you would have used in the machine would dictate.  The machine still thinks it’s a floppy reader, so it is going to work within those restrictions. You are essentially fooling the machine into thinking the floppy drive still works, with the benefit of no longer needing those floppy disks. Let’s explore further:

Program sizes for customers typically range from 1kb to 25MB. On floppies, program sizes can range from 1kb to 1.4MB.

Let’s say your machine manufacturer made a floppy disk drive that could only handle DD (double density) floppy disks. This means it could only hold 720kb worth of storage, and could typically hold 110 machine program files on it.

What if your machine could handle 1.4MB floppy disks? This means you used HD (high density) floppy disks, which could hold up to 220 machine program files on it.

Case in point – your machine could only handle the size of those files that could fit on those floppy disks. So even though you are using a 2GB USB stick, it will only hold whatever your machine could handle. Remember though – the goal is not to increase memory. It is to save time and money on the shop floor by ditching old technology!

Want more insight on our hardware? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form so we can get back to you when it is most convenient!

Legacy Blog – Edition XIV

shop floor automations blogIn this Legacy Blog, we share media coverage that Shop Floor Automations has been lucky to receive recently.

MFG News published a piece from us that lists 4 reasons medical manufacturers can benefit from machine monitoring software. Moldmaking Technology also published a piece touching on how DNC software is crucial to moldmakers. MFG Talk Radio published a piece on our new hardware product, the LAN-USB Connect.

Our 20th anniversary of being in business has been graciously covered by many publications in our industry. We thank these publications for helping us continue our success: Modern Machine ShopCNC WestModern Metals, Cutting Tool Engineering, Fabricating & Metalworking, FabShop, FFJournal, and many others!

In need of a laugh? Check out our latest Shop Floor Man comic strip, in which his recent absence is explained.

Otherwise, if you need solutions to increase productivity, call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form to get in touch with us! 

Shop Floor Automations Newsletter – JAN/FEB 2018

shop floor automations newsletterThe following is an archived copy of the January/February 2018 issue of the Shop Floor Automations newsletter.

Estimated OEE vs Real OEE

A good number of our customers were able to contribute to the phenomenal growth in the manufacturing industry last year because of OEE information gathered by machine monitoring software.

Often the first overlooked step in improved production is not properly tracking utilization and OEE. Our customers at R&D Manco in Phoenix definitely agree with this statement.

We spoke to them recently and discovered that before implementing Predator MDC software, it was assumed that their machines were running at 50 percent utilization. Within a short period of time using the software, they found utilization was more around 30 percent. Uptime is critical to their operations, especially with lead times of 8 months to 1 year for the parts they run.

In a recent issue of Modern Machine Shop (MMS), the company credits machine monitoring from SFA (via Predator MDC) as an essential resource for increasing capacity.

MFG 2017 Review & 2018 Outlook

There is no doubt that 2017 was a fruitful year for manufacturing in America. Confidence in our industry, as well as positivity in future prosperity, is at an all-time high.

There are some concerns going forward to keep the momentum going in 2018. Industry 4.0, IIoT and automation are some of the concerns that we address.

Check out our 2017 Review for USA manufacturing & an optimistic outlook on 2018!

Okuma Floppy Drive Replacement

If you have an Okuma machine with a floppy drive that is about to bite the dust, the time to upgrade is now.

Even if your floppy drive is still functioning, floppy disk technology has been outdated for about a decade and it is best to adapt to new technology now before the worst happens. Best to be prepared than be stuck with a dead floppy drive on your machine.

The best part is that when you send back your old floppy disk drive core from the Okuma within 15 days, we will give you a $695 credit!

Get more information on Okuma Floppy Drive Core Replacements

Get in touch with our sales department by calling (877) 611-5825 or fill out a request for information

3 Dead Pieces of Shop Floor Technology

shop floor technology

There are likely pieces of old technology on your shop floor that are limiting your productivity. They are robbing you of your time, your profits, and your resources in order to keep replacing them.

Who are the biggest offenders? Here is our top three list of dead technologies you should be replacing on your shop floor immediately:

Suspect 1: Floppy disks, or as kids these days know it, the “save” symbol on a computer word processing program. Assuming you rightly do not trust used/refurbished floppy disks, you will have to hunt down packages of new floppy disks and hope that they work. At about 1.44MB of space on each disk, the question is, why would you want to hang onto this old media source?

Answer: Using the Floppy Connect, otherwise known as a floppy drive emulator, will replace this process. The hardware acts as if the floppy drive were never removed. You only need a 2GB USB flash drive for it and you can keep using the same stick.

Suspect 2: Switch boxes are best described as manual distribution boxes. They can vary from two to 16 switches, or two to 16 connections to one serial port. You manually have to flick a switch to tell the box which of those you want to send the program to. Reminds us of when we used to have to get up out of our chairs to change a channel on the TV set!

Answer: The USB Connect Switch Box model automatically does the switching for you, controlling data flow into the CNC from the PC. The hardware also has built-in DNC Firmware for CNC flexibility and is easy to use. There is also the Ethernet Connect, which creates virtual serial ports – this means no more manually switching and better yet, it helps you leverage your existing corporate network infrastructure.

Suspect 3: PCMCIA cards are memory cards that have been used in the past on shop floors to get programs uploaded and downloaded to CNC machines. These credit-card-sized antiquities are hard to come by, expensive, and can be damaged by constantly removing them from the controller.

Answer: The USB Connect uses a standard USB drive for program storage and meets the communication needs of a variety of CNC machines, regardless of machine’s age, make, or model. Three models are available – a Switch Box model, a standard model, and a Mazak model for sending/receiving Mazatrol CMT files. Another replacement solution is DNC software for networking your machines to a PC in order to upload and download programs.

If you are still using any of these old pieces of technology, we urge you to contact us at (877) 611-5825. You would be surprised how easy and affordable it is to modernize your shop floor production.

Helping Machinists Cope with Work Stress

Are you creating stressed out machine operators, and not even aware of it?

machinist stress relief sourcesThe manufacturing industry is experiencing a lot of growth, but it is also creating a demand for machinist stress relief resources. According to an interesting article in the August 2017 issue of MetalForming Magazine, 52% of workers say they are stressed on a daily basis and 60% say their work-related pressure has increased in the past 5 years. This information no doubt reflects on a newly revitalized manufacturing field.

“Workers shouldn’t suffer in silence,” quotes Bill Driscoll in the press release, who is a district President for Robert Half’s Accountemps program. “A stressed employee can have detrimental effects on the department or company, including decreased morale and productivity.”

There are internal actions you can take, such as team building exercises or casual weekly/monthly meetings to address issues. Otherwise, here are some of the concerns your workers have which can be addressed with the help of a manufacturing integrator:

Concern #1 – Heavy workloads: While heavier workloads in manufacturing can mostly be attributed to trying to fill a skills gap, there are ways you can help your machinists get their work done faster, even while short-handed. Machine monitoring software can be used to increase OEE by monitoring machine utilization. DNC software can be used to help with CNC communication failures, which can cause downtime. A good alternative for DNC if you have a smaller shop or want to make a smaller initial investment is using USB connect hardware for drip-feeding. Using CNC Editor software can help to ensure programs are correct and prevent operators from having to manually manage/compare files.

Concern #2 – Looming deadlines: Deadlines are crucial in manufacturing. When spreadsheets are used to track jobs on the shop floor, the information is inaccurate and the time it takes to manually update the sheets is a waste of time. When a machine goes down, it can also be hard to accurately shuffle around the production jobs needing to be done at the last minute. Using a graphical production planning software system, AKA job scheduling software, will help machinists see in real-time how moving jobs effects all other jobs and it can help with utilization.

Concern #3 – Unrealistic manager expectations: Before you get defensive, this is merely us being the messenger. If workers already feel overwhelmed with problems 1 and 2, then if you give them more work, they are going to feel as if they are being given unrealistic guidelines to work with. What can you do, in order to understand your operator’s concerns? Ask the machinists to share the data with you from the tools mentioned above. Look at real-time effects of moving jobs on the shop floor, or see what is happening with OEE. These tools are not only for your workers, but they will help make you a better boss!

If you want more information on any of the solutions above to help your operators feel less stressed on the job, please fill out a contact form or call us at (877) 611-5825. 

 

October 2017 Shop Floor Automations Case Study

Our favorite part of the job is learning the results our customers get after integrating our productivity solutions.

In this new Shop Floor Automations case study, our customers at Stollen Machine talk about how our hardware helped combat downtime.

shop floor automations case study

Thanks to Stollen Machine’s Instagram Account for this photo of the MMS article

In this October 2017 case study published in Modern Machine Shop, Doug at Stollen Machine says his inferior cabling was causing communication issues with his machines. After researching and weighing the pros/cons, he decided to go with our Wireless Connect devices in his multi-generation shop.

Investing in six hardware devices from Shop Floor Automations helped to replace an old system that wreaked havoc on Stollen Machine’s shop floor. The study found that they were able to get back 15% more time daily, which is invaluable in the manufacturing process.

Hardware isn’t the only way we help customers, either. Another customer of ours, Tech Manufacturing, attributes using machine monitoring through Shop Floor Automations for helping with overall productivity just by monitoring utilization. With many other solutions on hand, we look forward in the future to sharing more of these case studies with the manufacturing industry.

Check out our other case studies, or if you would like to share your story of how we helped your productivity, participate in a case study today. For more information, call Shop Floor Automations at (877) 611-5825

A little info about Shop Floor Automations: SFA was established in 1998 and will soon be celebrating our 20th anniversary in business. We have attended trade shows such as IMTS, WESTEC, FABTECH, and more. We support efforts to fill the skills gap, such as MFG Day and writing about organizations who focus on this cause. Our focus is to help the Made in America movement by supplying tools and support to combat downtime, increase OEE, organize your shop floor, and help with machine communication issues. Contact us today!

Manufacturing ROI & Manufacturing Integrators

Manufacturing ROI - shop floor automationsAs a manufacturer, you have a lot of daily concerns, such as downtime and productivity. Is your manufacturing ROI an issue that is falling to the wayside?

With a new year coming up fast, your ROI (or return on investment) should be bumped up to one of your largest concerns, if it is not already. You may remember when we did a previous blog explaining different types of costs for a manufacturer. For this blog post, we wanted to take the time to explain the top 3 ways that working with a manufacturing integrator like Shop Floor Automations will help you with ROI!

#1 Reduce procurement costs:

The only time you ever want the amount of money you are spending on raw materials to go up is because your productivity is at sky-high levels. Unfortunately, you may be spending a lot on raw materials due to downtime on the machine interfering with the quality of products. You may even be spending a lot on paper for spreadsheets and other shop floor documents. Using tools such as machine monitoring software can help you increase utilization of machines, and combining products like job scheduling software and PDM software can help you go paperless. Do you still use floppy disks or constantly invest in CAT-5 cable that needs to be replaced and restrung once a year? Invest in new hardware that will replace these processes and old media sources. These solutions should help bring down some significant procurement costs.

#2 Time-sensitive efficiencies:

Manufacturing is one of the most time-sensitive processes in the world. Certain quantities need to be done perfectly and they need to be on time. What happens when downtime takes down one of your machines? Or you have to spend time manually updating spreadsheets for your production schedule? Or your CNC’s have communication failures on a regular basis? Using the tools of DNC software for CNC communications, machine monitoring for combatting downtime, and graphical job scheduling to be able to see production changes in real time, all make for the perfect trinity to help jobs get out to customers on time.

#3 Marketplace advantage:

American manufacturing is coming back to a place of significant prominence. While the industry deals with a skills gap combined with reshoring, you need to make sure you can take on as many jobs as possible to stay ahead of the competition. If you spent less time updating spreadsheets, invested in less overtime to fix human error and were able to prevent more downtime on your shop floor, imagine how many more jobs you can take on. Implementing any of the tools mentioned above can help with productivity and cement your place in this industry as a top manufacturer.

If you are interested in these solutions, please fill out a contact form or call us at (877) 611-5825 

DNC Software & Hardware – Peas in a Pod

dnc software hardwareHardware for DNC Software

If you have recently made the decision to add DNC software to your shop floor to help with productivity and CNC communications, you are off to a great start.

Did you also know that adding hardware to DNC software solutions is the best way to leverage this business decision? Here are three pieces of hardware that best compliment DNC software:

Option 1: Wired CNC Connect. This device supports 100’s of CNC’s per each Server PC that has a seat of DNC software on it. Simply run Ethernet cable to each machine and place the device on the control for drip-feeding. The IP address converts into a comm port with drivers. By using the network backbone, you are sending the serial signal five feet wth the supplied cable, giving you the most reliable and strongest serial signal. Available in 1 to 16 ports.

Option 2: Wireless CNC Connect. The best option for those who like to move machines around and change the layout of their shop floor often. No cabling required. The device comes with an assigned IP – just to add your network, properly mount the device and it’s ready.

Option 3: Multi Connect. While this device is not available for purchase yet, it is anticipated to be a ground-breaking piece of hardware for manufacturing shop floors. The unit connects to machines via MTConnect, PLC, Wireless, Ethernet, and RS232 Serial. This solution can also be used with DNC Software and Machine Monitoring products, which makes it very versatile.

What are the best DNC software options available? Check out Predator DNC, Predator Touch HMI, Predator EditLock, and ExtremeDNC by visiting our DNC software landing page!

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