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.

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.

Meet Manufacturing Demand at FABTECH 2021

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

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

Manufacturing machine monitoring solutions - FABTECH Booth #A3441

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monitor Machines in addition to CNC’s such as Plasma Cutters, Ovens, Grinders, Autoclaves and more

Shop Floor Automations (SFA), has been a leader in the realm of working with CNC machines to connect them to DNC or to add A Dynatorch plasma cutting machine at work, one of the many types of machines that are compatible with machine monitoring technology. Machine Monitoring to them. Since many shops have a wide variety of machines to handle various needs, it is important to know what we can connect far more than just CNC’s.

The core benefits of machine monitoring still apply to Plasma Cutters, Ovens, Grinders and more.

  • Uptime reporting
  • Operator assignment stuff
  • Other things that still apply to non CNC’s

With LAN-USB, network outage protection also occurs via a local server to CNC connection that is independent of the shop floor’s network. The USB function of the device allows it to act as an interface between commercially available USB sticks and any CNC control with a functioning RS232 port. Machine programs can be sent from the CNC memory to the USB stick, USB to CNC memory, or can be drip-fed (DNC) from the USB.

A shot of a shop floor, featuring various production machines that are set up on a machine monitoring network. Flexible CNC communication firmware is built into the unit. This allows for a connection to a large variety of machine tool controls. The device buffers the entire program at the machine, and acts as a dedicated computer that responds instantaneously to data flow changes from the CNC.

Positioning this device on the control allows the machine to run at its maximum baud rate. This will prevent a machinist from having to walk back and forth from the DNC PC to the machine in order to initiate machine operation. This important feature allows the LAN-USB to increase your shop floor efficiency by maximizing productivity and reducing downtime.

Find out if we can connect all of your machines.

You can call us at (877) 611-5825 or email us at info@shopfloorautomations.com or complete the form below and we’ll contact you. Once we help you add monitoring to your machines, we’ll support you with our industry leading support team!

New Device from Shop Floor Automations Combines Ability to Add USB & Ethernet To Machines

Two black binders and a pen on top of a conference table. One binder is labeled "Manufacturing Processes". Shop Floor Automations (SFA), a notable Automation Supplier for the CNC Machine Tool Industry, has released a new hardware product to add USB and Ethernet connectivity to any machine. This new hardware, LAN-USB Connect, packs a one-two punch by providing the user the ability to drag and drop files to and from the CNC machine, utilizing an Ethernet connection via FTP protocol. No logon is required because you can use anonymous logins or configure security. Even better, these functions are achieved with no special software required.

With LAN-USB, network outage protection also occurs via a local server to CNC connection that is independent of the shop floor’s network. The USB function of the device allows it to act as an interface between commercially available USB sticks and any CNC control with a functioning RS232 port. Machine programs can be sent from the CNC memory to the USB stick, USB to CNC memory, or can be drip-fed (DNC) from the USB.

Flexible CNC communication firmware is built into the unit. This allows for a connection to a large variety of machine tool controls. The device buffers the entire program at the machine, and acts as a dedicated computer that responds instantaneously to data flow changes from the CNC.

Positioning this device on the control allows the machine to run at its maximum baud rate. This will prevent a machinist from having to walk back and forth from the DNC PC to the machine in order to initiate machine operation. This important feature allows the LAN-USB to increase your shop floor efficiency by maximizing productivity and reducing downtime.

More benefits of this device come with the financial freedom of keeping an older machine in operation longer, rather than retrofitting a machine with new controllers or replacing a machine altogether. The hardware replaces cost-prohibitive measures of adding OEM memory or USB to the machine in a proprietary manner from the machine tool builder.

The LAN-USB Connect works with the majority of CNC controls on the market with a serial port. It has been tested with Haas, Mazak, Hurco, Fadal, Mitsubishi, Mori Seiki, Okuma, Siemens, and other brands. This device is also available in a “headless” version, as well as a low-cost wireless version.

Interested in the LAN-USB Connect? Contact Shop Floor Automations Today!

If you are interested in adding the LAN-USB Connect to your shop floor equipment today, contact Shop Floor Automations. With over years of experience, we have the knowledge and experience necessary to get your equipment set up with the LAN-USB connect so it can easily interface with your CNC controls. Give us a call today at (619) 461-4000 to learn more or get the order process started!

Machine Monitoring: More than Utilization Numbers

A tv monitor on a shop floor displaying machine monitoring software for various machines, most of which appear to be running and one that appears to be idle.

When most people think of machine monitoring, they think of increasing utilization, but there are other benefits to consider as well. Monitoring can provide valuable information to help with preventative maintenance, can act as a communication tool between the shop floor and management, and it can be used on all types of shop floor equipment.

Here are three benefits of OEE monitoring systems that often get overlooked:

    1. This system can integrate with other software to help optimize machine capacity.

For example, ERP systems are a great fit for machine monitoring. Also, CMMS systems paired with OEE monitoring helps to provide a more realistic PM schedule. Actual run times on your machines are monitored and the data feeds into the CMMS to create an accurate PM schedule. For manufacturers without a CMMS, a simple spreadsheet with PMs to complete sometimes is enough. The software also integrates with protocols such as MTConnect and OPC UA to make shop floor data more universally available.

    1. Machine monitoring is not just for CNC machines.

Manufacturers with autoclaves, manual machines, press brakes, PLC-driven machines, and more can monitor their productivity. Those in the fabrication and mold making industries can benefit heavily from utilization monitoring. The software is also not limited to looking at shop floor monitors or your desktop PC on location because notifications on the go via text alerts, emails, or viewing dashboards via a mobile device or tablet are all available.

    1. Machine monitoring helps operators working at machines convey important information to those not working on the shop floor.

Via data entry screens and tablets at the machines, machinists can enter notes and let back-office employees know why certain machines are down. It also helps with machine maintenance since there are notes on what causes downtime for machines. In addition, machine repairs can be anticipated so there can be planned downtime, which allows employees to map out a more streamlined process.

The Bottom Line

Machine monitoring is not only a method for knowing machine utilization, nor is it only for CNC machinery. It helps the people who are making parts at machines communicate issues that need attention in an easily understandable manner. It enables a shop floor to know what equipment needs attention in order to be more productive.

If you are interested in adding machine monitoring software to your shop floor, call us today at (619) 461-4000!

Modern Machine Shop

Shop Floor Automations (SFA) is a big fan of Modern Machine Shop Magazine. We always appreciate when our pieces make the cut for this prestigious publication.

Here are our top four favorite recent issues:

March 2019 – Rise Up Industries, an organization in San Diego County near our corporate office, made the pages of this publication. SFA worked closely on this collaboration. You can see the original length article on the MMS blog.

June 2018 – We made the 90th-anniversary issue. Fun fact – this was the same year as our 20th anniversary! Our full-page spread on our LAN-USB Hardware device discussed adding Ethernet and USB to CNCs. Because the issue featured a retrospective look at shop floor technology, we were humbled to be included.

January 2018 – A crucial productivity tool for our customers at R&D Manco is machine monitoring. “Gathering basic data on machine status, and studying the data to diagnose and remedy the causes of non-cutting time, has been the shop’s most powerful resource for realizing machining capacity improvements.”

October 2017 – SFA Customers at Stollen Machine were dropping programs because of old cabling. So in order to increase productivity, they invested in wireless RS232 units. This gave them back 15% more time daily, according to this case study.

Check out our other published pieces for more product insight. Ready to get started? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form

3 Reasons for CNC Machine Monitoring

A large clip art magnifying glass with "75%" in the middle of the glass. In the background is a tool desk in a shop.

There has been a lot of buzz about CNC machine monitoring the past few years. There are also issues manufacturers bring up for reasons why they won’t start such a project.

Here are three barriers shop floors state as to why they won’t take on machine monitoring. We provide some counters to these points:

#1 – We have been told we would need to invest a lot of money, including needing to buy proprietary hardware – Cloud-based machine monitoring can be done monthly, per machine and with no long term contracts. Prices start at $50 per machine.

#2 – My equipment is older, so it will not be able to be monitored – Many manufacturers are surprised at the age, makes and models of machines that can be monitored. Hardware adapters help to capture data from older equipment. Also, more than CNC machines can have data collected. We encourage you to get in touch with your equipment list!

#3 – I just do basic monitoring via MTConnect and that is good enough for me – While it is important to monitor when machines are down, more data is needed for productivity increases. With full-on machine monitoring – you can evaluate how long processes like material needed keep machines down. Evaluate how long the lockout tagout process is taking. Or if machines are down a lot, how much time and profit is it eating to constantly tend to machines.

Have more concerns? We are happy to address them! Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form to schedule a demo, trial or consultation.