Machinists Are Not The Problem

cnc machinistsIf you are in charge of production on a manufacturing shop floor, there is no doubt that you have likely come across productivity issues. Nothing is perfect, and this includes your employees and your equipment.

When there is a decrease in productivity, some leaders may automatically assume that machinists are not doing their job since they are directly handling the machines. Before we jump to this conclusion, we need to ask if we are being fair to these skilled workers who are the backbone of the manufacturing industry.

According to a study shared by Harvard Business Review, “when leaders are fair to the members of their team, the team members display more citizenship behavior and are more productive, both individually and as a team.”

With this in mind, here are three productivity problems and the tools you can use to combat each of them:

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Software for Less MFG Stress in 2018

manufacturing softwareThe stress of unplanned downtime and how it will impact production is a common factor for those who work in manufacturing. What if bringing in new manufacturing software to your shop floor in 2018 could help with this stress?

Unplanned downtime occurs due to machine issues, which means unless there is a similar machine to pick up the slack, production is halted. An avalanche of consequences follows, which includes having to update manual spread sheets to track jobs needing to be updated.

According to a press release from the August 2017 issue of MetalForming Magazine, District President for Robert Half’s Accountemps program Bill Driscoll states 52% of workers are stressed on a day-to-day basis.

Three of the attributes to this stress are heavy workloads, hovering deadlines, and what they feel to be unrealistic expectations from management. All three of these worker stresses can be quelled by making a move towards smart manufacturing.

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Shop Floor Automations Newsletter – NOV/DEC 2017

The following is an archived copy of the Shop Floor Automations Newsletter – the NOV/DEC 2017 issue.

shop floor automations NewsletterMachine Monitoring Webinar in January

Do you want to improve your shop floor efficiencies? Would you like to get text messages or email notifications if there is a problem on your shop floor? Our machine monitoring solutions empower managers to identify issues and resolve them quickly.

We will be holding a DataXchange machine monitoring webinar on January 10th, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Pacific time.

You will see popular features of the data collection system in action, as well as get a chance to ask us questions.

If you can’t make the webinar, please feel free to contact us and ask about other opportunities to see DataXchange software. We also have quite a few videos on our YouTube channel to check out.

Holiday Discount Code

It is not too late to spend end-of-the-year funds on solutions to help your shop floor. Get a head start on combating productivity issues and eliminating downtime with some of our best-selling solutions:

  • Portable USB Connect – backup for your DNC system
  • Pendant USB Connect – adds USB to any CNC machine
  • Floppy Emulators – replaces the floppy drive on your machine (ask about our Haas Floppy emulator!)
  • Wireless Connect – go wireless with any CNC machine

Use discount code “HappyNewYear” for a discount in our online store. Code expires 1/2/18

DNC Software – The Heart Beat of the Shop Floor

If there was one new piece of technology we would recommend for your shop floor, it would be DNC software. Within weeks or a few months, you will see ROI when you implement this system to streamline your management of CNC programs.

If you want to control which file is delivered to the CNC, you need DNC. If you are still carrying USB sticks or PCMCIA cards out to your CNCs to load programs, you need DNC. If you want a better system to manage your CNC programs while saving time, you need DNC.

Link to newsletter

Call (877) 611-5825 for more info!


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.  

MFG Costs, Budgets & Integration ROI

mfg costs mfg budget mfg integratorManufacturing costs are a pain.

When you are thinking of investments to help with production, you have to keep in mind your MFG costs and your budget. While it would be great if all of your costs were predictable, they are not.

There are four variables of expenses when running a manufacturing company, and we have done our best to break it down for you with a driving analogy:

Fixed Costs: You get in your car, you set up your GPS and map out the trip. You know how much time it will take to get there and how many miles. You set the path to avoid toll roads, so you know it will take a little extra time, but you’ve accounted for it. Fixed costs are part of the routine in manufacturing. These cover your utility bills, taxes, property costs, salaries for executives or administrative workers, and general facility maintenance. You can even account for a budget of office supplies and basic salaries for sales people and machinists in this category, too.

Variable Costs: When you plan to take your trip, you account for normal traffic patterns that will add a likely delay to get to your destination. It’s an annoyance we have come to both accept and expect for road trips. Variable costs can best be described as costs directly in relation with production. For example – when you produce more, you ultimately need more raw materials. These patterns are predictable and prescribe to the old saying “you gotta spend money to make money.”

Semi-Variable & Step-Variable Costs: When you’re on your trip, let’s say a horrific accident happens, or you hit an unexpected detour. These unforeseen but likely scenarios can add time to your trip, and let’s face it, most people don’t plan for these events to happen. Semi-variable costs account for costs that can vary, such as commissions for sales people or production-based bonuses. Step-variable costs are costs that remain fixed for a period of time, and can suddenly spike up. Let’s say a machine is producing consistently for a long period of time, but then, it goes down – this downtime is not only costly to production, but hiring a specialist to come out and look at it, or replacing it with another machine, will be expensive.

What is the common factor in all of these examples, though?

If you invested in the GPS, it will reroute you, or add time to your route when you hit traffic or unexpected snags in the road. It is monitoring conditions for you to give you expectations and suggestions on how to improve your route.

How does this relate to manufacturing integration solutions & ROI?

Investing in manufacturing integration solutions is the best ROI when taking into account situations that lead to step-variable costs in your production. It’s essentially giving yourself a GPS to help meet and exceed production goals.

If your machines are consistently having communication errors that cause thousands of dollars in stopped production time, then DNC software or hardware is a drop in the bucket to help prevent this from happening. If there are other issues with machines causing downtime that are not relative to CNC communication failures, then machine monitoring can help for better OEE and for machinists to better communicate issues for proper solutions.

If you are interested in Shop Floor Automations helping you combat production issues head on, we invite you to contact us! You can fill out a form here, or call us at (877) 611-5825 to utilize our decades of experience. 


New Manufacturing Techniques

People try out new technologies each day. The manufacturing industry is no exception.

They buy new phones, lease new cars, upgrade the software on their phones and computers, or add implements to their homes to improve their quality of life. Embracing new technology is a move that would benefit the manufacturing shop floor industry most.

new manufacturing technologyHere are the Top 3 ways that new manufacturing technology adopted on the shop floor can benefit your company:

1 – You can keep up with the competition. According to recent results from the Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, the National Association of Manufacturers states that in 2017, there is a record-high level of optimism in the manufacturing industry. 91.4 percent of manufacturers said they would increase investments, hire more workers, and that they generally feel good about our industry’s growth. Do you fit in this category?

Are pieces of old tech, like floppy disk drives and handheld terminals holding you back? Are you experiencing communication failures due to lack of CNC memory for your programs? These are all problems that new technology can fix, so that you can get in on this wave of prosperity.

2 – Increase profit. When implementing new hardware and software into older machines, this can help drastically decrease downtime. When there is no downtime to deal with, or less of it, machinists are free to perfect their craft. According to SME, there have been proven studies that show on average, time will decrease 5 percent every time the number of completed pieces doubles.

Therefore, if a machinist has more time to actually do their job than deal with machines going down, that will ultimately make the company more productive. Implementing machine monitoring to track machine trends increases OEE and DNC software can help with CNC communication failure, which are two sure fire ways to combat downtime.

3 – More freedom. When there is less worry of machines going down, this can create a better work/life balance for those who work on the shop floor, and in the front office. Machine monitoring, which is a powerful IIoT (industrial internet of things) tool, is an amazing way to get notifications of what is going on with machines not only on the shop floor, but via email or text notifications.

When this proven solution to deal with downtime is combined with more accountability through the means of graphical job scheduling, PDM, and other resources on the shop floor, there is more trust in the workplace. More people can use their PTO to go on vacation, or workers who are home sick can help give guidance when a machine goes down via a notes section through machine monitoring.

If you are interested in new technology for your shop floor and experiencing the benefits listed above, contact us by filling out a sales form here, or call (877) 611-5825.


Mastercam 2018 Rollout

mastercam 2018 rollout

Mastercam 2018 Rollout Event Review

CAD/CAM Consulting Inc. recently held a Mastercam 2018 rollout event at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA. Shop Floor Automations (SFA) was lucky enough to participate as a vendor whose solutions integrate with Mastercam software.

Guests of the event not only got to sit in on informative demonstrations of new and improved Mastercam features, but they also got to walk throughout this beautiful museum full of aviation history. Lunch was served and a raffle took place at the end of the event – SFA even got to give out our Wireless CNC Connect and the Wired CNC Connect

Watch our video from the event & subscribe to our YouTube channel

Some of the enhancements reviewed for the event were general, which include analyzing the toolpath, analyzing the distance along the curve, lathe coordinates, and more.  Overall design enhancements, as well as tool enhancements, mill enhancements (2D and 3D), lathe enhancements, and mill-turn enhancements, were discussed.

Detailed presentations given to attendees touched on customizing your interface with nifty features such as the Quick Access Toolbar. A litany of commands are at your fingertips and your tabs can be customized to your ease of use, which includes selecting the option of displaying large icons. We were also informed that posts from Mastercam which are three versions back or newer can also be updated to the Mastercam 2018 version.
mastercam 2018 rollout

How does SFA work with Mastercam? The three best solutions are:

# 1 – DNC Software: Once Mastercam is done building your programs, send them to your machines with DNC Software. Able to store 1000’s of programs securely, you won’t have to worry anymore if your programs are floating around the shop, or if the program is too large for the CNC memory. This is a great upgrade if you find your current CNC communication methods are failing.

# 2 – Hardware: A more economic approach when compared to DNC Software, some opt for our USB Connect hardware (available in units which can be mounted on a machine or in a rugged, portable unit) or they gravitate towards our Wired/Wireless, CNC Connect devices. No longer run from the machine to the PC, or risk damaging your laptop by carrying it around the shop floor. Expensive memory upgrades will now be a thing of the past.

# 3 – Machine Monitoring: Okay, it’s more of an accessory to Mastercam, but it is a great addition to your shop. Monitoring downtime and other machine trends help to increase OEE and drives real-time improvements on your shop floor. Customers report productivity increases of up to 25% just from monitoring the utilization of their machines. Imagine the time you’ll save with Mastercam plus machine monitoring in your shop!

If you want more information on this event or any of the solutions mentioned above, Shop Floor Automations would love to hear from you! Fill out our Sales contact form, or call (877) 611-5825. 

Cloudy with a Chance of OEE

OEE, IIoT & The Cloud

“By 2020, a corporate ‘no-Cloud’ policy will be as rare as a ‘no-internet’ policy is today.” This is a bold claim from Gartner, a respected information technology research company. With the growing dependence on this technology, Cloud IIoT Security is becoming a major concern in the manufacturing industry.

IIoT Cloud OEE MFGShop Floor Automations is a big proponent of Cloud tech, especially in terms of the Industrial Internet of Things, or the IIoT. One of our hottest sellers is DataXchange from Scytec, with its $45 per month per machine pricing policy for Cloud-based services. We also realize that secure drip-feeding is a concern of note, as well, in the manufacturing community.

For those who are apprehensive about adopting IIoT Cloud tech or any kind of software/devices to help with drip-feeding via DNC Software, here are three resources to help you make an informed decision:

Cloud tech is more reliable than you previously thought.  A publication called Enterprise Tech states that Global IT spending should increase close to 3 percent in 2017 – the projected $3.46 Trillion spent this year on worldwide IT is in part due to the Cloud infrastructure being so significant, as time goes by. In keeping with this fact, Cloud-based machine monitoring has helped many of our customers. One such manufacturer has even been able to run their existing five-axis CNC machines for 24 hours at a time at increased productivity, rather than feeling the need to invest in more machines to achieve their production goals. That definitely speaks to the trust of this Cloud-based program!

Implement a cybersecurity assurance program along with your Cloud solutions. The Cybersecurity Assurance Program (UL CAP) for industrial control systems from a global safety science organization UL was introduced for IMTS 2016. “UL CAP is intended for control system manufacturers who need support in assessing security risks while they continue to focus on product innovation to help build safer, more secure products,” states Mark Albert from Modern Machine Shop. “These steps will help protect the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The program should benefit OEMs, machine tool builders, system integrators, and retrofitters who want to mitigate risks by sourcing products assessed by an expert third party.”

Secure DNC makes DNC software communications safer.  This is a Windows application designed to be installed on Windows-based CNC machines, CMMs, test stands, and other equipment. This application from Predator DNC supports a wireless or wired Ethernet interface via TCP/IP. It not only supports older versions of Windows, which reduces the need for costly Windows updates on CNC machines, but it is also a good measure against unauthorized access via hackers. Read more about Secure DNC here.

Ready to get started? Contact Shop Floor Automations for better, and safer, OEE through IIoT. Call (877) 611-5825 or contact us on social media

What is Predator Secure DNC?

secure dnc software

Click photo for a larger view

What is Predator Secure DNC?

If you invested in DNC Software for your shop floor, you also want to rest assured that these programs are secure and your manufacturing operation isn’t taken for a ride by hackers and other unsavory characters. How many of your newer machines are just plugged into the network?

This is where Secure DNC comes in – a Windows application designed to be installed on Windows-based CNC machines, CMMs, test stands, and other equipment. This application from Predator DNC supports a wireless or wired Ethernet interface via TCP/IP.

Secure DNC eliminates the requirements of corporate domains, workgroups, or Windows Shares for DNC transfers. Further good news is that it supports older versions of Windows, which reduces the need for costly Windows updates on CNC machines.

“The best way to explain how it’s helpful is that it allows secure file transfers to CNC machines through firewalls,” said one of our techs at SFA, who is experienced with Secure DNC. “For example, if a shop has Windows-based machines and strict network security, they can send directly to the hard drive of the machine without interfering with the network, or without creating additional security risks.”Another one of our techs also added that “you no longer need to share unsecured folders on machines.”

Using Secure DNC, which is a component of Predator DNC Software, is a beneficial combination for your shop floor. Here is what some of our customers had to say about Predator DNC:

We have experienced faster, easier file transport [for our CNC machines]. -Daniel, Benét Laboratories for the US ARMY

We needed to be able to communicate our CNCs and improve the ability of our mill.  -Shane, Power Repair Service Inc

We were looking for a system that would communicate through a wireless network, so we could get rid of the switchbox and old wires running all over the machine shop. DNC Software helped us eliminate our old switchbox. -Rajikumar, Nell Joy Industries

Want more info? Call us at (877) 611-5825. You can also request more Predator DNC info via this Sales contact form.

We also have a chat feature on our site, as well as a few social media channels to reach us at.