Legacy Blogs – Edition XIII

shop floor automations blogDocument control. Gcode editing. Machine utilization. Documentation of any variety is important to us at Shop Floor Automations, and not just for our customers. We welcome you back to our Legacy Blog series, where we archive past press coverage.

We appeared in the October 2017 issue of MFG News, with a piece reviewing the top three benefits to machine monitoring appearing from us. Updates to DataXchange and an overview of Touch HMI features were also in the issue. We were also in the August 2017 issue of MFG News.

The benefits of cloud-based machine monitoring are reviewed in this piece from us, published in Modern Machine Shop this past January, plus we were mentioned in this piece on R&D Manco. Speaking of Modern Machine Shop, we were also in the February issue with an ad and an article. We have photos of our appearances in this issue on Instagram, too, so be sure to network with us and the #instamachinist movement!

Finally, in the January 2018 Production Machining Magazine issue, we were part of the annual product directory. You can find us under Software>CAD/CAM, Software>ERP & Other Shop Management, Software>Data Collection Devices, and the general directory.

For more information, we would love to start a conversation with you for your productivity needs. Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form so we can get back to you on your time. 

MTConnect vs OPC UA

mtconnectIn the January issue of Modern Machine Shop, Josh Davids of DataXchange discusses the difference between two different, popular protocols. MTConnect and OPC UA are compared.

“Although OPC UA and MTConnect are both http-based protocols (which makes them usable on internet-enabled networks), the question why MTConnect exists often arises since OPC UA has been around for a while and has wide support throughout industry,” Davids said.

“If we view machine monitoring at a high level, it’s apparent that MTConnect is best-suited for equipment with standardized functions, such as CNC controls or other equipment that has known capability. OPC UA is generally best-suited for one-off integration projects that use programmable logic controllers (PLCs),” Davids continued. “Another difference is that OPC UA can be a read-write protocol, whereas MTConnect is read-only. Nothing can be written back to the machine.”

There is much more insight on why MTConnect and OPC UA are different in Davids’ contribution piece.

For more information on machine monitoring, DataXchange or MTConnect, please contact us! We are the #1 reseller of DataXchange and we have the distinction of being an MTConnect Institute Roster Member. Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form.

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:

Read more

Shop Floor Newsletter – November 2017 – Lights Out Manufacturing

lights out manufacturingThe following is an archived copy of our Shop Floor Automations newsletter from November 2017 focusing on lights-out manufacturing:

2018 is coming up fast. What are your main concerns with your manufacturing production? If productivity is a major focus, then getting started with lights out manufacturing is a good goal to reach for.

We previously focused on lights-out manufacturing (AKA lights out manufacturing) in regards to battling rising electricity costs for 2016. However, the power bill for your shop floor is only one of many concerns.

Does the manufacturing skills gap limit what you can manufacture and get out the door to customers? Do you perhaps want to aim for fewer injuries in the workplace, or want better quality of products? Taking advantage of lights-out manufacturing can help with all of these issues.

One crucial part of adopting lights-out manufacturing in your shop helps to minimize labor costs for each part you make, which in turn helps you compete on a global level. This helps the Made in America movement grow stronger while increasing your profits and customer base.

How can Shop Floor Automations help you begin the path to lights-out manufacturing? Production Machining states that machine monitoring is a pivotal part of the process, since “there is always the possibility of machine failure, cutting tool breakage, power outages, and other unexpected issues.”

Put in a request for more info on lights-out manufacturing by calling (877) 611-5825! You can also fill out a request for info form here. Link to original newsletter here

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 

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.

 

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

Comfort for Cloud Technology Concerns

cloud machine monitoring

Click for a larger view of this photo!

Evaluation of cloud-based machine monitoring

If you use cloud-based machine monitoring or have been thinking about it due to the affordable cost of it, there is likely one big question on your mind: what happens to my data?

We have provided a configuration graphic for your reference in this blog about where exactly the data is pulled from, where it goes, and how it gets back to you. Other than this concern of how the data is grabbed and presented, there are a few other concerns people can have with using a service that is cloud-based versus on premise. Let’s explore those concerns here:

What is the cost and what kind of commitment do I need to make?
The $45 per machine, per month option from machine monitoring solution DataXchange has been a very attractive addition to many shop floors. The best part is that this monthly option does not require a long-term commitment, and it includes software updates, plus support.

Paying as you go is a great option for customers to feel if at any time it is not working for them, they can try something else. It also allows them more financial freedom to invest money into other areas of their business, such as marketing or hiring more people to fill the manufacturing skills gap.

I am uncomfortable with my data not being only on my company’s network. From the 2015 International Conference on Computational Science, a study on the sources of uncertainty in Cloud technology state that the biggest parameters of uncertainty are effective performance, bandwidth, available memory, and the number of processors available via the Cloud technology provider. DataXchange meets the demand of all these needs.

The study also stated that Cloud tech which has load balancing and adaptive scheduling, and explaining these concepts in detail, can help those with uncertainty in committing to the Cloud. With DataXchange being developed from over 15 years of experience in creating OEE software solutions, they have thought ahead to meet consumer uncertainties when it comes to the valuable data of customers.

A publication called Enterprise Tech also 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.

What existing results are out there that can convince me to adopt Cloud monitoring?

Shop Floor Automations has been a trusted reseller of Scytec’s cloud-based machine monitoring through DataXchange for years. You can read this case study about how one manufacturer used DataXchange through Shop Floor Automations for a 10 percent efficiency increase in just over two years.

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!

If you are interested in learning more about cloud-based machine monitoring, or any kind of machine monitoring software, please contact us today! We are available at (877) 611-5825 or you can reach us via this website’s chat function, as well as on social media

 

Top 5 Shop Floor Product Updates in 2016

shop floor technology

Top 5 Shop Floor Product Updates from 2016

With the year quickly coming to a close, we wanted to take the time to share some updates to shop floor software and hardware that you all need to see. Whether you implemented them into your manufacturing routine or you are looking for new tech for 2017, here is what you need to know to obtain the goals of lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, and turning data into actionable items:

1 –  Scytec DataXchange Machine Monitoring & Data Collection – Many shop floor runners are fans of DataXchange for their $45 per month, per machine Cloud pricing, but they may also want to check out Version 2016.10.03 updates. New features include an MTConnect Data Viewer, which is a testament to DataXchange’s continuing advocacy of the protocol. Scytec Support staff will also be able to remotely restart DataXchange for users without remote access, as well as many utilization tools being updated or refreshed. You can also integrate DataXchange with Bigfoot CMMS from Smartware Group if you are seeking a plant maintenance management system, which you can read more about here.

2 – The WiFi USB Connect – This new piece of hardware is a wireless USB solution for the manufacturing shop floor. It emulates a USB stick, allowing you to share data from a PC to your machines. No drivers are required, plus Floppy drive emulators and CNC machines with a USB port can now have wireless abilities! The device serves as an easy and economic shop floor upgrade, with more info here from MoldMaking Technology.

3 – Machine Monitoring through Predator MDCWith v11 now available, there are many incredible new updates, and quite a few improved features, that will be beneficial to your shop floor. From being able to access MDC machine monitoring on Android phones, to having a real-time view of data from any browser, many new charts to display information on, and an updated list of Windows Support, MDC is worth checking out.

4 – MTConnect & the Cloud –  More CNC machine controls, and more shop floors are embracing MTConnect. The open, royalty free factory floor communication standard is universal and embraced by shop floor factories. Comparative to Bluetooth technology that allows for plug-and-play connectivity of shop floor devices, equipment, and systems, the protocol helps collect and process data from machines. The concept of software on the Cloud, AKA IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), is also taking off. Cloud tech can becost-effectivee (as you saw above with DataXchange’s Cloud pricing), is easy to implement, and can often come with advanced tech support that will help a company’s IT Department struggle less. Industrial Machinery Digest published a piece about integrating MTConnect, along with machine monitoring, at this link.

5- Predator’s Touch HMI – A big button interface, Predator’s Touch HMI replaces bar code readers, handheld terminals and proprietary shopfloor hardware; simplifies data collection on machine uptime; enables access to information via tablet, PC or CNC; and provides buttons to transfer NC programs or launch the part drawing on the shop floor for the operator. It can also be color-coded for the convenience of individual machinists, and novelty buttons can be added through the magic of IoT. More on Touch HMI via a Modern Machine Shop piece you can read here.

Want to become the hero of your shop floor by helping achieve better machine utilization? Call us at (877) 611-5825 or chat with us on social media. Check out any of the products mentioned in our store, or contact us for info on MTConnect & Cloud options.