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.

Legacy Blog – Edition XVI

shop floor automations blog Here are some SFA pieces of product news and MFG Day coverage. Manufacturing Tomorrow especially shared a few of our pieces.

For product news, we thank Manufacturing Tomorrow for covering the news of our latest hardware release, the LAN-USB Connect, which adds USB and ethernet abilities to your machine. MFG Talk Radio also published this piece from us – a top 3 reasons list of why moldmakers need to embrace the IIoT.

Moldmaking Technology also published an article talking about how machine data collection software helps combat downtime.

Finally, it’s never too early to start talking about MFG Day (also known as “manufacturing day”). Fabricating and Metalworking shared our piece last year on shaping the Made in America movement, where we highlighted three organizations helping to make manufacturing great again.

Our newest article from Manufacturing Tomorrow on this holiday highlights three manufacturing companies SFA has worked with and how they are helping to close the skills gap.

SFA has been helping manufacturing companies increase productivity for 20 years now. Call us at (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form!

Legacy Blog – Edition XV

shop floor automations blog In this Legacy Blog, Shop Floor Automations thanks these digital publications for sharing our recent news about DNC software, machine monitoring, hardware, and more:

Manufacturing Tomorrow posted a piece we wrote about return on investment (ROI) for shop floor automation solutions. “A great example of actually showing your ROI comes from one of our customers who had an ROI sheet showing that their company had 30 machines, they ran two programs per day, and they loaded 300 programs per week…they then showed how expensive this older process was where they were using outdated shop floor media to transfer programs and estimated how much time/money would be saved by upgrading to DNC.”

MFG Talk Radio published quite a few of our pieces lately. They shared news of our new technology, the LAN-USB Connect. They also shared a piece where we shared with manufacturers how to approach decision makers with ways to prove automation ROI.

FabShop Magazine hosted SFA in the MFG ETC section once again. OSHA’s Top 10 safety violations in 2017 that apply to the shop floor were explored and how some automation solutions can help address some of these issues for 2018 onward.

In a throwback, Manufacturing Engineering published a blog about managing and collecting shop floor machine data. Within this piece, SFA owner Greg Mercurio was interviewed.

For our latest appearances in manufacturing trade magazines, check out our press page. Otherwise, we would love to start the conversation with you about automation! Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form.  

Legacy Blogs – Edition XIII

shop floor automations blog Document control. Gcode editing. OEE calculation. 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

mtconnect In 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.

MTConnect versus Fanuc FOCAS

MTConnect versus other protocols 

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 machinists When working production on a manufacturing shop floor, productivity issues happen. Nothing is perfect – this includes your employees and equipment.

Some leaders may automatically assume that machinists are to blame for productivity decreases. They think they 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. Especially to 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 on for more! 

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