Paperless Manufacturing

Many machinists, production managers, and other shop floor workers wish they had paperless manufacturing. It feels like an impossible pipe dream to them.

It may be trendy to do so, but we wish to quote organizational expert Marie Kondo. Her insight is wonderful when thinking of taking on the daunting task of going paperless.

“People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking,” Marie says in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. “Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away – not the effort needed to get them out.”

Other than the need to be organized, there are far more important reasons to go paperless. Digital revision control, being prepared for audits and keeping track of crucial documentation also weigh heavy on our daily processes.

Yes, the task of going paperless can take time. But it is not an impossible task. Shop Floor Automations has even successfully gone paperless!

There is also a terrific article written by Eli Plaskett of Modern Machine Shop on this topic. His December 2018 piece “Turning the Page on the Paper Workplace” details a few steps to achieve this goal.

First, analyze how to give your workforce digital access to files as appropriate.
Invest in a scanner – for existing paperwork and whatever paperwork comes in the hereafter, scan immediately. Train employees to get into the habit of scanning.

Then, install tablets, network computers or digital station work devices. The next step is to train the workers fully on how to use the system. Show them the ways the system works for their benefit to save time.

Set up simple instructions such as photographing a setup. If you use ERP Software (which integrates with quite a few of our solutions), it can often have tools to enable photos attached with set up instructions or photos via an ERP smartphone app.

SFA has many solutions to help you cut your dependency on paper. We have USB hardware that can store programs in flash drives, and we highly recommend investing in PDM.

Ready to start the conversation? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out our contact form

Connect CNC Machine to Computer

Machinists looking to connect CNC machines to computers have different needs. Perhaps they want to monitor OEE, or they want to send programs remotely.

Here are the top three solutions for connecting equipment to your shop floor computer or laptop:

DNC Software – Making sure programs are sent to the machine, as well as revision control and complete CNC networking can be accomplished with one system. DNC (or drip-feeding) is done via parallel, RS232, RS422 Ethernet, or wireless Ethernet for thousands of your machines. Control programs from the shop floor PC.

Machine monitoring – Manufacturers want their machine data, and they have a need to see it beyond standing at the machine. Seeing OEE on computers in back offices, or on real-time viewers, or even on the go via laptops or smart phones, are all possibilities.

Hardware – You want to make sure your software interacts with the shop floor environment. Wireless and wired hardware will help with PC to CNC transfers. Modified PLCs will help to grab data off of old machines. Older laptops can be connected to CNCs with the USB to Serial plus an RS232 cable. There are so many possibilities!

Want to convert your RS232 port into USB? Need to replace floppy disks? Want to go paperless? We can help with that, too!

Fill out our online contact form or call (877) 611-5825. We can’t wait to start the conversation!

Manufacturing News

A long standing publication with a classic newspaper vibe – we are proud to have been featured in Manufacturing News many times. The issues focus on different regions and their varying Made in America goals.

Here are some recent pieces that Manufacturing News have featured us in:

Our case study with R & D Manco in Arizona appears in the December 2018 issue. This manufacturer previously had experience with our CNC Editor software and our hardware. However, they implemented an on-premise machine monitoring system after a pilot program. Because of this, they boosted their productivity in a short period of time.

Proving return on investment for automation solutions can be complicated. Because of this, we created an article for decision makers on how to lay these details out. Some pieces of valuable information in this process are equipment compatibility, evaluating processes and having alternative options available. This article appears in the November 2018 issue.

The medical manufacturing industry is a very high-volume business. We constantly work with these shops to find the best automation solutions for them. Specifically, we always recommend OEE (overall equipment efficiency) monitoring. The top four benefits to this software appear in the April 2018 issue.

Check out our other articles on similar manufacturing solutions. Ready to start the conversation about shop floor automation? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out an online contact form

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

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.

Industrial Automation for Manufacturers

Wondering what the best industrial automation solutions are for your shop floor? The biggest factors to focus on are your budget, needs, and the equipment you want to improve performance for.

Check out our guide for popular brands of manufacturing equipment and what you can do with them! We also recommend contacting us with your make/model information, as well as checking out our YouTube channel.

What equipment is compatible with MTConnect? We have a detailed compatibility guide.

HAAS MACHINES:

  • Software for CNC networking, OEE monitoring and more
  • Replace Haas floppy drives with plug and play ability
  • Transform RS232 ports to USB

FANUC MACHINES:

  • Compatible with MTConnect for machine monitoring
  • Drip-feeding software and hardware
  • USB hardware & special cables

DOOSAN MACHINES:

  • Software to track OEE or control/send programs
  • Replace floppy drives or upgrade to USB
  • Go from Serial to Ethernet for data transfer

MAZAK MACHINES:

  • DNC software and machine monitoring
  • USB & LAN hardware for Mazatrol (CMT)
  • Replace floppy drives

OKUMA MACHINES:

  • Monitor uptime/downtime
  • Drip-feed hardware and software options
  • Floppy core replacement with rebates available

FADAL MACHINES:

  • USB hardware – portable and pendant
  • Add Ethernet functionality
  • Ask about software for this equipment

FAGOR CNC MACHINES:

Have equipment not listed here that you want solutions for? Get in touch with us! Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form

How to Monitor Manufacturing Progress

The need to monitor manufacturing OEE is a big concern for 2019. Because the cost and commitment can be daunting, it may have previously been avoided.

The productivity improvement industry is transforming to meet these concerns. Measuring KPIs on the shop floor and making decisions based on data is easier than ever.

Cloud-based machine monitoring customers are often surprised by the benefits they experience. They love the quick productivity increases, better communication, smaller investments, and no on-premise implementation needed.

Here are the Top 3 Reasons that OEE monitoring via the Cloud is the best investment in 2019:

  • ODI (Operator Data Input) makes data entry for machine activity simpler than ever. The device running ODI does not need internet access for data entry actions. Enter downtime reasons, work orders, active part numbers, scrap part counts, and more.
    • A Windows, Android or iOS tablet can also be installed at the machine to use the ODI right at the control. This save operators time.
  • Mobile ODI monitoring allows for more freedom. Don’t miss out on life events or emergencies. View the ODI via the Apple app store, Google Play, and the Windows app store.
    • You can also opt for text and email OEE notifications.
  • The existing Custom Commands are still included, but the display for tracking data is now easier to read. Other than lists, graphs or the shop floor layout, users can enjoy stacked color boxes that display the limited info needed.
    • Try defined colors to symbolize equipment status. This will make displays via tablets, phones or even real-time viewer dashboards on the shop floor easier to understand.

Shop Floor Automations offers DataXchange monthly Cloud-based machine monitoring. Starting $50 per month, you can evaluate the productivity of your equipment.  Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form for more information!

The Plastic Manufacturing Industry

Plastic Manufacturing
Credit to Gardner Business Media

Moldmaking is a rewarding area in our industry to work within. Plastic manufacturing touches many facets of our daily lives. Just ask those who work in the field!

“Moldmaking and injection molding is at the very heart of the plastics industry,” says Nishit Shah, Mold Design Engineer at Nypromold.

Moldmaking Technology released an in-depth piece where they interviewed plastic manufacturers. Nypromold was the highlighted company in the article.

“What brought me to manufacturing was the ability to use advanced technology,” says Keene Huntoon, a CNC Machinist at the company. “What keeps me here…is my job is a crucial step in making properly-working medical devices.”

“We take plastic pellets, melt them in the machine, and inject them into the mold,” says Amber Zapatka, Plastics Engineer. Holding both a Bachelors and Masters in Plastics Engineering, she states her work is like a puzzle.

“What’s the best way and fastest way to make good parts each time?” Amber and other employees in her field are constantly looking for ways to improve their processes.

What are the best ways for plastic manufacturers to increase their productivity? Check out these resources below:

  • Three Reasons Moldmakers need IIoT ARTICLE
  • Reducing Moldmaking Downtime ARTICLE
  • Why DNC Software is Crucial for Moldmakers ARTICLE

Ready to increase productivity? We service moldmakers, CNC machine shops, metal fabricators, and more manufacturers within our industry. Call (877) 611-5825 or have us contact you

Manufacturing Management

According to SME’s ToolingU Manufacturing Management Supervisor Essentials Course, just because you’re a manager doesn’t automatically make you a leader. Leaders cope with change and complexity.

Have you taken the time to lead your shop floor recently? Do you know things needs to change?

Typically, those who need automation tools are the machinists, production workers and shift supervisors on the shop floor. Production managers also find these solutions, but often, those who are directly making parts bring their requests to the production manager.

The best approach for the production manager or anyone wanting change would be to present these solutions to decision makers at the company. Usually, the Quality, Engineering and Maintenance departments above Production Management won’t have this authority, so let’s go further.

The first step is proving the value of automation solutions to Departments such as Purchasing, Finance/Accounting or even as high up as the President/Owner. You can check this article from MFG Talk Radio on proving manufacturing ROI to help in this mission.

Other than showing how manufacturing automation can help your organization, here are other steps you can take to improve production:

  1. Situational Analysis – Identify the shop’s areas of success and where improvement is needed within the organization initially.
  2. Correct Project Planning – The best process for planning projects is to define objectives, determine the realistic scope/budget, create a work breakdown structure, then delegate approved tasks out. If you’re not in management, draft a plan to present to a higher-up.
  3. Forecasting – Can you predict or measure demand and control costs? Looking at production for the next three to five years may seem like a long time frame, but this is the most common strategic plan used.
  4. Organization & Planning Tools – The correct resources will help your company’s longevity. They range from budgeting, charts, and scope, to your staff and staffing choices.
  5. Monitor & Control – Yes, we always recommend machine monitoring, but there are other observations to make. Once a month, curate productivity reports. Do operations research and evaluate your schedules based on historical data.

Ready to move forward? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out an online contact form.

Fanuc CNC Automation Resources

Manufacturers with Fanuc CNC machines have specific needs. Especially when it comes to the subject of shop floor automation.

Here are some quick resources:

Can you do machine monitoring with Fanuc equipment? Yes! DataXchange machine monitoring supports Fanuc FOCAS. You can monitor this equipment on-premise or via the Cloud.

Is Fanuc FOCAS similar to MTConnect? MTConnect enables equipment to provide data in structured XML versus proprietary formats. FOCAS is either Ethernet-based or sourced via the Fanuc FOCAS HSSB driver. Library files (.dll) are accessed by applications that retrieve the data.

Controls with Fanuc FOCAS: Fanuc FOCAS has two types: FOCAS 1 and FOCAS 2. Controls with Fanuc FOCAS include series Oi, 15, 15i, 16, 16i, 18, 18i, 21, 21i, 30i, 31i, 32i and power mate i.

Fanuc specific solutions:

Fanuc Alarm Codes: Common FANUC alarm codes are 086 – no hardware handshaking occurring. Also, look for DR Signal Off, which means your cable connection is bad. Another common code is 073, where the program number has already been used.

Need Fanuc Parameters? Have more specific questions? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form so we can get back to you