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.

CNC Software for MFG Productivity

Many manufacturers seek out CNC software to increase their productivity. Whether they have older machines and small shops, or the latest technology and many employees.

Manufacturers also want software that can be used via wireless, wired, Ethernet, RS232, USB, and more connections. Here are some solutions manufacturers ask for that you may find useful:

OEE Monitoring: Some manufacturers have basic set ups that tells them when machines are down. While this is a great first step, a truly productive manufacturer wants more info. Why were machines down? How long are processes taking? Machine monitoring software helps to evaluate and improve these issues.

One shop floor network: Making sure programs make it to the machine is a crucial issue on the shop floor. Related issues such as revision control and saving the machinist time are also important. DNC software assists in managing programs and communications for thousands of machines.

Protocols: While not technically software, people want new methods of shop floor communication. Protocols such as MTConnect make this task non-proprietary and less cost prohibitive. As far as compatible software, machine monitoring is the most popular solution in this category.

Other software for the shop floor: PDM helps shop floors go paperless and prepare if an audit occurs. There is also CNC Editor to make sure programs on the shop floor are good to go. Tool Crib software is also helpful in your quest for productivity.

Ready to get more information on these solutions? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form

Need An “Automate CNC Machines” Game Plan?

Planning to automate CNC machines or other manufacturing equipment? Here are three steps before starting:

First, Create a Healthy Technology Relationship: “These tools have been developed not for nefarious reasons, but to improve the way we do business or the way we live.” Production Machining Senior Editor Chris Felix explains this topic in their April 2018 issue.

Monitoring equipment and implementing other automation tools is not meant to penalize or micromanage operators. “The implementation of data-driven manufacturing…collects data about and reports on the effectiveness of the manufacturing process. Data from tooling can help to refine cutting parameters to improve accuracy and reduce scrap.”

Basically, any shop floor automation solutions will involve an investment. You want to make sure that those using machines and equipment will take advantage of these tools.

Next, Consider Demand-Driven Manufacturing: “This has become the new market norm because of advancements in real-time analytics and IIoT,” says Stefan Krauss in January/February 2017 Today’s Medical Developments issue. “Manufacturing companies will need to integrate real-time demand information into their operation or risk losing…to the digital leaders that do.”

“Start with an internal audit of end-to-end operations to identify weak spots and insertion points where new features can be introduced.” Doing this will allow you to evaluate what goals are obtainable on your shop floor.

Then, Integrate IIoT: “An IIoT platform is a set of hardware and software facilities that assist and support [an] application for industrial companies using the internet to connect devices and equipment,” says Mark Albert in the Modern Machine Shop November 2017 issue.

“The use of the internet is now commonly called the industrial internet of things. Such platforms may provide an operation environment, computer processing capability, data storage structure, and program building blocks for application developers.”

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

DNC CNC Software

DNC CNC

Our article on DNC software functions and benefits was published by MoldMaking Technology recently. “A company’s programs are their livelihood on the shop floor. They make the parts that keep a business going.”

The three different DNC CNC benefits discussed were remote requests, compatibility (different machines and methods to use DNC), and program revision control.

We also wanted to discuss in this blog a rumor about certain DNC MACROs for manufacturing multitasking. We recommend you read the article for more in-depth information.

Operators with older machines may have limited memory and will need to drip-feed large programs with DNC. Machinists also like using DNC for remote requests or pull mode. While drip-feeding pushes the program (downloaded from the DNC server), the program can instead be requested from the CNC machine.

While remote requests and the diversity of drip-feeding make machinists jobs easier, there is also the added stress of incorrect programs being run at machines. CNC revision control controls this problem and prevents this issue from occurring.

Some operators say they can use DNC in order to perform very basic machine monitoring. Items sent via RS232 can be observed with a specific G-code function.

While this G-code function has been discussed on various machinist forums, we highly recommend you do not rely on it for monitoring CNCs. The information the MACRO provides alone is not good enough. For example – you can feel when your leg is injured, but you won’t know if it’s a sprain or a fracture until you have professional insight.

This G-code MACRO hack will not be able to tell you in-depth when machines are down, why, for how long, what processes can be improved upon, or overall efficiency of your equipment. It also can’t send notifications via email or text when machines are down. DNC can easily be integrated with OEE monitoring software for combined productivity uses.

Ready to start the conversation about DNC software? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form.

CNC Automation for 2019

cnc automation

What are your CNC automation plans for this new year? If you are drawing a blank, never fear – here are three quick ideas!

1 – CNC Data Collection – Do you know often your machines are running? Or worse – how often your machines are down? Set up a machine monitoring trial to see what is actually happening during production!

OEE monitoring software will help you track planned and unplanned downtime. Know how long a broken tool or lockout tagout takes so the process can be improved. Evaluate how to increase manufacturing machine capacity.

2 – CNC Program Revision Control – Do incorrect programs run at your machine frequently? Are programs floating around the shop floor stressing you out? Set up a DNC Software webinar or ask for a demo!

DNC software will assist for controlling correct programs running at machines. The software also ensures that programs are making it to the CNC without communication failures.

3 – RS232 to USB – Legacy equipment can be refreshed for optimized productivity. Turning an RS232 port into a USB port will help in order to utilize modern media and increase memory at the machine. There are many hardware options to help freshen up your equipment!

Other hardware for CNC machines helps to convert floppy drives in order to use USB sticks. You can also go wireless in order to eliminate shop floor cables.

Shop Floor Automations is ready to assist in your mission to increase manufacturing productivity! Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out our contact form.

Manufacturing Tax Benefits 2019

The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) brought about many changes that have set the pace for 2019. There are important manufacturing tax questions we are asking ourselves or should be. Shop Floor Automations has some tips you should check out!

What kind of benefits can manufacturers seek out? Section 179 is a big resource for our industry we should all be utilizing. Especially if there are upgrades crucial to your productivity you want to write off.

“If you purchase or lease qualifying equipment, like CAD CAM software, you can fully deduct the total purchase price from your gross income,” a representative at BobCAD CAM says. “The price limit is set at $500k, but businesses that exceed that limit can take a one-time, bonus depreciation of 50 percent the amount that exceeds the limit.”

Another benefit that has been significant for manufacturers has touched on equipment depreciation. When pursuing equipment financing via loans, nontax leases or tax leases, owners have been able to deduct depreciation expenses. The TCJA will still allow this to be done.

“The centerpiece of the TJCA – a reduction in the maximum corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent – drastically reduces tax liability for many manufacturers,” says Toni Larson, who wrote a piece on Tax Reform in January’s issue of MetalForming Magazine.

Other benefits Larson suggests looking into for 2019:

  • 100 percent expensing for equipment placed in service after 9/27/17 and before 1/1/23
  • Investment Tax Credit (ITC) as well as the aforementioned Section 179
  • Find an expert in equipment leasing who can provide specific knowledge based on your equipment needs and business goals

Get in touch with us about investments you can make for your 2019 manufacturing operation! Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form

CAD CAM Software Resources

Gcode cad cam

Photo credit to DixiePrecision on Instagram

CAD CAM software is a powerful shop floor tool. There is a long-term problem most users don’t consider. What happens to the programs that the software produces?

“CAD CAM makes these beautiful models, then it produces G-code. What’s going to happen to it?” This question was posed by a Shop Floor Automations (SFA) spokesperson on the Manufacturing Engineering podcast.

“It’s going to go onto these USB sticks. You have all of these portable media going around the shop floor, or it’s sitting on someone’s computer.”

Read more below!

Read more

What is IIoT?

IIoT ManufacturingWhat is IIoT? Here are the basics about the Industrial Internet of Things.

IIoT and Industry 4.0 are very similar topics. Both topics, however, are widely accepted as a key part of the future of manufacturing.

Alan Rooks of the Advanced Manufacturing Podcast recently interviewed SFA. The interview touched on what exactly Industry 4.0 is.

First, manufacturing was purely done via mechanical systems. We moved forward with mass production (assembly lines). Then we reached computers and automation. Now, we arrive at Industry 4, which is the Cloud.

Here are some IIoT resources used to improve manufacturing productivity:

  • Devices/sensors on shop floor equipment communicate via the Internet
  • Data from devices/sensors on machines is stored in the Cloud, so there is no need to house data servers on site
  • Real-time historical analytics are fed into charts and reports for machine monitoring systems, ERP software, and much more
  • MTConnect and similar protocols allow for data to be collected in a non-proprietary manner – more cost-effective overall
  • Hardware such as modified PLCs can help to make legacy machines IIoT-ready

Want more info on IIoT and Industry 4.0 solutions? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form!

Migration for Windows 10

Windows 10 migrationWe often encounter customers who are running old versions of Microsoft on their shop floors. We strongly advise that customers read this quick blog on Windows 10 migration for your manufacturing operation.

Countdown to January 2020

Microsoft is ending support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. This means people will be upgrading their PCs to Windows 10 in the next 18 months. While this sounds like a long window of time, it’s best to take care of it sooner rather than later.

Virtualizing

Customers are virtualizing their servers. This means they take a physical PC/computer and move it to a much larger server that can host many computers virtually. This eliminates the hardware for that PC but generally requires a migration.

Now > Later

We strongly suggest customers take care of this Windows 10 migration now, as a lot can go wrong with a migration. Some issues can be improperly entered codes, incorrect driver configuration, or forgetting to backup critical files. There will also be customers who will be waiting to upgrade at the last moment due to multiple factors, which can be a frustrating feeling.

Need Help?

SFA has a procedure that our technicians follow when doing a migration. Testing and tweaks are typical after a migration due to changes in the operating system. SFA knows what these changes are based on experience.

Call (877) 611-5825 so we can help with your Windows 10 migration process. We also recommend you fill out our contact form if you’re reaching out for the first time. If you are on a current Support contract, fill out a form today

CNC Remote Request

cnc to pcAs American manufacturing grows, efficient machining is key. SFA is often asked about secure and quick CNC to PC communication. Here, we take a look at CNC remote request procedures.

Otherwise known as a CNC remote call, remote request operations provide the following benefits:

  • Keeping operators at machines allows for better productivity
  • Eliminates walking back forth from PC to CNC
  • Machinists can send, receive & drip-feed programs at machines
  • They have directory listings of CNC programs via every machine tool

Remote requests take place through DNC software. It often comes with additional features, including remote error messages, remote auto name, and the ability to send notifications to higher-ups. These messages usually target maintenance, quality or programming issues.

A followup question we get in relation to this subject is this: Can these secure, remote transfers only be done via a serial machine?

DNC software can be used wired and wirelessly. If wired is the route customers want to go, we always recommend cabling specifically made for shop floor environments for effective RS232 communications. The bottom line is that remote calls do not take place at exclusively serial-based machines.

For older Windows-based machines wishing to achieve successful PC to CNC transfers, we recommend a feature called Secure DNC. This allows secure file transfers to CNC machines through firewalls. For example, you can send directly to the hard drive of the machine without interfering with the network.

Secure DNC is great for shops with heightened security measures. It is especially useful for shop floors that still utilize older Windows operating systems because they currently can’t afford to upgrade machine tools.

A great alternative to DNC software for small shops is USB Connect hardware. Devices store programs at machines via a USB thumb drive. It is worth noting, however, that hardware will not have the same plentiful features that software does.

Want more info on PC to CNC program transfer solutions? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out our contact form