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

How to use DataXchange

how to use dataxchangePicking up a new software system can be challenging.  DataXchange makes the process easy with lots of resources.

DataXchange machine monitoring software is a solution for manufacturing companies. The benefits are decreases in downtime, increasing machine capacity, and real-time notifications of machine issues.

Machinists can enter notes if material is needed or lockout/tagout occurs. Shop floor managers can also be notified of unplanned downtime.

Here are the top resources on how to learn to use this machine monitoring software system:

1) Videos & FAQs – Use quick videos on how to use specific parts of the software system. Look at how to use the data entry screen or how to use the modified time stamp. If you have specific questions, it has also likely be answered in our FAQ section focused on DataXchange.

2) DataXchange E-Learning – 12 months of access to video courses on every aspect of DataXchange. This is the best option for beginners, or if you want to train someone else to use it.

The courses cover the topics of installation, equipment/reporting groups, schedule reports, shifts/shift assignments, modifying machine data, MTConnect, Fanuc FOCAS, specific troubleshooting, configuration, and more. Each section has a quiz and the courses can be revisited for a refresher.

Request info on DataXchange E-Learning

3) Schedule a Webinar/Demo – Be part of a DataXchange webinar, or request a software demo. This is the best way to ask specific product questions and get a taste if this software is correct for you.

We encourage you to get in touch with us by calling (877) 611-5825 or schedule a demo/webinar above.

Shop Floor Automations is the #1 reseller of DataXchange and we are always happy to have a conversation about the machine monitoring system!

Haas Demo Day 2018

Haas CNC machine Haas Automation is celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Haas VF-1 vertical machining center with Haas Demo Day 2018!

Via your local Haas factory outlet on Wednesday, May 9th, there will be a celebration of the release of this groundbreaking CNC machine.

There will be machine demonstrations and a chance to network with others in the industry. Better yet, you will get some delicious food and refreshments, as well as an opportunity to win a Race Weekend Giveaway! You will also walk away with a limited edition shirt just for attending the event (that we are sure would look great in your closet next to our G-code shirt).

Register for Haas Demo Day 2018 and celebrate how far manufacturing equipment has come! 

We certainly know the significance that Haas machines have on our industry and we carry multiple solutions for Haas users. Let’s see if you have any of the following concerns:

Don’t see your concern listed above? No problem! Call (877) 611-5825 or zip us over a message. We have worked with thousands of customers over the past two decades and can point you in the right direction for improved productivity. 

 

The CNC Floppy Emulator – What It Can & Can’t Do

shop floor floppy diskWe get many calls to our office asking questions about CNC floppy emulator hardware. While we invite you to contact us for more detailed information, we want to answer the most asked question: Does your Floppy Connect hardware add memory to my machine?

The answer is no, but don’t let this deter you! The benefit of floppy drive replacement hardware is not adding memory to your machine, but we will also touch on the subject of file sizes later.

There are three main benefits to this CNC upgrade:

  1. Refreshing, not replacing, legacy machines: Just because your machine still has a floppy drive does not mean it’s time to put it out to pasture, in terms of productivity! Using one of our floppy drive emulators will upgrade your machine and prevent you from spending thousands of dollars on a new CNC machine.
  2. No longer hunting for obsolete storage media: Floppy disks have been extinct technology for several years now. Finding them new is hard to do and will cost you. Meanwhile, getting a USB stick is as easy as making a run down to a pharmacy, a big box technology store, ordering from Amazon, or buying one from Target and Walmart! Remember, a 2GB stick is the largest size for the Floppy Connect, and it must be FAT formatted.
  3. Eliminate proprietary upgrades: Having a tech from the machine tool builder come down to evaluate your machines is expensive. It is also cost prohibitive to have them install their specific hardware to upgrade your machine. Our Floppy Connect is a small investment in comparison and works on a large number of controls, with the list growing daily.

replace floppy with usbHow many programs you can store on the USB stick is another big question we get. Since the customer is going from a disk that was once 720k or 1.4MB to a 1GB SFA USB stick, the assumption is that they can store and send big programs from it. This is incorrect.

A USB stick will hold no more than the floppy you would have used in the machine would dictate.  The machine still thinks it’s a floppy reader, so it is going to work within those restrictions. You are essentially fooling the machine into thinking the floppy drive still works, with the benefit of no longer needing those floppy disks. Let’s explore further:

Program sizes for customers typically range from 1kb to 25MB. On floppies, program sizes can range from 1kb to 1.4MB.

Let’s say your machine manufacturer made a floppy disk drive that could only handle DD (double density) floppy disks. This means it could only hold 720kb worth of storage, and could typically hold 110 machine program files on it.

What if your machine could handle 1.4MB floppy disks? This means you used HD (high density) floppy disks, which could hold up to 220 machine program files on it.

Case in point – your machine could only handle the size of those files that could fit on those floppy disks. So even though you are using a 1GB USB stick, it will only hold whatever your machine could handle. Remember though – the goal is not to increase memory. It is to save time and money on the shop floor by ditching old technology!

Want more insight on our hardware? Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form so we can get back to you when it is most convenient!

Get an Okuma floppy replacement

Get a Haas CNC floppy replacement 

Don’t have Haas or Okuma on your shop floor, but need to replace floppy drives? 

Manufacturing Job Safety

manufacturing job safetyAccidents in the workplace happen. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,122,960 non-fatal workplace accidents happened in the manufacturing sector in 2016. OSHA says 4,500 workers per year die on the job.

314,530 of these injured workrs were out-of-commission for more than a month (I.E. took more than 31 days to recover). With such a significant manufacturing skills gap, we need as many workers on deck as possible. Over 310k people off the job is a scary number.

Shop Floor Automations spoke to Phil Mendelowitz – a workplace safety, compliance, and leadership advisor with over 25 years of manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution experience.

Phil is part of WarehouseFlow Advisors and runs a popular safety blog called WitzShared. He shared insight on keeping safe in a manufacturing environment. Check out the rest of this story!

Read more

Helping Machinists Cope with Work Stress

Are you creating stressed out machine operators, and not even aware of it?

machinist stress relief sourcesThe manufacturing industry is experiencing a lot of growth, but it is also creating a demand for machinist stress relief resources. According to an interesting article in the August 2017 issue of MetalForming Magazine, 52% of workers say they are stressed on a daily basis and 60% say their work-related pressure has increased in the past 5 years. This information no doubt reflects on a newly revitalized manufacturing field.

“Workers shouldn’t suffer in silence,” quotes Bill Driscoll in the press release, who is a district President for Robert Half’s Accountemps program. “A stressed employee can have detrimental effects on the department or company, including decreased morale and productivity.”

There are internal actions you can take, such as team building exercises or casual weekly/monthly meetings to address issues. Otherwise, here are some of the concerns your workers have which can be addressed with the help of a manufacturing integrator:

Concern #1 – Heavy workloads: While heavier workloads in manufacturing can mostly be attributed to trying to fill a skills gap, there are ways you can help your machinists get their work done faster, even while short-handed. Machine monitoring software can be used to increase OEE by monitoring machine utilization. DNC software can be used to help with CNC communication failures, which can cause downtime. A good alternative for DNC if you have a smaller shop or want to make a smaller initial investment is using USB connect hardware for drip-feeding. Using CNC Editor software can help to ensure programs are correct and prevent operators from having to manually manage/compare files.

Concern #2 – Looming deadlines: Deadlines are crucial in manufacturing. When spreadsheets are used to track jobs on the shop floor, the information is inaccurate and the time it takes to manually update the sheets is a waste of time. When a machine goes down, it can also be hard to accurately shuffle around the production jobs needing to be done at the last minute. Using a graphical production planning software system, AKA job scheduling software, will help machinists see in real-time how moving jobs effects all other jobs and it can help with utilization.

Concern #3 – Unrealistic manager expectations: Before you get defensive, this is merely us being the messenger. If workers already feel overwhelmed with problems 1 and 2, then if you give them more work, they are going to feel as if they are being given unrealistic guidelines to work with. What can you do, in order to understand your operator’s concerns? Ask the machinists to share the data with you from the tools mentioned above. Look at real-time effects of moving jobs on the shop floor, or see what is happening with OEE. These tools are not only for your workers, but they will help make you a better boss!

If you want more information on any of the solutions above to help your operators feel less stressed on the job, please fill out a contact form or call us at (877) 611-5825. 

 

Why Up-To-Date Software Matters

shop floor software updates

Don’t Ignore Software Updates

We’ve all had those annoying reminders on our computers and our phones about a software update being imminent. Sometimes, we say to ourselves “I’ll get to it later,” but this train of thought is a mistake. This is especially true with shop floor software updates.

One of our seasoned technicians gave some feedback on why keeping your software for your shop floor updated is so important:

“Software updates frequently have new features that support a broader range of protocols. For example, the last release of Predator DNC added support for Fanuc FOCAS to allow hardware-less program transfers. In terms of Predator MDC, support for Gerber, Siemens, and OPC was added in v11.”

He continues with another reason these updates are crucial:

“In terms of security, Predator DNC v11 added SecureDNC to help isolate unsecured controls on the shop floor. Staying up to date is important because of the constant improvement in our security features that help defend against cyber attacks.”

Yes, it can be annoying to keep up with software updates, but as you can see from this blog, it is a vital task to complete. If you want more shop floor insight, call Shop Floor Automations at (877) 611-5825 or fill out this form, and we will get back to you at your convenience.

What is Predator Secure DNC?

secure dnc software

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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. 

 

 

SFA meets 2017 Manufacturing Technology Trends

manufacturing technology trends

2017 Manufacturing Technology Trends

Being a technology-related company, part of what we do is about keeping up with trends. We were definitely excited to see we meet the criteria of this beautifully articulated piece from the ARC Advisory Group on 2017 Manufacturing Technology Trends to watch for.

“The automation industry appears to be evolving at a faster rate right now than at any time in its history,” writes Craig Resnick of ARC, which is a research and consulting group that keeps up with industry changes, especially in terms of IIoT technology. “Commercial technologies continue to infiltrate the industrial automation space, especially wireless and mobility solutions.”

“One of the biggest end-user challenges remains unscheduled downtime,” Craig says. ” IIoT-enabled solutions, such as remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, can help minimize, if not totally eliminate this, which would deliver a rapid ROI (return on investment).”

With machine monitoring solutions such as Predator MDC and Scytec’s DataXchange, as well predictive maintenance solution Bigfoot CMMS, we combat the issue of downtime and meet the needs that Craig mentions. It is also worth noting that DataXchange can be integrated with Bigfoot. As far as wireless and mobility solutions, we offer many hardware options, as well as many of our software options being able to be accessed via Smartphones and tablets, where you can receive notifications of any machine issues.

“The Industrial Internet of Things…offers tremendous potential to transform and improve business processes,” Craig continues. “But prospective end users need help to quantify and justify the associated investment, and – in some cases – the associated risk.”

If you need any help with convincing the decision maker of your shop floor to consider these solutions, or if you have doubts before you make these investments, give us a call today! We are toll-free at (877) 611-5825 and we also have a responsive chat feature on our website. We can also be contacted via social media.

 

Hire a Professional Technician – It’s Worth It

shop floor cabling

Click on the photo above for a larger view

Professional Technicians are worth the investment

With the popularity of YouTube, Reddit, WebMD, and similar sites, we are definitely a culture obsessed with DIY (AKA “do it yourself”). While this is great for cooking or hobbies, it is not necessarily the answer for everything pertaining to a job focused on manufacturing production.

Here are the top 3 reasons you should hire a professional technician when implementing manufacturing hardware and software solutions versus going it alone:

Reason 1: Don’t assume the price tag to consult with a professional is going to be outlandish. Take for instance the techs at SFA – you have the option of bringing them to your shop all over the USA, or getting a very affordable Support contract, where they can help you over the phone with a remote session. It’s sometimes as easy as them seeing a photo of the hardware that is having a problem, or having access to your screen where you are running into a software roadblock, and having it fixed within a half hour or less phone call. Some problems may take longer to fix, but wouldn’t it be nice to know it’s a problem that can be fixed without flying a technician out to you?

Reason 2: Hardware needs to be handled and wired a certain way. Your run of the mill computer and related products, such as a commercial wireless internet router and even commercial USB connectors/cables, are an entirely different entity compared to manufacturing hardware implements. Hardware for powerful and expensive manufacturing machines need to be wired and placed a certain way to help with baud rates, and manufacturing shop floor cabling (as you can read in this previous piece) are durable yet complex. It is best to let a technician install it for you, or tell you how to install and wire it over the phone, so you can ensure data will transfer correctly, you don’t potentially void a warranty, and that you also protect your investment.

Reason 3: Free up more time to get back to work, rather than struggling with something that is potentially foreign to you. You made a great decision in making an investment to increase productivity and OEE, and if you went with SFA, you have a group with years of experience behind you to help you in-person or over the phone. You’ve got a job to do, and so do we – and our job is to make yours easier. Why not take advantage of a Support team based in the USA that will actually pick up their phones or reply to emails?

Want more reasons why to use our technicians? Give us a call today at (877) 611-5825. You can also fill out a contact form here, or chat with us on social media.