Manufacturing productivity does not happen or improve from luck. It comes from preparation, research and implementation.

What kind of manufacturing plan should you make for 2019, and for the foreseeable future? Whether you are an independent shop or a large production operation, you need to think about the bigger picture.

This is definitely a topic that manufacturers are thinking about lately. A whitepaper from SME ToolingU states:

  • 80% say that machine availability (OEE) is a priority
  • 60% of manufacturers say continuous improvement is a priority
  • 56% state that production planning is priority

We felt particularly inspired by a Modern Machine Shop article in their December 2018 issue. Mark Albert wrote about IIoT road maps, and while solutions vary for shops, the basic steps of the plan work for anyone.

“The roadmap shows where a manufacturing company is starting out,” Mark states. “Then defines how to proceed along a continuous series of implementations.”

Here are the manufacturing productivity steps you should be taking:

  • 1) DISCOVER – Look at your current productivity state, trends in technology and the initial idea of what you want to implement.
  • 2) DEFINE – Think of the problem at hand deeply. Will the solutions you were initially thinking of investing in fix these issues? Will it integrate with any existing tools you have on hand, such as CAD-CAM or ERP?
  • 3) ANALYZE – Evaluate the digital maturity of the solution. Who will this come naturally to, who will adapt to it and who will reject it?
  • 4) VALUE – Look at the scope of the project, map out ROI, see if you can take place in a pilot or trial, and read case studies. Have proof of why it is beneficial!
  • 5) EVOLVE – Once you have invested in and adapted to the solution, go further. For example, in machine monitoring – expand to different machines, learn more features past basic functions, or upgrade to different versions to gain more benefits.
  • 6) IMPROVE – Aim for continuous improvement in manufacturing. Even if you get your OEE to a specified goal in a certain amount of time, why not aim higher?

Ready to get started? Call (877) 611-5825 or have us contact you

A front view of a Fanuc CNC controller, which is being monitored with machine monitoring software.

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

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.


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 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 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. 


A large pile of floppy disks that appear to have been tossed on the floor, which can be prevented by using floppy disk emulation hardware.We 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.

A black USB flash drive laid parallel to a black floppy disk, showing how much more compact and convenient the USB drive is.How 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 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

Creating stressed out machine operators without meaning to?

machinist stress relief sourcesThe manufacturing industry is experiencing a lot of growth. This also creates a demand for machinist stress relief resources.

An interesting article in the August 2017 issue of MetalForming Magazine states 52% of workers are stressed on a daily basis. 60% say their work-related pressure has increased in the past 5 years.

This information no doubt impacts the manufacturing field.

“Workers shouldn’t suffer in silence,” quotes Bill Driscoll, 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.”

You can help address these issues with team building exercises or casual monthly meetings. Otherwise, here are two large concerns we can help you with:

Concern #1 – Heavy workloads: The looming manufacturing skills gap causes heavier workloads. There are ways to help machinists get their work done faster, even while short-handed.

Machine monitoring software can increase OEE by monitoring CNC utilization. DNC software helps with CNC communication failures, which can cause downtime.

USB connect hardware can for drip-feeding, if DNC is too ornate. CNC Editor software prevents manually managing, editing or comparing files.

Concern #2 – Unrealistic manager expectations: Hey – we are just the messenger. If workers already feel overwhelmed with problem 1, then more work can lead to increased anxiety or resentment.

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. Manufacturing integration 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. 

An iPhone with a notification popping out of its screen saying "Alert: DNC software update available". The "Ignore" button is crossed out and an "Open" button is next to it.

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?

If you invested in DNC Software, you want to know your programs are secure, as well as organized. How many of your newer machines are just plugged into the network?

Introducing, Secure DNC. It’s 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 eliminates the requirements of corporate domains, workgroups, or Windows Shares for DNC transfers.

Secure DNC also 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 technicians at SFA.

“For example, if a shop has Windows-based machines and strict network security, they can send directly to the hard drive of the machine,” they explain. This does not interfere with the network and does not create 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 [CNC] file transport. -Daniel, Benét Laboratories for the US ARMY

Needed to be able to communicate our CNCs and improve the ability of our mill.  -Shane, Power Repair Service Inc

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. -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.