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 2GB 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 standard with our 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 2GB 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 2GB 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!

Manufacturing Job Safety

manufacturing job safetyAccidents in the workplace happen. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 1,122,960 non-fatal workplace accidents happened in the manufacturing sector. OSHA also commonly states the statistic of 4,500 workers per year dying on the job.

What is particularly disturbing about the number above is that of these 1 million+ workers who were hurt, the number of workers out of commission for more than a month (I.E. took more than 31 days to recover) was 314,530. With such a significant skills gap in the manufacturing field, we need as many skilled workers on deck as possible, so over 310k people off the job is scary.

Shop Floor Automations spoke to Phil Mendelowitz, who is 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 further insight on keeping safe in a manufacturing environment. Check out the rest of this story!

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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.

Comfort for Cloud Technology Concerns

Scytec DataXchange

Click Cloud graphic above for a larger view

Evaluation of cloud-based machine monitoring

If you use cloud-based machine monitoring or have been thinking about it due to the affordable cost of it, there is likely one big question on your mind: what happens to my data?

We have provided a configuration graphic for your reference in this blog about where exactly the data is pulled from, where it goes, and how it gets back to you. Other than this concern of how the data is grabbed and presented, there are a few other concerns people can have with using a service that is cloud-based versus on premise. Let’s explore those concerns here:

What is the cost and what kind of commitment do I need to make?
The $45 per machine, per month option from machine monitoring solution DataXchange has been a very attractive addition to many shop floors. The best part is that this monthly option does not require a long-term commitment, and it includes software updates, plus support.

Paying as you go is a great option for customers to feel if at any time it is not working for them, they can try something else. It also allows them more financial freedom to invest money into other areas of their business, such as marketing or hiring more people to fill the manufacturing skills gap.

I am uncomfortable with my data not being only on my company’s network. From the 2015 International Conference on Computational Science, a study on the sources of uncertainty in Cloud technology state that the biggest parameters of uncertainty are effective performance, bandwidth, available memory, and the number of processors available via the Cloud technology provider. DataXchange meets the demand of all these needs.

The study also stated that Cloud tech which has load balancing and adaptive scheduling, and explaining these concepts in detail, can help those with uncertainty in committing to the Cloud. With DataXchange being developed from over 15 years of experience in creating OEE software solutions, they have thought ahead to meet consumer uncertainties when it comes to the valuable data of customers.

A publication called Enterprise Tech also states that Global IT spending should increase close to 3 percent in 2017 – the projected $3.46 Trillion spent this year on worldwide IT is in part due to the Cloud infrastructure being so significant, as time goes by.

What existing results are out there that can convince me to adopt Cloud monitoring?

Shop Floor Automations has been a trusted reseller of Scytec’s cloud-based machine monitoring through DataXchange for years. You can read this case study about how one manufacturer used DataXchange through Shop Floor Automations for a 10 percent efficiency increase in just over two years.

Cloud-based machine monitoring has helped many of our customers. One such manufacturer has even been able to run their existing five-axis CNC machines for 24 hours at a time at increased productivity, rather than feeling the need to invest in more machines to achieve their production goals. That definitely speaks to the trust of this Cloud-based program!

If you are interested in learning more about cloud-based machine monitoring, or any kind of machine monitoring software, please contact us today! We are available at (877) 611-5825 or you can reach us via this website’s chat function, as well as on social media

 

The Case for Change: Automation & IIoT

manufacturing technology trends

Shop Floor Automation & IIoT

Embracing manufacturing shop floor automation and the Internet of Things (IoT), or in our case, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), will help the American manufacturing sector as it tries to keep pace with the millions of MFG jobs that need filling.

Implementing automation tactics such as machine monitoring, DNC software, job scheduling, CMMS, and more, does not intend to replace people who could do these jobs, but rather to make up for the fact that there is a sufficient skills gap in manufacturing. These tools also help to make the jobs of those who are still in this industry, or just entering it, more efficient and easy.

NIST (the National Institute of Standards for Technology) stated on a study previously published on their site that “intelligent automation systems could make greater contributions to US manufacturing” and also provides many factors as to why automation, and yes, increasing Robot density level (Robots per ever 10,000 manufacturing workers) can benefit the Made in America movement. Especially considering that in 2008, we had 4.7 workers per every retiree in this country, but by 2050, it is projected to drop to 2.7 workers per retiree, which will no doubt effect the manufacturing sector.

An article from Information Week regarding the aging workforce encouraging the IoT movement stated in a piece that “small companies need technical support to implement new technologies.” Aside from Government measures such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Commitees, there is also the significance placed on the willingness of businesses to take the leap to embrace new tech. The George Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute did a 2012 survey of Georgia manufacturers and while 24% of these shops said technical skills are an issue, 27% also said they were not willing to spend funds on employee training. Adding certain automation tools that are quick to learn could benefit both these issues, as they can often be more affordable than expected.

The benefits of IIoT towards lean manufacturing should also be considered. “Applying the industrial internet of things (IIoT) enables new means for removing waste,” says the ARC Advisory Group, responding to an inquiry from tech publication Ziff Davis. “For example, IIoT can be applied to equipment for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. Maintenance is performed when needed rather than on a fixed time period, which can reduce maintenance costs by 50%.”

The bottom line here is that embracing IIoT and automation on manufacturing shop floors is just a natural progression of how this industry is changing. In the 1700s and 1800s, we had manual machines for manufacturing. The 1940s were when we were first introduced to NC (numeric control) machines, then we gained CNC (computer numeric control) machines. Each time these new innovations came around, it was likely a culture shock, but embracing these changes has made our industry what it is. It’s time to keep moving.

If you are interested in how automation and the IIoT can help your shop floor, we would love to help! Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form so we can get in touch with you on your time.