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Scrap material in manufacturing - Shop Floor Automations

Imagine this: as a manufacturer, one of your engineers or CNC programmers has finally completed a product design for a part worth $75,000. They add the files to a USB thumb drive and run it out to the shop floor to upload the design and work instructions for the second shift. Success, he or she thinks. However, one of your team members made a last-minute change to the files without your knowledge. You won’t find out until the prototype is rejected by the customer, scrapping the part and costing your company thousands of dollars, even more time and effort, further project delays, interdepartmental frustration and a dissatisfied customer. Yikes.

Ideal PDM software ties engineering designs, CNC programs and production documentation for full revision control

In reality, manufacturers today have far greater ability to prevent a scenario like this from occurring in the first place. Modern production data management or product data management (PDM) software solutions are specifically designed to manage your manufacturing documentation, like CNC programs, CMM programs, machine offsets, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), to reduce inaccuracies, improve productivity, security and efficiency and speed up time to market. The revision control features of a well-designed PDM, such as Predator PDM, can allow for revisions per vault item, not per file, allowing you to condense the number of files it takes to run your business. New revisions or status changes are validated once-a-minute on every shop floor PC, and the correct program and work instructions may be selected from a pick list tied with the job scheduled in your ERP or MES system – all features to ensure the right CNC production documentation is sent to the right job at the right time.

Proper PDM software aids the CNC program and documentation process on the shop floor for less waste, faster time to market, increased productivity and more.

The use of Windows folders and other alternatives to fulfill regulated traceability requirements often fall short of meeting compliance standards.

Compliance Tracking for CNC Production Documentation

“Manufacturers and their industry partners are becoming greater generators and consumers of data output from their operations, particularly as automation increases,” wrote the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in late 2023. As regulatory bodies, such as the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Defense (DoD), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seek to control this data collection and consumption movement, manufacturers are responsible for tracking, restricting and proving the path of all production documentation. Applying traditional means, like pen and paper, text files or Windows folders, to meet the latest traceability requirements lack the revision control, visibility and reliability to fulfill such mandates. Even USB thumb drive usage can be significantly limited or prohibited altogether in order to achieve compliance. With so much regulation and new technology available now, how does a manufacturer find and implement an optimal PDM solution?

A partnership with a manufacturing integrator with experience in your industry – be it aerospace, defense, oil and gas, medical device and pharmaceuticals or another industrial sector – and a broad software and hardware portfolio can help you better navigate options to institute effective and compliant processes to deliver profitable products. Contact a manufacturing expert at Shop Floor Automations to help reduce time to market, decrease waste and enhance the security of your CNC production documentation by visiting shopfloorautomations.com now.

operator at cnc control

Your aged CNC machines and legacy Distributed Numerical Control (DNC) software can work fine…until they don’t. Maybe the PC communicating to the machines starts dropping characters while transmitting the NC code, scrapping parts being machined if not caught by the operator. Or the hardware that has been in place for years fails, sending you on a painful and labor-intensive search for a fix. You’re not alone. There’s countless online machine forums in which IT, operations and engineers embark on such a mission to find the right parameters, mappings, connections or other ways to solve their problem stemming from an antiquated setup. This can often be the impetus for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), contract manufacturers and job shops to start re-evaluating their entire DNC solution.

One professional wrote about their DNC issue on a Practical Machinist forum, “I am trying to set up communication between OKUMA LB15 OSP5000 and a PC…the machine was connected to an ancient PC with old DNC software running on DOS, and it worked fine until the PC had perished.”

The Power of DNC System Integration

But a lot has changed among DNC systems over the past years that can make teams consider upgrading even before reaching a point of failure. Even more so, the integration of modern DNC with other solutions, such as Production Data Management, Manufacturing Data Collection and Touch HMI, can streamline manufacturing data across applications – something legacy DNCs typically cannot support. The benefit of such a proactive approach is often improved CNC workflow efficiency and productivity. Here’s a few recent DNC enhancements that have helped manufacturers realize these benefits by simplifying CNC program management and manufacturing data control.

  1. Wide OS and Database Support: Modern DNC solutions, like Predator DNC, have added support for Windows 2019 Server, including x64 editions, and compatibility with Microsoft SQL Server 2022 and SQL Server 2022 Express. They should also work with Windows 10 and Windows 11 to ensure seamless integration with the latest operating systems and database technologies so you can avoid security risks, elevated IT costs and industry compliance concerns with CMMC 2.0 and other requirements.
  2. Enhanced CNC Equipment Support: Manufacturers migrating to a new DNC or upgrading their current version can take advantage of new protocols for Fanuc Focas and MoriSeiki to facilitate the serial transfer of Cincinnati Press Brake and Punch Press programs, for example, through one central server.
  3. Machine Error Log Centralization: Up-to-date DNC solutions provide access to all command errors in a single machine-specific error log to easily track errors and troubleshoot issues. This consolidation of errors provides transactional visibility across shifts to allow for consistent support on the floor.
  4. Greater Security and Control: For manufacturers in particularly security-sensitive industries, like aerospace, medical and defense, upgrading to a modern DNC solution can enable you to securely access and manage the “EditLock” key switch on a machine tool through the DNC to lock and unlock CNC memory so you can effectively:
    • Control edits of G-code on machine tools
    • Eliminate physical edit keys
    • Report lock, unlock, and sending activity
    • Enable maintenance control with an override switch to disable

At the same time, automatic compression, encryption, and batch file operations features of advanced DNC solutions grant heightened security and control over CNC communication – which is critical when CNC controllers that use outdated Windows OS are left behind when connecting them to the corporate network. A well-designed, secure DNC enables such CNC to remain on the network by installing a small executable on the CNC and bypassing the domain requirements.

  1. An Intuitive User Experience: Modern DNC systems tend to have refreshed user interfaces with color schemes and toolbar buttons that offer an intuitive user experience. Other enhancements, such as improved FTP support, including passive mode and automatic file deletion, simplify the file transfer processes for manufacturers, while comprehensive online help resources give users the self-directed guidance they need to maximize productivity.

The integration potential of modern DNC to other manufacturing applications streamlines data to improve CNC workflow efficiency and productivity, which is something legacy DNCs typically cannot support.

These developments of the latest DNC software can be reason enough to upgrade your existing setup. Through the integration of a modern DNC system with other manufacturing applications under one solution, however, manufacturers can experience even more efficiency and productivity on the floor. Discuss the automation potential of your environment with manufacturing integrator Shop Floor Automations by contacting us today.