Greg Mercurio interview with Manufacturing Tomorrow

Manufacturing Tomorrow Greg MercurioGreg here at Shop Floor Automations had an opportunity to speak to Manufacturing Tomorrow about how the manufacturing landscape is changing these days, Industry 4.0, as well as the concepts of machine monitoring and OEE. Here are some quotable bits from the Greg Mercurio interview in question:

“In a nutshell, we provide software and hardware solutions to manufacturing shop floors to help decrease downtime and improve OEE,” Greg said. “We help those working on shop floors gain extra time, productivity and profits.”

On Industry 4.0: “For years, the shop floor as been an island of its own and with the latest climate from the US government and other countries, more companies are seeking integration and connection to the corporate world.”

On how manufacturing will change in the new USA political landscape: “I think we’re going to be very busy in 2017 and hope that’s a trend that will build as time goes on.”

Greg Mercurio is President of Shop Floor Automations. He is a long-time resident of San Diego County and a family man. Shop Floor Automations will soon be celebrating two decades in business. 

To read the whole interview via Manufacturing Tomorrow, click here. You can also call us at (877) 611-5825, and we encourage you to share this article on social media

Hire a Professional Technician – It’s Worth It

shop floor cabling

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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.

Why Customers use DNC Software

dnc softwareWhat is DNC Software? Aiding in the process of Direct Numeric Control (sometimes considered Distributed Numeric Control), DNC software helps with total shop floor control. Via our DNC Communications page:

Manage your CNC programs, machine parameters, & offsets with DNC Software. Enjoy a wide range of CNC communication options from your PCs for drip-feeding, downloading, & bi-directional communication. Upload via parallel, RS232, RS422 Ethernet, & wireless Ethernet for thousands of CNC machines. With Microsoft Office®  & Windows® Explorer-compatible user interface (Windows 10 O/S supported), use familiar features for drag & drop, cut, copy, paste, shortcut menus, object-based menus, toolbars, tool tips, & available online help.

Improve CNC revision control while using existing ERP & MES bar-coded paperwork. Eliminate time wasted walking back & forth between your CNC & PC with a Remote Request function. Consider a 32-Bit, Multi-thread, Multi-tasking, Open-Architecture DNC Software solution that works wired & wirelessly. Simplify operations with one network for all of your CNC machines, Robots, PLCs, & part makers, grouped by building or cell.

Now that we have a window into what DNC Software can do, why do some customers use DNC Software?

My old CNC communication network had failed. I could not send files to my CNC sometimes for hours, then it would randomly work. Because of the intermittent failure, we kept trying for a long period of time to keep using our old system. After measuring the time loss for system failure, it was clear we needed to change it out. Now we can even send files via DNC which before did not work as it was supposed to have. –Michael, MiniMachine

Our programs were so large that we couldn’t download them onto our machines, so we started using a drip-feeding system from you guys. Then, we changed over from there to now doing a data server on our machines, but we’re still using your guys’ software (DNC through SFA) to build all of our programs.  -Josh, HRE Wheels

Our DNC system is running so well, that after over 2 years, I have moved the keyboard and monitor off my desk and into a corner. It requires no maintenance and provides us with a trouble-free system. – Mark, Tech Manufacturing

We were trying to control over 8000 programs, revision levels, and updates – the Predator system was recommended to help minimize the man hours and mistakes of doing this manually. We installed DNC and a CNC Editor, and have had no downtime with full control. CMW currently manages approximately 8000 part programs. The system seems to be indestructible – we have had no problems. -Wayne, Carroll Machine

I sought out SFA mainly for DNC for our CNC machines. We have experienced faster, easier file transport. -Daniel, Benét Laboratories for the US ARMY

We needed to be able to communicate our CNCs and improve the ability of our mill. I’ve been using DNC through you for a long time.  -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 switch box and old wires running all over the machine shop. DNC Software helped us eliminate our old switch box…The customer support was great. They were very supportive and fixed errors quick when we had a couple of problems. -Rajikumar, Nell Joy Industries

Read more customer reviews on DNC, and other products from SFA, by clicking here. Look at our free DNC software resources to give it a dry run by clicking here, or if you are ready to make a purchase, call us at (877) 611-5825. 

Comfort for Cloud Technology Concerns

machine monitoring

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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 trendsEmbracing 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 contact us via one of our social media channels.

New Shop Floor Man Comics

shop floor man

Click to see the whole comic

Shop Floor Man, our manufacturing comic book hero, has been on some new adventures since we last posted the Halloween strip here on our blog. Let’s see what other machinist hijinks he has gotten up to, since we last left off with some new Shop Floor Man comics.

Since the holidays just passed us, it was natural that this time of year entered into Shop Floor Man’s realm. In this strip, we learned the real reason why machine monitoring was implemented into our cartoon protagonist’s shop. Santa always knows when someone is doing something naughty, even on a manufacturing shop floor!

Then today, we saw that Shop Floor Man looks to have made a New Years Resolution by replacing complicated, antiquated job scheduling techniques with graphical job scheduling. This is sure to save him lots of time and aggravation.

If there are any manufacturing or machinist themed adventures you would like to see Shop Floor Man explore in future comics, we would love to hear from you!

Contact us here, or via one of our social media channels. We are also available at Toll Free at (877) 611-5825. Remember – our solutions are better than our comics.

3 Reasons Not To Buy a New CNC Machine Tool

cnc machine tool With the start of a New Year, you may be thinking about purchasing a new CNC machine tool, or tools, for your shop floor to help with productivity. You may be of the mindset that a brand new machine would be great, similar to the feeling of buying and sitting in a brand new car, but there are three factors to consider as to why buying a new machine right now is not the best time:

Repurposing money for a new machine into helping fill the manufacturing skills gap is a wiser move. With a huge portion of this industry retiring from the workforce within the next decade, the loss is definitely being felt. With a younger workforce slowly coming on board, the solution may seem to be to invest in newer equipment, similar to what the new work force is bring trained on.

The issue here is that buying a new machine, which can cost five to six figures, especially more if you are investing in multiple machines, is money that is being spent on tools. What about the people who work on the tools? Especially if you are leasing new equipment, it will be hard to pay it off with less of a work force.

The best strategy would be to spend thousands of dollars not on new machine tools, but on a new workforce. Giving them solutions to make legacy machines operate more smoothly has the potential to help production surpass goals, as well as keeping the Made in America manufacturing workforce afloat.

New machine sales haven’t been prevalent in over two years. According to EDA, a data-driven market insight company, there was a huge spike in buying or leasing new machines between 2000 and 2001, with a minimum of 2k machines sold per month between August 2000 and January 2001. February 2002 was when new machine sales/leasing finally dipped below 1k units per month.

machine purchase

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This event seemed to trigger a trend for low sales of new machines until October 2003, when sales started to recover. Sales and leasing of new machines hit a healthy stride until January of 2009, sales significantly dropped.

Since that point, sales and leasing of new machines has been up and down – new machine sales or leasing has not surpassed 2k per month since December of 2014. Sales or leasing of used machines has always been consistent, and even surpassed new machines once in 2001, for half of 2002, more than half the year in 2003, once in 2009 and once as recently as October 2015.

Leveraging the tools you already have saves time and money. Adding supplements to the tools and equipment you already have will save you precious time, teach you new skills, plus the benefit of money being saved by not buying new machines or losing production time by staying with what you have and not changing it.

Time spent by manually tracking data or using spreadsheets for job scheduling can be replaced with machine monitoring or graphical schedulers. Instead of hoping programs send to machines or dealing with programs too large to download to machines, use DNC software to drip-feed (it will also save you the time from going back and forth to the PC, or bringing your laptop all around the shop). If you are constantly replacing cabling due to a caustic shop floor environment, maybe now is the time to go wireless.

If you are interested in more info, we invite you to give us a call or chat with us on our site. Call (877) 611-5825 and make the most of your New Years shop floor resolutions today!

Top 3 Tools for Continuous Improvement in 2017

Continuous ImprovementIf you frequently attend a fitness gym, you know that you have a goal. You want to lose weight or gain muscle mass. Sometimes, you may require the assistance of a trainer to meet these goals. You are aiming for continuous improvement of your physique or health.

With a manufacturing process, you likely don’t want to aim at just meeting your quota – you want to take on new clients and surpass your goals to make more money for everyone who works on your shop floor. This is where solutions such as machine monitoring, job scheduling and DNC can come in handy towards the goal of continuous improvement in manufacturing.

“Continuous improvement, sometimes called continual improvement, is the ongoing improvement of products, services or processes through incremental and breakthrough improvements,” states ASQ, a global knowledge network in America dedicated to improved business management tactics.

Here are the Top 3 ways you can aim for the goal of continuous improvement on your shop floor in 2017:

1 – Implement Machine Monitoring. Collecting and processing real-time data from machines is extremely valuable in manufacturing. Getting emails or text notifications when there are issues with production is crucial to making sure the Made in America movement is on its game. Having accurate production data can help make better-informed decisions about machine utilization and can often be integrated with other programs or hardware. Especially with the $45 per month, per machine Cloud option from DataXchange, it is certainly more affordable than most shop floors expect! FYI – DataXchange can also be integrated with Bigfoot CMMS for plant maintenance.

2 – Utilize Job Scheduling. A real-time graphical scheduler will not only replace outdated spreadsheets, but it can also accomplish such tasks as tracking jobs and helping you move them to another machine with less utilization when there is unexpected downtime. It can help you redirect the time you would have spent manually updating and filing spread sheets on other pursuits. Also, even though it’s not a crystal ball, a job scheduler such as JobPack will allow you to see up to 365 days into the future for scheduled jobs.

3 – Adopt DNC Software for CNC Communications into your routine. Why manually manage and send programs? What if programs are too large to download at machines for operators? You can have revision control and spend less time either running back and forth from a PC, or bringing a laptop from machine to machine. Don’t just hope for a program to send to a machine, or rely on switch boxes, or worry about constantly replacing RS232 cabling.

Interested in any, or all, of the solutions above? We are ready to help you achieve your continuous improvement goals. Call (877) 611-5825 or connect with us on social media. You can also read our many Customer Testimonials to see for yourself the benefits of our solutions.

First SFA Customer in Japan

shop floor automationsAs a New Year is around the corner, we at Shop Floor Automations are grateful to see our customer count grow each day. We are especially happy for the rare occasions we can help International customers. While we mostly do business with parts of Canada and Mexico, we are pleased to announce that we have our first customers from Japan! 

The customers who ordered from us were shipped out 2 of our USB Connect External devices, as well as 2 Pendant USB Connect devices. While we did not get to chat much with the customers on why they needed this equipment for their shop, it is possible they could share the same predicament as our first Hawaii customers.

From an earlier blog, our Hawaiian customers needed the USB Connect External to communicate with their Milltronics control. They were also using SD cards,  no longer want to deal with the 2GB restriction, and the cards were also hard to find for them, so this device suited them best.

We offer many solutions to help machinists and other workers on manufacturing shop floors communicate better with their machines. From software to the hardware solutions we mentioned earlier, our goals are to help your shop floor eliminate downtime, increase OEE and get the most utilization out of your machines. Even legacy machines still have a lot of potential just waiting to be discovered.

If you have manufacturing shop floor needs, or you have purchased from us in the past and want new solutions, contact us here. Time to renew your Support contract with us? Call to find out at (877) 611-5825. 

 

Become a Cloud technology MFG Adapter

manufacturing technology trendsThe manufacturing industry is slowly becoming a younger job field. The Manufacturing Institute states that 3.5 Million manufacturing jobs will become available within the next decade due to Millions of baby boomers retiring from the workforce in the near future. There are also new jobs created because of organic business growth to take into consideration. These new jobs will definitely be filled by a younger generation that embraces Cloud technology in their daily lives.

With a new generation coming into the manufacturing landscape, which contributes over $2 Trillion dollars to the American economy each year (according to the National Association of Manufacturers), they are going to understand that any time or production lost on their shop floor will make a huge impact on many people. This is why it is no surprise that 80 percent of large North American companies have implemented or are planning to adopt Cloud services, as the workforce gets younger.

“On the shop floor, manufacturers are aggregating data to gain insight on machine and equipment performance, part tracking, and even how to optimize [the] shop floor layout,” says Kathy Webster, the Media Communications Manager for The Association of Manufacturing Technology (AMT). “This is especially true as pressure mounts for manufacturers to bring products to market more quickly.”

“Cloud solutions like these are often quick to roll out and easy to customize,” Kathy continues. “Many also offer 24/7 support, meaning less stress on a company’s IT staff. They are easy to access at anytime from anywhere, making them a natural fit for collaboration on supply chain, distribution and service.”

A piece by Ralph Rio of the ARC Advisory Group, which specializes in researching the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is particularly interesting. In “Translating the Benefits of IIoT to Executive Interests,” it points out facts and figures that perhaps a machinist can present to the person on the shop floor who has the authority to make decisions, including changes in technology.

Aside from the benefits that Cloud software and applications can have on your shop floor, these solutions also tend to be more economic, too. At trade shows that Shop Floor Automations attends, guests are astounded that there is a machine monitoring option that costs a mere $45 per month, per machine!

Want more information on how to embrace IIoT on your shop floor? Call us at (877) 611-5825 or connect with us on one of our social media channels.