Made in America Strong

American ManufacturingThe state of the economy is always a concern with any company in any line of business. With the American manufacturing industry experiencing growth in the past couple of years, there have also been some shaky areas in its foundation.

While there is growth, there is still a significant skills gap to fill. There are also still concerns about reshoring jobs AKA bringing manufacturing jobs back to America. Growth in the manufacturing industry can be a double-edged sword.

As a citizen of America and someone who is passionate about this industry, you may be wondering how you can help American manufacturing sustain itself. Here are the three top ways you can get involved:

1 – Volunteer for organizations helping with the skills gap. There is always extra work that needs to be done for non-profits. Even if you don’t have manufacturing-specific technical skills, or if you have peers who do not work in this field who want to help, any number of skills are needed to fulfill different tasks. A good example is Workshops for Warriors, who always needs volunteers with Marketing experience and for specific office work to be done. You may even be able to volunteer for some of these organizations remotely if you do not live in the area.

2 – Donate to schools or programs teaching STEM or manufacturing-specific courses. Students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are sometimes lucky enough to find programs provided by their schools, such as Cardinal Manufacturing at Eleva-Strum School District. Otherwise, some kids may need to partake in these activities outside of school with places like Open Source Maker Labs (OSML). This fabrication lab is always seeking donated equipment to help their students create more. Another source of assistance would be to contact local Community Colleges who have manufacturing-related courses. See if they need any materials for the students of those programs – they could need anything from welding masks to extra pads of paper.

3 – Contact politicians. It can be easy to forget that the people who run this country work for us. We can remind politicians that the best ways to enrich our industry are to increase competition against global manufacturing by fixing our taxes/regulations, as well as building a national strategy to help our infrastructure, and increasing R&D (research and development) tax credits or funding possibilities. Even creating more grants, scholarships, and national skills certification programs in the areas of STEM would help our industry greatly.

There are many other areas in which the government has a level of influence to help. On a lower level, you can speak to your city council about locally making more manufacturing opportunities available. You can even try to contact your State Representative(s) or the Governor of your state. The highest levels of influence for manufacturing in politics would be through Cabinet officials in the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Transportation, Defense, Labor, and Education. Agencies that affect our industry are NIST, ARPA-E, NSF, OSTP, SBA, DARPA, AMNPO, the Economic Development Administration, and the US Commercial Service.

If you are looking to help your shop floor be more productive before you can help on a larger level, please contact us. We can help with OEE, productivity issues, and help you stop wasting money on downtime. Call (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form here

 

Summer 2017 Predator Software Updates

Predator SoftwareShop Floor Automations is excited to share with you these Summer 2017 Predator Software Updates:

  • In August, July & June, there have been the following updates to MDC:
    • v11.0.248 (August 10, 2017) Improvements for Favorite Reports. Improved New Events Touch manual collection of user logins, machine downtime, good parts, scrap parts, and more. Machine Events Reports improved. Bugs fixed for Machine Downtime and Cost chart legends, and overall load on the database instance has been reduced. Many more improvements made.
    • v11.0.246 (July 14, 2017). Improved MDC APIs and bug fixed with running reports from View Components.
    • v11.0.245 (July 7, 2017). Duration of Chart has been added to header.  Automatic and manual refresh logic improved. Multiple display elements improved. Overall chart performance, use of arrow keys, part serial number permissions, and similar features improved. More updates, as well as some bug fixes, included in this version.
    • v11.0.241 (June 8, 2017). Chinese, Japanese, and Korean style reports added. Improvements made to MDC Service Manager, View Machine Status, View OEE Status, Chinese language resources, Production Trend Analysis Chart display, and more features. Bugs fixed and more improvements made.
    • Android compatibility was also improved for MDC in late June 2017.
  • On July 16, 2017 – Predator Tracker v11.0.55 was released. Same as PDM – FIPS compatibility with FLM v11.0.0.2. improved. New imports and API abilities added. Improved process for Check in/Check out to Departments, Locations and Groups. Bugs fixed with View Components reports, editing tool rework operation definitions, and more.
  • On July 15, 2017 – Predator PDM v11.0.174 was released. FIPS compatibility with FLM v11.0.0.2. improved. Part serial number permissions, importing manufacturing/quality requirements, online help, and PDM APIs have been improved. Bugs fixed with assigning icons to custom commands, and more.

There have also been updates for Predator CNC Service, Predator Travelers, and Predator FLM over the summer.

If you would like more information, please contact SFA by calling (877) 611-5825 or fill out a contact form at this link

DNC Software & Hardware – Peas in a Pod

dnc software hardwareIf you have recently made the decision to add DNC software to your shop floor to help with productivity and CNC communications, you are off to a great start.

Did you also know that adding hardware to DNC software solutions is the best way to leverage this business decision? Here are three pieces of hardware that best compliment DNC software:

Option 1: Wired CNC Connect. This device supports 100’s of CNC’s per each Server PC that has a seat of DNC software on it. Simply run Ethernet cable to each machine and place the device on the control for drip-feeding. The IP address converts into a comm port with drivers. By using the network backbone, you are sending the serial signal five feet wth the supplied cable, giving you the most reliable and strongest serial signal. Available in 1 to 16 ports.

Option 2: Wireless CNC Connect. The best option for those who like to move machines around and change the layout of their shop floor often. No cabling required. The device comes with an assigned IP – just to add your network, properly mount the device and it’s ready.

Option 3: Multi Connect. While this device is not available for purchase yet, it is anticipated to be a ground-breaking piece of hardware for manufacturing shop floors. The unit connects to machines via MTConnect, PLC, Wireless, Ethernet, and RS232 Serial. This solution can also be used with DNC Software and Machine Monitoring products, which makes it very versatile.

What are the best DNC software options available? Check out Predator DNC, Predator Touch HMI, Predator EditLock, and ExtremeDNC by clicking here!

Not sure what DNC Software is or why it would benefit you? Click here to learn more. You may also call (877) 611-5825 for more information about any products in this post.  

Top MFG Learning Stories

manufacturing education

James McCanless, an Air Force machinist, shows metal cut products to visiting students

Let’s give our kids the chance to discover manufacturing-related jobs.

Fall is coming, and with it, the entrance of students into their high school senior year, as well as those entering college and postsecondary programs. With students on our minds, especially in regards to the future of manufacturing and upcoming MFG Day, here are the top 5 manufacturing education stories we think you should hear about lately:

  1. SME-EF & NASA helps Wheeling High School – The SME Education Foundation has teamed up with HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) to give these gifted STEM students a chance to make hardware for the International Space Station. Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math are all areas more students need to get interested in, and with amazing organizations like NASA stepping in to help, it is creating an interest for kids to get into manufacturing.
  2. A Quick Spotlight on Jim Filipek – With MFG Day coming up quick, it is so crucial for those in the manufacturing industry to share their insight and their passion with the younger generation for working in this industry. Jim Filipek and his family have been part of the manufacturing industry for years, and after 11 years working in it, he taught in a high school machine shop for two decades, and since 2009, has been a full-time coordinator/instructor for the College of DuPage’s Manufacturing Technology and Welding programs. Great job, Jim!
  3. The 3D Experience Center at Wichita State University – The National Institute of Aviation Research has teamed up with Dassault Systems and Wichita State University to provide the venues for future products and technologies to be developed while being part of a network of companies and experts. What is called the Innovation Campus spreads across 120 acres and over 25 buildings, where students can work on robotics, virtual/augmented reality, reverse engineering, additive manufacturing, and more.
  4. The North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program – The NCTAP is an incredibly successful apprentice program to get young people in the manufacturing industry. Especially since they have programs that start as early as the 11th Grade in high school, this is a very important and valuable program that shows these students there is financial prosperity to be had in these careers – even while learning on the job!
  5. Check out Edge Factor – Do you have NetFlix and Hulu? Who doesn’t? Imagine a video platform similar to these two programs specifically geared towards the manufacturing community. It exists! Check out our interview with Edge Factor’s founder and what inspired this multi media platform to be created. With more and more students connected to streaming sources for entertainment, this could be a great venue to cultivate interest.

Already working in manufacturing and want some resources for better OEE or productivity? Call us at (877) 611-5825 or fill out a form here to contact us. 

MFG Costs, Budgets & Integration ROI

mfg costs mfg budget mfg integratorManufacturing costs are a pain.

When you are thinking of investments to help with production, you have to keep in mind your MFG costs and your budget. While it would be great if all of your costs were predictable, they are not.

There are four variables of expenses when running a manufacturing company, and we have done our best to break it down for you with a driving analogy:

Fixed Costs: You get in your car, you set up your GPS and map out the trip. You know how much time it will take to get there and how many miles. You set the path to avoid toll roads, so you know it will take a little extra time, but you’ve accounted for it. Fixed costs are part of the routine in manufacturing. These cover your utility bills, taxes, property costs, salaries for executives or administrative workers, and general facility maintenance. You can even account for a budget of office supplies and basic salaries for sales people and machinists in this category, too.

Variable Costs: When you plan to take your trip, you account for normal traffic patterns that will add a likely delay to get to your destination. It’s an annoyance we have come to both accept and expect for road trips. Variable costs can best be described as costs directly in relation with production. For example – when you produce more, you ultimately need more raw materials. These patterns are predictable and prescribe to the old saying “you gotta spend money to make money.”

Semi-Variable & Step-Variable Costs: When you’re on your trip, let’s say a horrific accident happens, or you hit an unexpected detour. These unforeseen but likely scenarios can add time to your trip, and let’s face it, most people don’t plan for these events to happen. Semi-variable costs account for costs that can vary, such as commissions for sales people or production-based bonuses. Step-variable costs are costs that remain fixed for a period of time, and can suddenly spike up. Let’s say a machine is producing consistently for a long period of time, but then, it goes down – this downtime is not only costly to production, but hiring a specialist to come out and look at it, or replacing it with another machine, will be expensive.

What is the common factor in all of these examples, though?

If you invested in the GPS, it will reroute you, or add time to your route when you hit traffic or unexpected snags in the road. It is monitoring conditions for you to give you expectations and suggestions on how to improve your route.

How does this relate to manufacturing integration solutions & ROI?

Investing in manufacturing integration solutions is the best ROI when taking into account situations that lead to step-variable costs in your production. It’s essentially giving yourself a GPS to help meet and exceed production goals.

If your machines are consistently having communication errors that cause thousands of dollars in stopped production time, then DNC software or hardware is a drop in the bucket to help prevent this from happening. If there are other issues with machines causing downtime that are not relative to CNC communication failures, then machine monitoring can help for better OEE and for machinists to better communicate issues for proper solutions.

If you are interested in Shop Floor Automations helping you combat production issues head on, we invite you to contact us! You can fill out a form here, or call us at (877) 611-5825 to utilize our decades of experience. 

 

New Manufacturing Techniques

People try out new technologies each day.

They buy new phones, lease new cars, upgrade the software on their phones and computers, or add implements to their homes to improve their quality of life. Embracing new technology is a move that would benefit the manufacturing shop floor industry most.

new manufacturing technologyHere are the Top 3 ways that new manufacturing technology adopted on the shop floor can benefit your company:

1 – You can keep up with the competition. According to recent results from the Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, the National Association of Manufacturers states that in 2017, there is a record-high level of optimism in the manufacturing industry. 91.4 percent of manufacturers said they would increase investments, hire more workers, and that they generally feel good about our industry’s growth. Do you fit in this category?

Are pieces of old tech, like floppy disk drives and handheld terminals holding you back? Are you experiencing communication failures due to lack of CNC memory for your programs? These are all problems that new technology can fix, so that you can get in on this wave of prosperity.

2 – Increase profit. When implementing new hardware and software into older machines, this can help drastically decrease downtime. When there is no downtime to deal with, or less of it, machinists are free to perfect their craft. According to SME, there have been proven studies that show on average, time will decrease 5 percent every time the number of completed pieces doubles.

Therefore, if a machinist has more time to actually do their job than deal with machines going down, that will ultimately make the company more productive. Implementing machine monitoring to track machine trends increases OEE and DNC software can help with CNC communication failure, which are two sure fire ways to combat downtime.

3 – More freedom. When there is less worry of machines going down, this can create a better work/life balance for those who work on the shop floor, and in the front office. Machine monitoring, which is a powerful IIoT (industrial internet of things) tool, is an amazing way to get notifications of what is going on with machines not only on the shop floor, but via email or text notifications.

When this proven solution to deal with downtime is combined with more accountability through the means of graphical job scheduling, PDM, and other resources on the shop floor, there is more trust in the workplace. More people can use their PTO to go on vacation, or workers who are home sick can help give guidance when a machine goes down via a notes section through machine monitoring.

If you are interested in new technology for your shop floor and experiencing the benefits listed above, contact us by filling out a sales form here, or call (877) 611-5825.

 

Pop Culture & Manufacturing

manufacturing pop culture referencesPeople often love to see reflections of themselves in pop culture, so we wanted to dedicate a post to pop culture manufacturing references. When it comes to those who work in manufacturing or on shop floors, you would be surprised to learn or reflect back on those in the realm of pop culture who represent you. Even just a little bit.

It’s time to get nostalgic – here are the top 8 films or TV shows that have themes or any appearances of manufacturing, tooling,  factories, or shop floors in them.

Jumanji – A shoe company is truly at the heart of the town that this story is based on. A boy named Alan gets trapped in a mysterious board game and is released decades later (along with some scary creatures and other deplorable characters). When he returns to his home town, he sees the consequences of his actions before he vanished – he first finds that when he damaged a machine in his dad’s shoe factory, it resulted in the firing of an employee he used to know. Also, when he disappeared, his rich father dedicated all of his time and resources to find his son. When the shoe factory shuts down because of his father’s neglect towards the company, the town takes a hit. This certainly showed the importance of an American made factory’s influence on a local economy.

Gung Ho – What happens when an American car factory is bought out by a Japanese company is explored in this comedy. This Ron Howard film featuring Michael Keaton was harshly received by some critics at the time, but it did well enough to make back more than the movie’s budget, which is a “win” by Hollywood standards. It’s all about return on investment, no matter what industry you’re in!

Elf – Buddy the Elf works on a toy assembly line in Santa’s workshop. Despite going to school for his profession (the elves had to learn to make extreme graphic chipset processors), he’s just not quick enough at what he does. He is moved to a quality assurance type position, but through a stroke of fate, Buddy ultimately finds his purpose when he goes to the human world to find his biological father.

Home Improvement – This is a sitcom that follows the life of Tim Taylor, who is the host of “Tool Time.” The show’s title was quite ironic – it was not only about Tim’s show where he teaches people how to do their own repair and tooling projects, but it was also about his efforts to be a family man. It is funny to think how many people may have been inspired by watching this show to go out and get a job on a shop floor or get a profession working with their hands.

Laverne & Shirley – This show followed the hijinks of two single ladies in the Midwest working as bottle-cappers on an assembly line in a brewing company factory. This is likely one of the first mainstream examples we have seen not only of single women working full-time jobs but to have them working in an industrial job field was quite a pop culture experience.

I Love Lucy – This delightful red head tried on a lot of different professional hats through this show’s life (even though we all know she just wanted to sing in Ricky’s show). When she could not get an acting or singing gig, she went a more traditional route. In one episode, Lucy and Ethel go to work in a candy factory on an assembly line. They don’t do a very good job, but it’s hilarious.

Flashdance – The protagonist of this iconic film is a pretty young woman who has a day job in a steel mill in Pittsburgh. Her dreams and aspirations are to dance, as she works a second job as a bar dancer at night electively because it is her passion. Her boss ends up taking a liking to her and encourages her to follow her dreams.

King of the Hill – While Hank Hill and his comical neighbors did not work in manufacturing or in a factory, there are elements to be found everywhere in the show. Their (fictional) town of Arlen is famous for pig-product processing plants, and in one episode, Hank was very passionate about saving the middle school’s shop program. He even had the kids going around the school and fixing things, such as the floors, the school’s sign, and more, to get real life applications of what shop can mean for their futures.

We even took to our Instagram account to ask our followers what movies or shows within pop culture remind them of working in an industrial career. The lists below are from their suggestions, as well as some extras we could not fit in the list above.

Some honorable mention movies that have the themes of factories or manufacturing work: Norma Rae, Coal Miners Daughter, Toys, MacGyver, The Iron Giant, Short Circuit, The Deer Hunter, Extract, Drinking Buddies, Parks and Recreation, How It’s Made, Titans of CNC, The Fifth Element, and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

Movies that are a bit more grisly, alternative or intense and for you to view at your own risk: 8 Mile, Kinky Boots, The Terminator, Terminator 2, Childs Play, There Will Be Blood, and The Machinist. These films are extreme, but nonetheless, have a storyline involving manufacturing, industrial work, or factory work in some way.

July 2017 Shop Floor Automations Newsletter

shop floor automations newsletter

The following is an archived copy of the Shop Floor Automations newsletter from July 2017:

The buzz is out. The Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, lean manufacturing, and OEE for manufacturing are all hot topics for our industry. Machine monitoring is one way to measure what you have before you can start improving, but what does it take to get started?

 

Is it affordable and compatible with your equipment? What about Cloud-based products that are low-cost and hosts data offsite? If you haven’t yet been persuaded, it’s likely because you’re wondering what exactly happens to your data. 

 

Many customers have turned to our Cloud-based solutions not only due to low cost, the ability to get email or text notifications of production issues, and no long term commitments but also because of proven reliability. One of our customers stated they were able to run their five-axis CNC machines for 24 hours a day to increase productivity instead of investing in more machines. That’s a big deal! 

 

“By 2020, a corporate ‘no-Cloud’ policy will be as rare as a ‘no-internet’ policy is today,” states Gartner, which is a highly respected information technology research company. As the current workforce in manufacturing grapples with a mass departure of experienced workers who are retiring, a younger workforce that is likely more adaptive to modern technology trickles in. 

 

If you’re still on the fence about Cloud-based tech for your shop floor, read this blog from our site where we map out how exactly your data is handled for DataXchange machine monitoring. We also have this interesting blog that discovers how IIoT and Cloud tech can help cut down on maintenance costs and help with the current manufacturing skills gap.

Fill out a contact form for more information by clicking here. Link to the original newsletter here

Shop Floor Automations Newsletter – May/June 2017 Issue

2017 June July Shop Floor Automations Newsletter

The following is an archived copy of the 2017 June/May Shop Floor Automations Newsletter.

Consider Shop Floor Hardware

It is amazing how much hardware changes our daily lives. Your smartphone, your FitBit, your home assistant devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home – hardware helps improve your life in so many ways. Why not invest in some new hardware for your shop floor?

Add USB to any machine. Drip-feed programs that are too large for your CNC memory. Replace floppy disks or poorly insulated cables that are dropping your program transfers. Coming soon, use hardware that can function via WiFi, RS232 Serial, Ethernet, PLC, and the MTConnect protocol, at the same time. There are so many options at a very affordable cost.

Our customers have turned to our hardware to solve many shop floor problems. One customer found that his company could save money and not risk damaging their shop’s laptop by using our Portable USB Connect instead. Another customer who has been with us for over a decade has been using our wireless CNC machine networking devices in their shop for years. Another customer loves the process control and security of his shop’s programs from using our hardware devices. Just ask us about other hardware benefits!

Mastercam 2018 Rollout 

Our friends at CAD/CAM Consulting Inc. invited us to the Mastercam 2018 Rollout, which took place at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA.

We did a report on the event, which talks about enhancements made to Mastercam for this new version, plus our three best solutions that integrate with Mastercam Software.

We also have a fun, quick video from the event you can watch here.

Consulting a Technician Won’t Break The Bank

Have you ever bought hardware from some off-the-beaten-path discount store, or purchased cheap software, and have been dismayed at the lack of support or detailed documentation? It is so valuable when a technology company offers support for their products, and when offered, it may cost less than you think.

SFA is proud to have some of the best technicians in the manufacturing integration business. They not only offer support over the phone and via remote sessions for customers, but they can also come on-site to help.

We have some great resources on our website that explain why it is a great idea to use a technician instead of attempting to do it yourself. Sometimes cabling can be a little more difficult than you may have thought previously, which you can read about here. We also did a post on how setting up hardware can be a little more complex than imagined, which you can read by clicking here.

For more info, click here to contact us, or call (877) 611-5825. See the original newsletter here

SFA Legacy Blogs – Edition 9

shop floor automations blogThe Shop Floor Automations blog is dedicated to preserving the history of our company. An important part of this history is the press coverage we are always grateful to receive. Here is the latest news we would like to share:

WESTEC 2017 is around the corner and we will be at Booth 1935. We would like to thank  MFG Talk Radio and Today’s Medical Developments for posting pieces about what we will be up to at our booth.

Our popular piece about millennials in manufacturing jobs continues to make its way through our industry. Haas Technical Education Centers published the piece on their blog recently.

We also have some vintage news pieces we would like to share. This piece from Manufacturing Engineering Media (from SME) in 2014 features an interview with our company President Greg Mercurio. This piece from June of 2012 by MFG News was from a time when our floppy drive emulators were still fairly new. American Machinist also published this piece in December 2016 about how recent Scytec updates meant even more MTConnect compatibility.

We were also honored to be in the following recent publications: the CNC West April/May 2017 issue (pages 69 and 73), the MFG News March 2017 issue (in each edition – page 53 Midwest, page 65 West, etc), and the MFG News June 2017 issue (in all editions – page 76 Southwest, page 71 Midwest, etc.)

If you would like more information about how to increase productivity on your shop floor, call (877) 611-5825 or fill out our contact form here. Want to see some reasons why customers have stayed with us? Click here to read & view our reviews!