Ask the Machine Whisperer?

Happy February everybody, spring is getting closer. Lately we’ve been receiving many questions for the Machine Whisperer of a common thread. Many manufacturers that have implemented Machine Monitoring are asking “Are we doing this right”? So today I’m posting a Smart Manufacturing article written by the Machine Whisperer that is a best-practice guide for implementing Machine Monitoring. Enjoy, and don’t forget to submit your questions for the Machine Whisperer.

Machine Monitoring- The Secret Sauce for Success

Steven Anderson (the Machine Whisperer)

As I sit down to write an article about one single aspect of Smart Manufacturing, there’s a particular aspect that lately sticks out in my brain. It sticks out for me because I find myself constantly repeating this phrase while I’m doing Machine Monitoring installs. It’s the answer to the question I’m asked by every new customer. Now, the question is not always the exact same, but it will be some form of “What’s the easiest way to make sure this Machine Monitoring System will work for us?” My answer is always the same simple phrase “Visibility and Accountability”. This answer is born from 20 years’ experience of installing Machine Monitoring Systems on several thousand machines. Yes, it sounds so simple, but visibility and accountability are the secret sauce for success with Machine Monitoring.

I’ll start with Visibility because it really is just pure logic, and so easy to accomplish. The beauty of a good Machine Monitoring system is that it can not only provide data about live machine utilization, but also historical data for past machine performance. What’s the easiest way to put this data to work for your shop? Displaying live Machine Monitoring Dashboards on large screen monitors right on the shop floor. The reason why is where the logic kicks in, as every Machinist now understands that there is live company-wide visibility into their machine’s performance, they will logically (even maybe subconsciously) have less downtime and run more cycles. The Monitoring Customers that display these dashboards on the shop floor routinely tell me they see a 10% increase in machine efficiency immediately. If you purchased a higher-end Monitoring System that can force reporting of down-time reasons by Operators that will also bring increased visibility and is good for at least another 10% increase in machine efficiency. Again, logic dictates that no Operator wants to be the person with 10 reported downtime reasons for their shift when all of their coworkers only have 2. Operators will naturally stay closer to their machines and run more cycles, because everyone in the company can see the live machine utilization data. Visibility is the easiest part of the machine monitoring puzzle to put into place and offers the quickest ROI.

The other focus of my topic today is perhaps the biggest must-have for accomplishing a successful Machine Monitoring implementation, Accountability. There is a need for accountability both on the shop floor and in the Manufacturing Manager’s office. I tell all of my customers that they should appoint an internal lead person for the Machine Monitoring System (and a back-up lead person). This leader needs to be accountable as the go-to resource internally when questions or needs with the Monitoring System come up. Obviously, this is the person who should receive the most training on the system at the outset and be the only one with access to the Monitoring Software. Ideally someone that can communicate easily with both their colleagues and the vendor and has a decent understanding of computers works best. If your company takes the “we’ll figure it out as a group” approach, that is a sure-fire recipe for failure.

The second part of the accountability requirement is something I touched on previously in it’s relation to Visibility, the need to hold Operators accountable for their usage of available machine up-time. The data for when a machine is running cycles is obviously valuable, but the data for when the machine is not running can be just as valuable. The ability of a Machine Monitoring system to force the Operators to enter downtime reasons for their machine is key, because the data from voluntary reporting of downtime reasons will be sporadic and
unreliable. The equation is simple (forced reporting of machine downtime reasons = less machine downtime). Not only do Operators want to avoid having to enter downtime reasons because their machine locked-out but analyzing the data from downtime reasons can be eye- opening for Shop Management. For example, an increase for machine up-time lost due to the downtime reason “waiting for first piece inspection” can justify adding another QC Inspector, so a manufacturer can turn that downtime into machine uptime. It’s much more economical to gain increased machine uptime by addressing downtime reasons than it is to buy another machine tool. Both of these aspects of Accountability are equally important and necessary for a successful Machine Monitoring implementation.

I really hope you have an opportunity to put my “secret sauce” to the test and start reaping the benefits of this Smart Manufacturing revolution. I think we can all agree that it’s an exciting time to be in Manufacturing!

Published by

Luke Galindo

Machinist by trade, proudly serving as the Corporate Sales & Marketing Director for eNET Monitoring & DNC.

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