Ask the Machine Whisperer?

A “Smart Manufacturing” Blog


Summer is officially here (finally), and so is the next installment of “Ask the Machine Whisperer?”. If your company has any DNC, Machine Monitoring or Data Collection related needs, please give us a call at (414)817-7070. Otherwise, keep sending in the great questions for the Machine Whisperer.

From Josh in Texas: Hi Steve, due to the recent increase of cyberattacks against manufacturers, our IT department is trying to push an across the board change for all of our wirelessly connected devices to WPA-3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access-3), for more secure wireless communications. Have you encountered in the field any other shops making this type of change? If yes, did it create issues for their manufacturing operations?

MW: Hi Josh, I’ve encountered just one shop that implemented this change. Unfortunately, WPA-3 is relatively new and there’s not a whole lot of wireless hardware devices that support WPA-3 yet. In theory the security change makes sense, but this shop quickly discovered that they could no longer communicate wirelessly with most of their devices. Before making this change, I recommend doing the legwork ahead of time to find out exactly which of your wireless devices will support WPA-3?

From Doug in California: Hi Steve, we recently purchased two new Prototrak mills with active Ethernet ports and Windows 7 (embedded) on the controls. We’ve run into issues while trying to connect these machines to our Ethernet network for DNC communications, as our IT rules forbid setting up CNC machines as a mapped drive on our Ethernet Network due to security concerns. How would you connect to these machines for DNC?

MW: Hi Doug, I would first test if the Windows-7 operating system allows for adding a secure file transfer protocol (FTP) onto the control? I’ve experienced that some Windows-7 embedded CNC machines will allow it, while others do not. If that doesn’t work then next I would try to communicate via the USB port through one of our eNET USB DNC units. If there isn’t an active USB port on the control, then your last option is to go with Serial (RS-232) hardware for DNC communications to these Prototraks.

For more “Smart Manufacturing” info please follow our blog, visit our website or call us at (414)817-7070.

Ask the Machine Whisperer?

A “Smart Manufacturing” Blog


Spring is finally here, and so is the next installment of “Ask the Machine Whisperer?” US Manufacturing continues to soar into growth territory, as manufacturing activity increased to a three-year high in February amid a surge in new orders. According to a survey from NAM (National Association of Manufacturers) a whopping 88% of Manufacturers are optimistic about their company’s outlook for 2021, representing a 2-year high in manufacturing confidence. On a more concerning note the Microsoft Exchange network breach is just the latest cyberattack challenge Manufacturers are facing, as according to the 2020 State of Encrypted Attacks report, the manufacturing sector is the most targeted industry for malicious browser breaches, comprising 38.6% of attacks! Cyber attackers figure that manufacturing companies make great targets because they cannot afford to have their entire operations shut down for very long, so they are more likely to pay ransom demands.

  1. From Pete in Florida: Hi Steve, we are communicating via Ethernet (FTP) with a machine that has a Fanuc Oi control. Our issue is that we cannot figure out how to drip feed our larger programs into the control?

MW: The only options for drip feeding when you’re using FTP is to either add a data server (which is an option you would be able to purchase from Fanuc or your machine tool dealer), or you could use a memory card to drip-feed if you don’t have to do it very often. If you’re doing a lot of drip-feeding then I would definitely recommend the data server option.

  1. From Sam in Colorado: Hi Steve, we are thinking about converting some of our Serial connected machines to faster Ethernet or USB connections for the CNC program downloads/uploads. We use a lot of sub-programs, is it possible to call for sub-programs through Ethernet or USB connections like we can with Serial? If yes, how is it done?

MW: when you’re using FTP or USB to download your programs you usually have the ability to see the entire file directory.  So selecting any sub-programs usually can be done at the same time when you select your main program, and then when the download starts, everything comes in at once.  Also, if you are currently using Serial make sure that you have active Ethernet or USB options on these machines before going any further. Your machine tool dealer should be able to provide directions on how to check each kind of machine that you’d like to convert.

For more “Smart Manufacturing” info please follow our blog, visit our website or call us at (414)817-7070.

Ask the Machine Whisperer?


1. From David in Wisconsin: Hello Steven! We have a few Haas Machines (year 2007) that have 25 pin rs232. The machines are located in a college and we want to be able to network them and extract data from them for our analytics programs. I wanted to know if you could point me in the right direction as to the best way/device to use in order for me to connect and extract data via our network. I have an iMX8 IoT Gateway from Compulab that runs on Linux but really don’t know where to start. Any suggestions?

Steve: Hello David, great to hear that your program is introducing your students to Smart Manufacturing. Since they are just getting started in their manufacturing careers, this Industry 4.0 experience will serve these Machinists well for many years to come. Now in regards to pulling manufacturing data from this 2007 Haas Machine, since it only has an active Serial port you’ll need a monitoring solution that can pull data from any type of machine, regardless of the age of the machine, type of control on it or the type of comm port (Serial, USB, Ethernet) available. An MTConnect type of solution will not work in this scenario, because you need an active Ethernet port on the control in order to use MTConnect. I’m not sure what you’re using for analytics of the machine monitoring data, but a high-quality monitoring system should also have analytics/reporting tools already specifically designed to work with the data pulled from the machine it’s monitoring. The less system to system transfer of this data, the easier it will be to manage. Lastly, since you want to both monitor and network this machine, I recommend choosing a monitoring solution that can convert Serial communications to Ethernet so you can network this machine with your local Ethernet Network.

2. From Greg in California: Hi Steve, I’m thinking about gifting myself a new phone or laptop for Christmas this year. I know you have stated that your prefer Apple products (as do I), have you tried either the new iPhone 12 or MacBook Pro yet? If yes, which do you like better?

SteveHello Greg,  I do have the new iPhone 12 Pro and it’s a nice phone, but if you have an X or 11 I don’t think you will see a big difference, the new camera is better if you like to take a lot of pictures.  If you have an iPhone prior to iPhone X, I would definitely upgrade the phone.  I have not tried the new M1 Mac’s, I think I will wait at least a year to see how that plays out.

For more Smart Manufacturing info, please visit our website

Ask the Machine Whisperer?


  1. From Chris in Texas: Hi Steve, I work for a firearms manufacturer here in Texas, and as you can imagine we’ve been incredibly busy. We are started an initiative to monitor our shop’s OEE and were hoping you could help speed up the process, as we have discovered that there are too many Machine Monitoring systems available to evaluate all of them. It seems that almost every manufacturing supplier is now offering some form of Machine Monitoring. Our IT leadership refuses to connect any cloud-based systems to our internal network due to security concerns, but most of the newer monitoring systems seem to be cloud-based, why is that? What’s your take on the security debate between cloud & locally hosted manufacturing software? Thanks in advance for your help!

Answer:  Many of the new Machine Monitoring systems available are cloud-based because those companies want to keep charging their customers never-ending monthly or yearly fees. I always try to look at a situation from my prospective as a Manufacturing Engineer, and that’s also how I try to solve problems. So that is why we don’t sell cloud-based systems.  As an Engineer, I would not want another company to have that much control over my network security or my manufacturing data. Every time someone tells you that you are safe on the cloud a week later a story comes out about how hackers penetrated into yet another cloud-based system.  Your IT department’s network security protocols make a lot of sense to me, especially considering the industry your company is in.

  1. From Ben in Michigan: Hi Steve, I’m also a big Apple fan and was wondering how you are liking the new iOS 14? What do you think Apple will roll-out at the upcoming Apple Event tomorrow?

Answer:  Hello Ben, I like the new IOS, it’s nice to be able to have widgets on any page now and great that third party companies can also make widgets. A lot of the other changes are more minor, but it is a mature OS so at this stage they are nice tweaks.  As far as the roll-out tomorrow, I’m sure the main thing will be 2 or 3 new iPhones 12 with the new design and better cameras.  I heard there may be a new HomePod Mini, and maybe they might show off their new AirTags which I’ve been waiting for.  I’m sure there will be even more, and I can’t wait!

For more Smart Manufacturing info, please visit our website

Ask the Machine Whisperer?


From Cael in WI: Hi Steve, we have been looking at purchasing a DNC system for our shop, but multiple vendors have expressed concern that we have a very large and many levels deep CNC file structure. Do you have any advice for us? Thanks!

Answer: Deep file structures can be a little tricky, and it also depends on how the machine is connected to the DNC system.  In the case of eNETDNC if you are connected via Ethernet or USB then we can show you file directories right at the machine control, so that you can drill down to the file you want.  If using Serial then in your call program you can add the directory path along with the file.  Other companies will sometimes stage the files in a temp directory or que up the program using a computer, but rest assured we should be able to find the best way for your needs.

From Aidan in MN: Hi Steve, I work for a discreet firearms manufacturer that has been extremely busy during the Covid-19 pandemic. Management is considering implementing a Machine Monitoring system so we can address production inefficiencies and get more up-time from our machines. My question pertains to cloud-based Machine Monitoring software security, as our company has an IT directive forbidding the use of cloud-based software. The machine monitoring companies that utilize cloud-based software all claim that their products are completely safe for Customer network security, do you agree with this claim? Thank you!

Answer: Cloud-based software and data storage raises several issues. I have heard from several companies that have piloted cloud-based systems that the data isn’t always accurate.  And then there is always the security issue, every time you’ve been told something is safe, the next thing you read is that they’ve been hacked. The standard rule is that anything connected to the internet is hackable. There are usually ongoing monthly charges associated with cloud-based software, and lastly who owns the data that they collect from you?  I feel that if you host the data in-house and use locally hosted software, it puts all of these questions to bed.

Ask The Machine Whisperer

So March is finally here, and the February ISM Manufacturing PMI remained in growth territory for the 2nd straight month! Hopefully March Madness will still pertain to college basketball, rather than coronavirus panic. This month also brings us the AeroDef show in Fort Worth, TX. from March 16th-19th at the Fort Worth Convention Center. If you’d like to attend please click the link below to register for a complimentary pass, and please don’t forget to stop by the eNET booth #643 to see the latest and greatest in Smart Manufacturing!

Without further delay, here’s this month’s questions for the Machine Whisperer.

From John H. in Colorado: Hi Steve, with the recent end of support for Windows 7, I’ve been tasked with upgrading our DNC server computer to a Windows 10 machine. Do you have any recommendations for making this transition as painless as possible?

Hello John, It really depends on the DNC system that you are using,  most systems use hardware that requires virtual comports so when you try to move the system to a new computer you usually have to reinstall the software, then copy over the configuration, and then install and setup your virtual comports for each machine.  With eNETDNC we talk directly to the hardware be it Serial, Ethernet, USB, wired or wireless, so all you have to do with eNETDNC is copy over the directory and launch the program, that’s it.  We purposely designed the software and hardware this way so that if a customer ever has a computer that dies, or you need to upgrade the Windows version then it’s very simple to make the change.

From Alex M. in Pennsylvania: Hi Steve, we recently purchased a new Haas HMC and would like to network it for program transfers. We do have an older DNC system in which we are communicating to our machines through the Serial (RS-232) ports. Unfortunately the new Haas machine does not have a Serial port, but does have USB and Ethernet ports. We tried networking this machine through the Ethernet port to our network but we have had a lot of issues trying to get it to work correctly, what would you recommend? 

Hello Alex,  For security sake I recommend connecting your Haas machine through the USB port, as there’s no FTP capability for networking securely through the Ethernet port on any Haas machine. eNETDNC offers both wired & wireless USB DNC hardware, which mimic a USB thumb drive, and they are very simple to set up. In the eNETDNC setup you just set where you want to download your programs from and where you want to upload them back to. Then right at the machine control when you pick “USB”, it will display all the programs that are available in that specific folder for that machine to easily upload and download almost instantly.

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!

Ask the Machine Whisperer?

Happy New Year to our readers! We are back and looking forward to hopefully another great year for manufacturing here in 2020.

From Troy in Michigan: Hi Steve, I’ve enjoyed reading your “Smart Manufacturing” blog but noticed there hasn’t been as many posts lately, will you be coming back soon?

Answer: Hi Troy, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the blog. Yes, we are coming back strong in 2020! 2019 was the busiest year ever for eNET as Smart Manufacturing has been spreading like wildfire, so the blog unfortunately took a back seat to customer demand for eNET installs in 2019. We’re aiming for at least 1 post per month in 2020, sorry for the delays!

From Larry in Florida: Hi Steve, we are interested in upgrading from our old hard-wired DNC system to a wireless one to eliminate the need for cables all over the shop. There is one machine that has it’s own proprietary DNC software on it which we use for drip feeding large programs to it. We have conflicting opinions in the shop whether it’s best to have all of the machines on the same wireless DNC system for file revision control and continuity, or to keep the single machine connected via hard-wire to the existing proprietary DNC software because of the need for drip feeding. Can you please give us some guidance?

Answer: Hello Larry, That is a great question. When it comes to drip feeding a long program hard-wired is still the safest and most reliable method.  We have one of the most reliable wireless units on the market but built into the wireless standard is a feature to reset the access point if there are too many collisions, and if you have been drip-feeding a program for several hours you would not want anything to interrupt that, so that is why I would always recommend wired in that situation. As far a proprietary DNC software eNETDNC has quite a few proprietary formats built into the software so you might still be able to do everything with one DNC software package, mixing both wired or wireless.  Even if your DNC software can’t do that proprietary format, I would still recommend moving forward with the wireless upgrade and to not let one older machine hold you back.

Ask the Machine Whisperer?

July 18, 2019

Well summer is finally in full swing, and U.S. factory output growth for June 2019 was better than expected, despite a global economic slowdown most likely being caused by the growing tariff wars. According to an article published on 7/16/19 by, Federal Reserve data showed Manufacturing output climbed 0.4% from the prior month, after a 0.2% increase in May. The data also showed that Manufacturing production accounts for 11% of the whole U.S. economy.

In the dog days of summer, I wonder if Machinists making sure they stay properly hydrated on the shop floor should also be considered part of the “Smart Manufacturing” conversation? Appropriately, unconventional aspects of “Smart Manufacturing” is today’s blog theme. I’m going to shed some light on how Maintenance and Q.C. operations can incorporate the tools of “Smart Manufacturing”.

eNET QC Status Dashboard

The eNET QC Status Dashboard (pictured above) is a locally-hosted software that works in conjunction with eNET’s Machine Monitoring, to increase visibility and accountability throughout the QC Department for the QC first-piece inspection process. This QC dashboard is designed for a large-screen display in the QC department, if desired the QC Manager can also display a seat of the QC Dashboard on his desk computer, for increased department visibility. When (QC First Piece) is scanned at a machine, that job will immediately be time-stamped and will blink on and off on the QC Dashboard to catch the attention of any available QC Inspector. That job will remain in the (QC First Piece) status until the Inspector interacts with the job on the QC Dashboard and changes the status to (QC In Process). An automated email or text notification can be sent to the QC Manager if a machine remains in the (QC First Piece) status for a predetermined length of time. Once the first-piece inspection is completed the Inspector simply changes the status on the dashboard to (QC Approved) or (QC Failed), then all of the live eNET Machine Monitoring dashboards will also update the job status to match. The first cycle run by the machine after a (QC Approved) status change, will automatically put that job into “production” mode in the eNETDNC Machine Monitoring software, and cause that job to be removed from the eNET QC Status Dashboard. Having increased visibility and accountability in the QC dept. combined with the data for how much available machine up-time is being spent on the QC first-piece inspection process, combine to make a QC status dashboard a valuable “Smart Manufacturing” tool. For more info:

eNET Maintenance Dashboard

The eNET Maintenance Dashboard (pictured above) is a powerful yet easy-to-use Maintenance Dashboard that will simplify your shop’s Maintenance Scheduling & Reporting. This real-time locally hosted software allows for full visibility of your facility & machine maintenance needs throughout the whole department. eNETMD also offers an email server with automated notification capabilities to improve the communication flow within your Maintenance Department. Maintenance Managers can schedule or prioritize today’s Maintenance needs or future weekly, monthly and yearly preventative maintenance projects. Once implemented this tool will help to minimize maintenance-related machine downtime, and as we all know reducing machine downtime is one of the biggest goals of “Smart Manufacturing”. For more info