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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 Bloomberg.com, 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: http://www.enetdnc.com/enet-qc-status-dashboard.html

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 http://www.enetdnc.com/enetmd-cmms-maintenance-dashboard.html

Ask the Machine Whisperer?

June 27, 2019

From Tom in Ohio: Hi Steve, I noticed that machine efficiency tracking systems often go by the title of “Machine Monitoring”. When my company started evaluating Machine Monitoring systems to better track our machine utilization, there was serious pushback from the Machinists. The term “Monitoring” evoked fears of “Big Brother” watching their every move. I’m sure you’ve experienced this plenty of times already, how do you handle these concerns? Thanks.

Steve: Hello Tom, yes we have run into this fear from machinists before, after all no one wants to be Monitored, the word alone strikes fear.  I prefer to describe it to people as an MIS (manufacturing improvement system), for both management and the machinists. Machinists will run into various issues throughout the day which causes the machine to not be running cycles. Instead of constantly fighting these same issues, an MIS gathers this down-time information and supplies it to management so that down-time solutions can be deployed. At the end of the day, this should lead to less machine down-time, and less headaches for the Machinists to constantly have to deal with. Everyone wins.

From Chris in California: Hi Steve, I work for a well-known aerospace company in California. We would like to collect production data from our machines, and are looking at a couple of local California-based systems, as our company has always had a preference for local support, for obvious reasons. However I’ve researched a few monitoring systems that are not based out of California, and they have features that the local systems do not offer, such as the ability to lock the “Cycle Start” button and force the Operator to report a down-time reason. In your opinion when it comes to Machine Monitoring is local support more valuable than particular features of the machine monitoring system? Thanks in advance for your help!

Steve: Hello Chris, local support is always great, that is why eNETDNC uses a reseller network to get support to customers as close to the customers as possible. However, I don’t think local support is the most important thing to be concerned about. In my opinion the most important thing should be reliability, if the system is reliable then you won’t have to worry about where your support is coming from. The number one thing that we hear from our customers is how reliable eNETDNC is, so reliable that we don’t even need to charge for a yearly maintenance contract for support and updates. When evaluating Monitoring systems please make sure that you ask to speak to a few of their Monitoring customers, so you can get a feel for the reliability of that system. And just for the record, we invented the “Cycle Start Disable” feature.

Ask The Machine Whisperer?

May 15, 2019

It’s that time again, as most of us patiently await the arrival of summer (it is coming, right?). April’s manufacturing number continue to show modest industry growth, and we are all watching to see if the tariff wars derail manufacturing’s momentum. Enjoy the latest blog, and send in your questions for the Machine Whisperer.

From Jeremy in Texas: Hi Steve, we’re planning on buying a DNC system for our shop in the near future, and we’d like to know if it’s possible to integrate a tool pre-setter with a DNC system?

Steve: Hello Jeremy, in most cases yes.  The main question is how does your machine want the tool information.  Some machines want the tool information in a file of its own and some want it as part of the existing program.  Some you will have to run as a program when they come in and other machines you will have to tell to load in from a file.  I would just make sure that you work with the company you are buying the pre-setter from to make sure that they can load in to each machine.  From that point we can usually configure eNETDNC to work with each machine’s needs.

From Alex in Illinois: Hi Steve, we have been using Machine Monitoring for about a year, there is interest from some of my colleagues for exporting the Machine Monitoring data into our ERP system (Epicor). First, I’d like to know if it’s doable? If yes, do you think the data integration into our ERP is going to be beneficial?

Steve: Hello Alex, I think that’s a great idea, eNETDNC has several ways of working with ERP systems.  We also have some partners that work exclusively with eNETDNC and different ERP packages to add lots of additional features.  Customers that have done this in the past have found the ROI to be almost immediate.