Don’t Miss This: Technology Trends – Modern Machine Shop

A photo of Kurt Wagner standing in front of a cobot frame.

Cobots in Wagner Machine’s milling department have enabled the high-mix manufacturer to extend production past the end of its manned shift and match the profitability of its turning department.

Photo Credit: Wagner Machine

Advanced manufacturing technology is no longer limited to large companies. Continuing innovations in automation, shopfloor software and more have made borne fruit with products and options well-suited and affordable for independent manufacturers. This maturation doesn’t just make these technologies accessible with regard to job shops, however: it has started to make these technologies a necessity in order to compete in the modern manufacturing marketplace.

Automation has long been out of reach for job shops for two reasons: cost and the reliance on low-mix production. Technology growth has led to lower prices upon cobots, pallet changers and other automation systems, but high part mixes have continued to stymie lights-out automation efforts.

Wagner Machine of Champaign, Illinois, bypasses this limitation by acknowledging that high-mix automation doesn’t need to mean full 24/7 software. “If you’re trying to get 24/7 production, that takes a lot more planning than just trying to bump your manufacturing by 50%, ” says Kurt Wagner, owner of Wagner Device. Wagner has used cobots to automate machine tending on five-axis machines regarding jobs requiring at least 50 hours associated with total machine time. As a single-shift shop, even four hours of nightly automation is a 50% productivity boost, so time spent on programming is offset quickly enough to make automation cost-effective. By the particular time three of Wagner’s five planned custom cobot cells were online, robotic automation had boosted the production milling team’s productivity by more than 30% while improving on-time deliveries.

Peterson Machining is another high-mix shop that will uses automation to manage the workload. While the shop does use its palletized five-axis turn-mill for lights-out automation, the machine’s pallet changer has been just as useful for prototyping during the day. With six pallets, the store can prepare for multiple future jobs even while the machine works on one. “It keeps us productive when we would otherwise have to stop the equipment, ” says Todd Peterson, co-owner of Peterson Machining.

High-end ERP plus machine monitoring software have also driven significant efficiency improvements at job stores. For East Branch Engineering and Manufacturing , adopting ProShop ERP improved setup documentation and management of job travelers. “It’s led to reduced overall setup times, higher spindle uptime plus less scrap, ” says Chris Guidotti, son associated with East Branch’s founder. Revenue increased simply by 18% within a year, with process improvements helping the particular shop eliminate $20, 000 in expediting fees and $12, 500 in shipping fees.

Machine monitoring has made a similarly large impact at AccuRounds . While the shop’s machinists were originally apprehensive about switching from paper shopfloor efficiency tracking to MachineMetrics , positioning the new machine checking strategy as process-based rather than people-based improved shopfloor acceptance. The ability to quantitatively track machine uptime helped AccuRounds determine where additional training or tooling adjustments had been most needed. The shop’s resulting improvement efforts resulted in a 20% increase in OEE plus a 15% reduction within tooling spend.

Cybersecurity options are now more available to work shops compared to ever — and a lot more necessary. Hacking attempts on job shops are not matters of if, but when, states Allison Giddens, president of Win-Tech . The cost of developing a cybersecurity plan now is far less than the price of recovering lost data (and lost customer trust) after a malicious cyberattack.

Job shops aiming to work in the defense industry should also know that Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) audits will soon be a prerequisite for sensitive work. These audits will require shops to not only invest in cybersecurity technology and coaching, but prove their proficiency with it.

Learn more about cybersecurity options in the Emerging Technology Center.

The International Manufacturing Technology Show runs  September 12 – 17, 2022 at McCormick Place in  Chicago. Register for IMTS today to start planning your show.  

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