MMS Blog

Although my reasons for visiting Oakley Die & Mold had nothing to do with the shop’s new portable measuring arm, my host, Jim Goddard, wasn’t about to let me get away without hearing about it. Judging from the results the shop has seen so far from this technology, his excitement was more than understandable.

The obvious use for this kind of technology is large parts, and there are plenty of those at Oakley. Although the shop only recently became part of a broader organization, the Velocity Group, it has always specialized in large plastic injection molds such as the one shown below. Big molds mean big parts, parts that are often easier to measure with a portable arm or that simply won’t fit on a CMM table.

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Denver-area machining business Tag Team Manufacturing has historically focused on prototyping and short-run work. When the shop had the opportunity to take on a large-quantity job, it wasn’t sure how it would deliver the parts with its current capacity and staffing. The margin between order date and ship date seemed to tight produce all the parts.

According to CEO Terry Taggart in this video, the solution the company found was a “Sawyer” robot from Rethink Robotics. This collaborative robot is easy to program, easy to relocate, and works safely on the shop floor alongside employees without any need for guarding, because the force-sensing robot stops in the event of any contact with an obstacle that might be a human. With this robot feeding the machine through the night and through weekends, Tag Team now has the capacity to fill this large order—and other large-quantity jobs that may come.

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Posted by: Mark Albert 7. October 2016

Beyond Machine Monitoring

I’ve been preaching that the value of data-driven manufacturing centers on making better decisions to improve manufacturing processes. What is propelling this movement is the capability of computer networks to gather data and make it available for analysis, reporting and archiving, followed by prompt, effective action on the shop floor. There was certainly lots of evidence of great progress and acceptance of this concept at the recent IMTS. In many booths, every machine on display was hooked up to a large screen showing its operational status, its recent activity and other vital statistics.      

However, the frontiers of networking and connectivity in manufacturing are being explored and developed on many levels. For example, the data generators inside a machine must be carefully networked. One concept I saw at the show involves a modular control system that uses a localized network to connect sensors, gages and automated devices as nodes sharing a single communication cable. As a result, sensors on spindles, axis-drive bearings, lube systems and so on can be more efficiently monitored to keep tabs on machine health or refine predictive maintenance systems.

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Much about our Top Shops benchmarking survey revolves around providing numbers and values that machine shops can compare to their own to see where they rate against industry leaders.

Here are three examples. In this our sixth survey edition, our Top Shops benchmarking group (the group that represents the top 20 percent of shops as determined by totaling the points assigned to certain business- and technology-related questions) reports median spindle uptime of 72 percent compared to 60 percent for other surveyed shops. 2015 profit margin for Top Shops and other shops were 15 and 8 percent, respectively. Plus, quote-to-book ratio for Top Shops was 61 percent compared to 50 percent for other surveyed shops.

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Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 5. October 2016

GBI: Metalworking September 2016 – 48.4

With a reading of 48.4, the Gardner Business Index showed that the metalworking industry contracted at a moderate rate in September, virtually unchanged from August. In these two months, the index reached its two highest levels since March 2015, other than a spike in March of this year, so it appears that the industry has improved.

After one month of growth, the new orders subindex contracted at a moderate rate, however, the production subindex grew for the second month in a row, although at a slower rate than in August. While the backlog subindex continued to contract, as it has since March 2014, its trend indicates that durable goods capacity utilization should increase soon. Employment contracted for the 14th month in a row, and exports have contracted since March 2014, but their rate of contraction in September was the slowest since December 2014. Supplier deliveries lengthened for the seventh straight month and at their fastest rate since March 2015.

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