Mark Albert

Mark Albert is editor-in-chief of Modern Machine Shop Magazine, a position he has held since July 2000. He was associate editor and then executive editor of the magazine in prior years. Mark has been writing about metalworking for more than 30 years. Currently, his favorite topics are lean manufacturing and global competitiveness. Mark’s editorial activities have taken him to numerous countries in Europe and Asia as well as across the United States many times. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana).

Posted by: Mark Albert 6. June 2014

Machine Monitoring Proves Its Worth

Implementing a manufacturing execution system to monitor machine performance helped Magellan Aerospace improve OEE on  critical production cell. Image courtesy of the company. 

The experiences of these three machining companies document the value of implementing a manufacturing execution system for machine monitoring. In each case, MERLIN (Manufacturing Enterprise Real-time Lean Information Network) hardware and software modules from Memex Automation led to productivity gains and improved overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

  1. Rose Integration of Carlton Place, Ontario, was able to make fact-based improvements to shopfloor systems and reorganize workflows and resources to generate an increase in OEE of 105 percent in one year.
  2. Magellan Aerospace of Kitchener, Ontario, went from a 36.9 percent OEE rating to a 85 percent OEE rating, and determined that a cell of three machines need not be expanded to a fourth machine.
  3. Innovative Mechanical Solutions Inc. (iMech) of Edmonton, Alberta, has made several advantageous changes to their tooling systems and can readily test the real cost of benefits of suggested new machining procedures. 

For the complete case histories click here.

Posted by: Mark Albert 30. May 2014

Empowering the American Supply Chain

Major U.S. industries such automotive will face shortages of parts and the production tooling to make them unless American suppliers step up to increase capacity. Frank Russo, CEO and co-founder of, a cloud-based sourcing marketplace, reviews the key strategies suggested for meeting this shortfall. His article looks at these strategies:

  • Early collaboration
  • Focus on total cost, not price
  • Management of the value stream

Mr. Russo adds that online sourcing technology can be a vital enabler in all three of these strategies.

Find the complete article here.

Posted by: Mark Albert 23. May 2014

Ballbar Basics

Silfex, a company that produces high-quality silicon components for the semiconductor industry, relies on ballbar testing to maintain the capabilities of its vertical machining centers, which operate under unusually harsh conditions. One reason ballbar testing is so useful to this company is that the ballbar test is rather easy to set up and conduct. For a short explanation of how a ballbar works, click here. For the full story of how Silfex makes superb use of ballbar testing data, click here

Posted by: Mark Albert 9. May 2014

These Coolant Videos Are Cool

Haas Automation has created a series of educational videos on proper coolant maintenance. The mix of animated graphics and how-to demos is just right (just like the mix of coolant concentrate and water should be).

The videos can be watched in any order, but I recommend starting with the Tools of Coolant video above. It covers the basics and sets the stage for the others in the series.

Posted by: Mark Albert 2. May 2014

Surprises from Machine Monitoring

Ben Schawe, VP of manufacturing at Mazak, checks one of the 60-inch flat-screen displays that show vital statistics about the machines being monitored.

When Mazak implemented an MTConnect-enabled machine monitoring system at its machine-tool factory in Florence, Kentucky, the data yielded some surprising results when analyzed.

For example, a number of part programs included optional stops originally added so that operators could check tool wear periodically or measure a critical part feature during the prove-out of the process. When the part went into production, however, these optional stops were never removed from the part program, or operators simply got in the habit of restarting the machine at these points in the program. The high occurrence of stoppages linked to these programmed stops showed up in the reports and they could be traced to the cause. Systematically editing the part programs to remove these unnecessary optional stops was an easy way to recover the lost production time.

A similar pattern was detected in stoppages for tool changes. Some operators were stopping the machine every time the access to the tool magazine was opened to replace or check a cutting tool. Instead of using the feed-hold button, which stops the machine, they should have been using the magazine manual interrupt switch, which enables the machine to continue running safely while they perform tool maintenance. Training that addressed this issue took care of the problem.

Analyzing stoppages also revealed more subtle situations. For example, an unusual number of machine stops were reported with a certain run of part castings. Checking with the operators revealed that castings of the same part sourced from two different foundries were not identical. Dissimilarities in the foundry patterns created excess stock conditions that required the operator to interrupt the part program to manually add a second tool pass on the affected castings.

In other cases, the operators could point to data as evidence that a persistent shortage of a certain cutter type was holding back productivity. Because adequate spare tools were not available, the machine had to be stopped to index inserts on the spot instead. Acquiring additional tool cutter bodies help resolve these delays. In fact, a more general pattern of not having sufficient replacement tools ready to restock tool magazines in a timely fashion was also detected. An initiative to correct this situation is now underway.

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