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 18. March 2016

A Great Man with a Great Bow Tie

In accepting the Albert W. Moore AMT Leadership Award, Marcus Crotts spoke to the importance of manufacturing in the national economy. 

AMT–The Association For Manufacturing Technology presented the Albert W. Moore AMT Leadership Award to Marcus B. Crotts at its Annual Business Meeting March 5 in Palm Desert, California. The award recognized Mr. Crotts, founder of Crotts & Saunders LLC, a machine tool distributor, for his outstanding support of the manufacturing technology industry. His distinctive bow tie was also honored!

“Why are so many people wearing bowties to this business meeting?” I thought. AMT’s business meeting (which took place during the MFG Meeting, the conference for machine builders, distributors and end users) is a no-nonsense event, with important announcements and ceremony. I discovered the reason when Mr. Crotts’ award was given. In addition to his distinguished career (one marked by strong personal beliefs and strength of individual character), Mr. Crotts is well-known for his trademark—bold and colorful bowties. Hence, the wearing of bowties by leaders of the meeting. It was another way to honor the recipient.   

As Douglas Woods, AMT President said, “The Albert W. Moore AMT Leadership Award honors those individuals from our industry who have gone above and beyond by carrying out the mission of the association, and who have had a dramatic impact on our industry. Marcus has distinguished himself as an outstanding innovator, leader and advocate for the manufacturing technology and engineering industry.” (Doug was wearing a bow tie, too, by the way.)

The award cited Mr. Crotts for the leadership that garnered his company national recognition for its impact on manufacturing processes through improved basic design methodologies. It was also noted that, as Board Chair of the American Machine Tool Distributors Association in the 1980s, Mr. Crotts skillfully guided the association during the introduction of CNC technology.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Crotts said, “My father’s work as a machinist and his drive to be accurate inspired me to learn more about machining and engineering. For almost 60 years, I have been saying manufacturing creates wealth and this concept is not well understood by those outside the industry.” He encouraged members to promote manufacturing. However, he did not tell anyone to start wearing bow ties!

Posted by: Mark Albert 11. March 2016

Secure the Future of the Digital Factory

Conference in Chicago reinforced the reality of the digital factory. The Dallas event will reinforce its urgency.

The first step may be securing a spot at the [MC]² Conference, Workshop and Expo, April 19-21, at the Hotel InterContinental Dallas, Texas. March 18 is the deadline for early-bird conference rates. This event focuses intently on MTConnect, the digital factory and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Here are five reasons I recommend attending this conference:

  1. Small- and medium-sized companies will share their real-world success stories with MTConnect-enabled implementations.
  2. It will cover minimizing threats to the security of networks, equipment and information.
  3. Training and workforce development will be included as vital to the transition to the IIoT.
  4. It will put the importance of the networked, integrated factory in the larger context of national economic growth and stability.
  5. Technical workshops will be available to attendees who welcome immersion in the inner workings of the standard and its development process.

For more about why I think this is an important conference, click here. Conference program details and registration can be found here

Posted by: Mark Albert 4. March 2016

Video: Rotating Table Swivels 180 Degrees on this Mill-Turn

For an unusual bell-shaped workpiece, Stein Seal turned to Grob Systems for a mill-turn machine with a horizontal spindle. A rotating, swiveling worktable on the vertical Y axis of this G550T machine enables it to do heavy-duty turning in a horizontal orientation. It can even take a workpiece from an upright position to one facing completely upside down. To you see this table in action on another application, watch this video.

Posted by: Mark Albert 19. February 2016

How a CAD/CAM Consultant Can Help

This article from Mastercam profiles the CAD/CAM "power user" as a resource person who can bridge the gap when a shop's CAD/CAM technology or programming capabilities can't keep up for some reason. It gives a good picture of why and when some shops turn to an independent software specialist for CAD/CAM services such as CNC programming of difficult or complex parts. A focus on one of these power users, Jayson Kramer of Precision Programming Services, portrays an expert contract CNC programmer in action. How he leverages advanced software features to solve problems or train other uses is revealing.

Posted by: Mark Albert 5. February 2016

Connecting Forklifts to the Industrial Internet of Things

A smart tablet, mounted in the front of the forklift, connects the truck to ITAMCO’s ERP system. The forklift also has a GPS.

ITAMCO, a manufacturer of precision-machined components and high-precision gears in Plymouth, Indiana, has a history of integrating its machinery and equipment with networked sensors and software. Many of these connections are powered by software applications for mobile devices—apps developed in-house by its own technology team. In 2012, the company implemented an MTConnect-enabled machine monitoring system. Soon after, key pieces of machinery were connected to the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Now ITAMCO has developed a communication system for its forklifts, citing this connection as a good example of how the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will benefit manufacturing. In this case, it has made forklifts, the workhorses of the plant floor, more valuable than ever at ITAMCO.

Here is how the company describes the way forklifts are running on the IIoT. As soon as a machine operator scans the barcode on a pallet, signifying the completion of the product cycle at his machine, a forklift operator and forklift are on their way to the machine. Each forklift is linked to ITAMCO’s ERP system through its GPS and an application on a smart tablet mounted in the forklift. Forklift operators are notified via their smart devices (employees use iPods, iPads and smartphones) when they’re needed. The communication system is so efficient it will summon the closest forklift to the machine. The forklift operator will also know how many pallets need to be moved and where they should be taken. If the product is being moved to another workstation, the workers in that area will be notified that the product is on its way. 

The technology team at ITAMCO created an application that links machine operators, forklift drivers and the company’s ERP system.

“We developed the application because both of our facilities are rather large and forklift operators where always looking for forklifts to move their material but could never find one. Also, material would sit for hours at a machine, delaying the next operation. This application solved the problem by notifying a material handler as soon as the materials were ready to go to the next work area,” says Joel Neidig, an engineer and lead technology developer at ITAMCO. According to Mr. Neidig, the system has been well received by ITAMCO employees. “It has definitely helped me schedule the movement of materials from one work center to another,” says Arthur Doody, material handler at ITAMCO. “We’ve seen a 10-percent reduction in the time it takes to get material ready for the next operation,” Mr. Neidig says.

To learn more about other innovations at ITAMCO, watch the video below.


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