To demonstrate the advantages of remote access to real-time monitoring of a machine tool (see November '99's cover story), two manufacturing engineers at the Cessna plant in Wichita, Kansas, arranged for me to call up a Trumpf router from my personal computer in Cincinnati. The MEs, Ken Stromberg and Curtis Cook, did some work at their end so that I could use a special password to log on to their intranet through a Web browser.
Following some simple instructions over the telephone, I was soon looking at the same screen that the machine operator, Matt Maupin, was looking at in Wichita. As the machine moved along its axes, the same position readouts were appearing simultaneously hundreds of miles apart on our PC screens. Ken and Curtis stepped me through some of the menu selections that they might call up if help was needed. For example, we looked at the live display of events being recorded in real time. When the program running at the moment was completed, the message appeared on the display, with the time it occurred duly recorded.
After Matt had reloaded the machine, he let me activate the cycle start button from my computer in Cincinnati. In essence, I could run the machine from long distance, using my PC and the Internet. Normally, most online visitors would only get to view certain files or use certain menus. In this case, both Ken and Curtis were with Matt at the machine, so there was virtually no chance that I might create a problem.
Nevertheless, allowing me on to their network displayed some trust that I would participate in this demo responsibly. But trust and responsibility are necessary to make automatic machine monitoring and data collection successful on a regular basis. Clearly, at Cessna, the common goal is to use this technology to solve problems and make improvements. It's a tool that helps people help each other.
For sure, reliable data from the machine tool means that fewer problems remain hidden, whether they are related to how the machine is performing or to the people. Dealing with facts promotes professionalism in every quarter. It raises the bar.
Being connected to a distant machine tool via the Internet was a bit of a thrill for me. More encouraging is seeing how this same technology could promote trust and responsibility, on and off the shop floor. That's a positive development not to be underestimated.