MMS Blog

Aside from equipment and people, there is nothing more common in machine shops than a job traveler. There is also nothing so rare as one that is up-to-date. This classic packet of paper documentation that follows a work order through the various stages of design, machining and inspection can be a mishmash of instructions, with clear and accurate documentation sometimes lost in the clutter of older part designs that have been revised and cryptic notes scrawled in indecipherable shorthand. Further, a shop’s most experienced machinists might leave behind half-written instructions, as the intuitive understanding they have developed over decades of work can make unwritten steps seem obvious. This can be unfortunate when less-experienced shopfloor personnel are left to follow those incomplete directions.

In light of these problems, as well as the simple cost of paper, some shops have started working to establish a digital, paperless workplace. A digital workplace offers numerous advantages, as it provides both office and shopfloor personnel with access to the same information from every screen, monitor or display in the shop. Management can quote new work faster by knowing precisely what machines are running, what parts are available and what jobs are scheduled by looking at a single application. On the other hand, machine operators can have instant updates to to schedules and up-to-date CAD files.

By: Anthony Staub 4. November 2018

Machine Shop for Sale

I opened the doors to Staub Machine in 1975 when I was just 25 years old and very naïve. My mission statement was simply to support myself, my wife and family to come. The business began in our one-and-a-half car garage where it was easy to work extended hours—when I had a job to complete. We suffered through some difficult years when I was investing in the business yet borrowing on the line of credit for groceries. After 10 years, the business turned out to be reasonably successful. I hired employees, purchased equipment and embraced technology. As the business became more profitable, I was able to provide health insurance and profit-sharing benefits for the employees. When the years turned into decades and I was looking back on 30+ years, two questions kept coming up: “Where am I headed?” and “What am I going to do with my machine shop?”

I struggled with this dilemma for 10 years, never finding an answer that made sense. I did not have a child or an employee who fit my idea of a logical owner. In 2014, I took an entrepreneurial leadership course at the University of Buffalo for business owners. I was the oldest student with the most business experience. I met mentors and reactors, and I formed a bond with 23 classmates. The experience inspired some serious reflection. After a day of careful consideration, I made a very hard decision: It was time to sell Staub Machine. The next day, during a Chamber of Commerce tour of our Hamburg, New York facility, I made the announcement that I was going to sell the business. I shocked the employees. A number of them tried to get me to reconsider, but I was committed to a transition plan. It seemed like everyone was asking me why I was selling. I had a simple answer: I sold because I wanted the business to continue. I realized that I did not have the stamina or the desire to work 40- to 60-hour weeks. I did not have the drive that I had when I was younger, and it was beginning to show. I needed to move forward with the sale for the good of the business.

Turning to a preferred tooling supplier for help with a machining problem is nothing new for most shops. The salesperson comes onsite, observes the troublesome operation and makes a recommendation based on their available tooling options. The result is usually, “Here, try this,” and the suggested cutting tool, insert or toolholder is then plugged into the machining equation. Hopefully, the tooling supplier has time to stick around for as long as necessary, working with the shop’s operator or manufacturing engineer until the proposed solution has been put through its paces and the results documented. This approach can yield substantial benefits.

Yet, according to Sandvik Coromant, there are potentially greater opportunities for improvement than tweaking a single machining process.

Going from IMTS 2018 in Chicago, Illinois, to Germany’s metalworking show AMB in Stuttgart a week later, I’ve seen a lot of similar technologies, machine tools and tooling from global companies. While most of the cutting tools, machine tools, workholding solutions, CAD/CAM and additive manufacturing technologies are globally applicable and sought after by machine shops, I noticed some differences in the way companies set exhibition highlights and presented themselves.

Makino’s booth in Chicago, for instance, was dominated by Athena, a revolutionary new technology that enables operators to interact with machine tools using simple voice commands, which was also on display at AMT’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC) booth, where I tested Athena attached to a DMG MORI machine; and it worked even with what many people say is my distinctive “German-Aussie” accent.

Sponsored Content 2. November 2018

Data-Driven Manufacturing: Start Small but Think Big

Data-driven manufacturing can seem a little daunting at first, but what does it really mean for your shop?

The truth is that productivity and the shop of tomorrow requires data: cutting tool data, machine data, quality data and operator productivity data. It may sound simplistic, but that’s the essence of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things: the collection and analysis of data, followed by better decision-making as a result of these data-related efforts. To the shop of the future, data will be everything.

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