MMS Blog

By: Kevin Saruwatari 27. August 2018

Defining Practice

My wife has been learning Japanese flower arranging (Ikebana) for years and now teaches her own classes. As teaching problems arise, we have discussions in which I have quite a bit to contribute from my experience training new hires, students and customers. It always surprises me how much metalworking and flower arranging have in common. I guess problem solving for creative endeavors is not specific to the endeavor.

In our last conversation about her “rookie” teaching problems, we discussed a situation in which one of her students became frustrated. She let her student create his arrangement, but when it came time for her to “correct it,” she had to tear it down almost completely. When she was finished, he agreed that it looked much nicer. However, he was frustrated that he could not repeat what she had done.

Interconnectivity is important in establishing smart manufacturing environments in which the data shared between disparate pieces of equipment improves the speed of jobs through even simple process improvements. I learned Zoller’s philosophy while attending an open house at its U.S. center of operations in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At the event, the company invited customers into its new Industry 4.0 Technology Center to demonstrate its measuring systems and interconnected tool-storage solutions. The event included product displays and demonstrations of presetting and inspection machines as well as speeches by Zoller President Alexander Zoller and General Manager Dietmar Moll. While the speeches briefly touched on the capabilities of the measuring equipment, their main focus was on how the company’s Tool Management Solutions (TMS) Gold software facilitates data sharing across machines.

Zoller realized this interconnected approach to manufacturing by expanding on its presetting machines, which provide measurements of the length, diameter and complex cutting tool geometries. The company already had many other offerings (heat-shrinking solutions, automated inspection solutions, machines capable of complex DXF comparison and more), but it realized that the presetting machines generated data that could be useful in other applications. The presetters create “digital twins” of the tools they measure, which the company has used in secondary processes such as creating tool profiles for CAM programmers to run more accurate simulations of tool paths. In another application, the TMS software uses the digital twins to keep an accurate accounting of a shop’s tools, including their number, condition and location in the shop. Using simple inputs attached to tool-vending machines and cabinets, the shop can keep track of who has which tool, and management will have ample notice when inserts are running low.

If my shop needs my 24-hour involvement to run effectively, then I have failed as a leader. Confident delegation of decision-making and Swiss CNC machining operations allows me to venture out to network, learn and promote our industry. If I succeed at finding qualified and motivated leaders from the limited (but growing) pool of skilled labor, I can spend more time on my business and less time working in it.

Nearly all of us have spent countless hours digging into “effective leadership.” We have taken classes, perhaps even hired a coach or attended a weekend retreat. We try to model the attributes of an effective leader as best we can. Technical competence and a willingness to control others simply are not enough. Someone might know everything there is to know about machining parts or the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, but it does not mean that person knows a thing about how to resolve conflict, show empathy or motivate others.

Perhaps the most important product at the 2018 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) will be the one that most visitors already will have in their hands or pockets—a smartphone or other mobile device. That is because this device will be connected to the internet, as will be many of the displayed machines, machine accessories, measuring devices, software systems and other equipment that generates data. This pervasive, web-enabled connectedness is the so-called Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). IMTS will be a prime example of how the IIoT and digitalization has changed the manufacturing industry. 

Of course, the real value of collecting and sharing data lies in that it ultimately reaches someone who can use it to take action or make a decision. The action or decision may be a quick one that prevents a machining process from making scrap, damaging other equipment or injuring a person nearby. A signal that warns of a broken or missing cutting tool is one example. The action or decision may be timely on a different basis, such as responding to an analysis of data that indicates an impending situation of concern. For example, a change in a critical variable, such as spindle vibration or unwanted heat in a component, may indicate a maintenance issue that requires attention. Replenishing a consumable item, refilling a lube station or restocking a part or material feeder are other data-driven responses that can be scheduled at the optimum time.

When Baitjunkys purchased a remanufactured machine to produce molds for fishing lures, it needed the old machine to run like new. Mechanically, it did just fine, but its 25-year-old control could not handle higher feed rates without compromising accuracy. A new control from Calmotion (Chatsworth, California) has enabled the machine to reach its full potential, helping the company fill its backlog and increase its profitability.

Leonard Smith founded Baitjunkys in 2013. He had grown dissatisfied with the service he was receiving from his mold supplier, so he decided to go into business for himself. He bought a Mach III CNC knee mill, put it in his garage and taught himself how to use it. The company has since moved out of the garage into a commercial space in Lawrenceville, Georgia, near the Lake Lanier reservoir, where the hobbyist- and professional-grade fishing lures produced with Baitjunkys’ molds can be used. In addition to adding more space, Baitjunkys has also added more machines. In addition to the original knee mill, the shop now has a Mazak VTC-20C vertical turning center as well as the remanufactured Fadal 3016 HT vertical machining center (VMC).

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