Knowledge Center

DIGITAL MANUFACTURING

Digital Manufacturing is Key to U.S. Competitiveness

The deployment and use of digital manufacturing tools and practices on factory floors are no longer optional. Thankfully, today these tools are widely available and easier than ever to implement.

Of all of the transformations that have taken place in manufacturing over the last decade, the rise of digital technologies has been the most sweeping and impactful.

From machine monitoring to machine tool dynamics to out-of-the-box digital tools, digital manufacturing technologies are a requirement for competing in the marketplace as well as simplifying and improving businesses.

Tim Shinbara, Vice President and CTO of AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology, says that at their core, digital tools are designed to provide resources for making informed decisions on how to run a shop. “Every investment that a shop makes is a business decision, which means that every investment has to pay for itself,” Shinbara says. “What data-driven manufacturing does is provide the infrastructure to improve how a business runs.”

What does that infrastructure look like today? This Knowledge Center outlines just a few of its core components...

“Every investment that a shop makes is a business decision, which means that every investment has to pay for itself. What data-driven manufacturing does is provide the infrastructure to improve how a business runs.” 

 – Tim Shinbara, Vice President and CTO of AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology

5 COMPONENTS OF DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE

As the practice of monitoring machine uptime becomes more and more common, manufacturers are finding new ways to utilize the troves of data being compiled at shops across the country and around the world.

Keeping track of this data can not only help managers make more informed decisions, it also drives innovation and new ways of tackling production challenges. If, for example, a high-volume job is showing frequent downtime because of part changes, the facility manager has exactly the information needed to justify investing in automated solutions for changing out parts.

More importantly, machine monitoring systems can enhance the contributions of manufacturing workers. These systems can identify bottlenecks that slow down jobs, helping the production team to gain a clearer picture of what processes need their attention. If the data shows that one process is slowing production, it provides a focal point for shopfloor personnel to develop improvements that can drastically cut down the amount of time a part spends in the shop.

Of course, machine monitoring is not a solution in and of itself. Rather, it is a guide that can illuminate problems in a process, enabling users to fix those problems on their own. Whether the solution is to retrain an employee, develop a new process or invest in more advanced machinery will depend on the problem. However, solving that problem is impossible until you manage to identify it. That’s where this technology can help.

 

Machine monitoring systems can enhance the contributions of manufacturing workers.

Cutting tool management is a vital part of the daily functioning of every machine shop, as no chips are flying without the right tools in stock.

Some companies have recognized this and developed digital tools to help manufacturers keep accurate digital records of their cutting tool needs. Some manufacturers create a “digital twin” that represents the tool’s current state of wear, temperature, positioning and vibration. In addition to helping optimize the cutting process and predict tool life, software can keep track of stock and even the location of cutting tools to improve the users’ ability to prepare for upcoming jobs. The software fundamentally does the work of keeping track of the tools so that the user can make informed decisions.

In addition, maintaining control of each tool crib’s inventory is an essential aspect of process consistency. Ensuring that tools are replaced with identical tools, keeping tool changes to a minimum and staying on top of problems as they arise are vital methods of controlling consumable costs and process variations that, when left unchecked, can lead to scrapping expensive cutting tools.

 

In addition to helping optimize the cutting process and predict tool life, software can keep track of stock and even the location of cutting tools to improve the users’ ability to prepare for upcoming jobs.

One of the most common concerns with adopting any new technology is the time, training and resources needed to introduce it into the mix.

The truth is, today’s digital tools present solutions that are easier to implement than ever before. This includes more modular options that are accomplishing more tasks in a single installment, offering more interoperability with minimal training required.

Rather than needing 2-3 pieces of equipment each built with its own interface, and then struggling to connect them all to each other, users can introduce fewer components with more simplified means of integration with other pieces of equipment on the factory floor. This degree of consolidation, and sophistication, brings multi-tasking to a whole new level, and alleviates concerns with getting new technology up and running as soon as possible.

 

“Those thinking more intentionally about integrating their machines on a larger digital scale are setting themselves up to get the most benefit of these trends.” 

– Tim Shinbara, AMT  – The Association For Manufacturing Technology

Unanticipated machine tool maintenance is one of the fastest ways for a machine shop to lose money.

Unscheduled machine down time has a cascade of negative effects that reach every corner of the business, from inventory costs to lead times to overall throughput. Unfortunately, few things are more expensive than repairing a large machine, as the loss in productivity magnifies the drain the busted equipment has on a manufacturing firm. Fortunately, newer digital tools can avoid unplanned repairs by scheduling preventative measures that are less expensive and more effective than making repairs after a breakdown occurs.

In many ways, this technology is an outgrowth of standard machine monitoring. However, it takes advanced software to analyze the fail-states of machines, identify patterns in machine data that precipitates these breakdowns, and identify maintenance needs before anything goes wrong. While it often takes months for software to recognize the problems that can shut down a machine, once a preventative maintenance system familiarizes itself with your machines, it can drastically reduce the number of breakdowns you experience, paying for itself many times over.

 

 

 

It takes advanced software to analyze the fail-states of machines, identify patterns in machine data that precipitates these breakdowns, and identify maintenance needs before anything goes wrong.

 

Many of these technologies have been developing for a while. But according to Shinbara, what’s emerging now is the practicality of making these disparate components of manufacturing technology work together.

Or as he puts it, “These tools create super users without adding extra buttons to the machine.”

Another component of the evolving digital landscape is standardization — especially open-source interoperability standards that establish a common language for equipment and devices to interact on the factory floor. The benefits of data-driven systems include increased productivity, detailed system monitoring, and real-time data to make informed decisions.

 

 

If the U.S. is to remain competitive within the global marketplace, it will be through the adoption and use of digital manufacturing tools and practices.

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With intelligent amplifiers providing measuring capabilities and easier setups, it’s easier than ever to understand what is going on in the manufacturing process in real time.

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Automation and robotics can go a long way toward increasing capacity and growing a business dedicated to aerospace manufacturing. But Trinity Precision has learned that refining the indirect and unseen aspects of its operations can be just as valuable.