Digitalization of the Machine Shop

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by Jeff Rizzie

Improve your competitive advantage


The next wave of significant profitability gains for manufacturers will be derived from the capture and analysis of data that already exists throughout the machine shop value stream: commonly referred to as Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). 

This technology shift is already delivering significant ROI to some manufacturers by helping them to identify and wring out some of the major sources of waste that are prevalent in the machine shop setting.

Starting to gain traction
As digital technologies gain traction, manufacturing processes will start to evolve more quickly. “Innovator” companies that have already confirmed the ROI that digital technology promises are now being joined by the next wave of “early adopters” and will eventually be joined by the “early majority.” The challenge for every machine shop is to keep from getting overwhelmed by the changes and take that first step to a digital machining strategy. It may start by connecting just one machine, employing a connected cutting tool or acquiring a piece of software that provides connectivity between two functions, but the key is to find a partner you can trust to help you map out your plan and get started.

According to Bijal Patel, digital machining specialist at Sandvik Coromant, “while there is a lot of data and information technology out there to be used, it’s just not happening yet. But for those who have adopted it, the difference is dramatic. Customers that are deploying entry level digital solutions are realizing 30 per cent and upwards in machine and asset utilization and dramatic improvements in their overall cost structure. A lot of these savings are low hanging fruit for entry level solutions, so it’s very exciting.”

Design and planning connectivity
This refers to the front end of your machine shop’s value stream: design and process planning, operations planning, production logistics, machining, verification and outbound logistics. Solutions in this area help design engineers, CAM programmers, process development engineers and operations planners do their jobs better. 

Software solutions give manufacturers insights from the data that comes from their machining operations.In-machining connectivity 
The second area is designed to support the actual machining process when the components are inside the machine. Digitally enhanced cutting tools allow you to have insight into how that tool is operating or help to configure that tool for an operation in a much easier way. For example, CoroPlus Process Control monitoring technology provides real insight into the performance of your tooling and machining processes in addition to the health of your machine’s main components. It extracts the data and signals from the machine tool and analyzes this information to determine if things are going right or detect that something is wrong and alert the operator. For example, if it detects a tool breakage or machine collision, it can react from within to automatically shut the machine down. It allows you to get much better insight and control of your processes without having an operator standing there with their hand on the stop button.

Advanced machining analytics 
There are also software solutions that allow you to gain insight from the data that comes from the machine tools, cutting tools and machining operations. For Sandvik Coromant, it’s CoroPlus Analytics that has built algorithms that convert the data from your machining operations into real insight and knowledge about machine performance, utilization and efficiency. 

Shops don’t need to wait to take that first step towards digital integration of their operations. The time to start realizing the future and reaping the benefits of the tremendous insights and efficiencies that digital machining offers, is now. SMT

Jeff Rizzie is director, digital machining, Sandvik Coromant.

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