Does Digital Make Sense?
- October 11, 2020
Weighing the pros and cons of Industry 4.0
Over the last 10 years we have heard a lot about Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Talk to any machine tool salesperson, accessory provider or manufacturing software developer and they’ll all tell you the same thing: if you’re not jumping on the digital train, you might just get left at the station.
If you are thinking this might be a bunch of hype, you’re not alone. No one has time for gimmicks when the only concern is getting parts out the door. And even if it’s not a gimmick, who has time for the research needed to make these kinds of technology and investment decisions? Never mind all the integration and training headaches, followed by endless data analysis to facilitate chasing of continuous improvement opportunities.
That last part—improvement—should answer your question. Forget Big Data. Forget virtual twins and smart tools and integrated everything. Digital manufacturing is nothing more than a path to continuously improving your shop’s operations, and if you’re not embracing this most basic of Lean principles, your business will slowly go the way of those mechanical screw machine houses that once questioned the need for computerized lathes and mills.
Where’s my stuff?
Jeff Wallace, general manager for national engineering at DMG MORI USA Inc., refers to the machine tool builder’s Industry 4.0 capabilities as “Where’s My Stuff?” Just as consumers have come to appreciate real-time status updates on everything from the household thermostat to the case of coffee they just ordered online, he explains, manufacturers want to know what’s going on with their production orders, raw materials, employees, and especially their machine tools.
To meet this need, DMG MORI and others have developed a variety of data collection and analysis tools, as well as easy-to-use portals to display the resulting information. One example of this is My DMG MORI, a portal not unlike the app or web-based services available with many newer automobiles. “Customers can create an online service request that is routed directly to the right DMG MORI expert and track the live processing status,” Wallace says. Additionally, they can pull up a machine’s technical documents. And assuming the machine is connected to the Internet, they can do all this from within the Celos control.”
Wallace listed a host of similar Industry 4.0 functionality, including DMG MORI Monitoring, DMG MORI Connectivity, DMG MORI Messenger, and Tulip – “Build your own APP” development tools. All are based on the company’s CELOS hardware-agnostic HMI (human-machine interface), and all are designed with security in mind. “DMG MORI is NIST and ITAR certified, and each machine tool comes with an internal firewall installed,” he says.
Regarding any potential hype, Wallace points to a large material handling equipment company that was an early adopter of DMG MORI Messenger and DMG MORI Monitoring. “I haven’t spoken to them for a couple of years, but they told us early on that their maintenance costs had decreased by 18 per cent and their productivity went up significantly due to the greater visibility achieved with these tools, even on non-DMG MORI equipment.”
Okuma America Corp. offers similar capabilities, among them its App Store, ECO suite, and a relatively new tool, Connect Plan. Product specialist Brad Klippstein notes that this last tool is a software-based system that allows shops to connect multiple machine tools—even those lacking an Okuma nameplate—to a common interface. They can then gather information on spindle and servo loads, operation and alarm history, job status, and so on.
“It’s a very open system,” he says. “Any machine tool with an MTConnect interface is a candidate, as are many others, even a lot of older machines. And once you connect them, Connect Plan acts as a central repository for collecting all kinds of data and displaying it in human-readable format. It gives customers visibility to their equipment no matter where they’re at, whether it’s home, a hotel, or the airport. Anywhere there’s an Internet connection, someone with the proper credentials can log in and view machine status from a browser or app-enabled smart device.”
Greater visibility means better decision making, suggests Klippstein, and an opportunity to look back in history to see what happened the last time you ran a specific job, or know the last time alarm code 0531 occurred, and how to fix it. Such data can be exported to a a spreadsheet or report-writing tool, or connected to an external database.
“It’s a great tool to understand what’s happening on the shop floor, whether it’s an operator adjusting feedrates during the day or stopping the machine for whatever reason,” Klippstein says. “If that occurs, we can even prompt them to enter a reason code, so there’s no guessing about why there was downtime or cycle time variance. It’s a great tool for process improvement, remote monitoring…whatever you need to keep an eye on, we can usually capture it.”
Klippstein and DMG MORI’s Wallace are quick to emphasize their solutions’ agnostic nature, and rightly so—as much as any machine tool builder would like to see their equipment used on an exclusive basis, this is far from reality in most shops. What’s more, these systems are designed for greater visibility and analysis, but rely on humans to intervene or make process adjustments based on the results.
Caron Engineering Inc.’s TMAC (Tool Monitoring Adaptive Control) system takes a different approach. Mike Laurendeau, OEM account manager for North America, says it can be installed on virtually any CNC machine tool. It automatically adjusts process parameters, switches to an alternate tool, or stops the machine in response to certain user-defined criteria. TMAC also hangs on to that data for later analysis, providing additional process improvement opportunities after the fact. Finally, the browser-based interface allows users to have remote access to the system from any network-connected device.
“TMAC lets the customer avoid anything negative in the machining process,” he says. “That might be chatter, bar whip, inadequate coolant flow, tool wear or breakage—because we use a range of application-specific sensors that are capturing data every few milliseconds in some cases, we can detect these and other conditions, and either alert someone that there’s a problem or even correct it in real-time. For anyone who wants to run lights-out or lightly attended, it’s a must-have.” SMT