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Software Update: Real-Time Manufacturing Data, Monitoring Systems Key to Shop-Floor Success

Greg Mercurio







Greg Mercurio
is president, Shop Floor Automations Inc. (SFA; La Mesa, CA), a distributor and service center for Predator manufacturing data collection software and the Scytec cloud-based shop monitoring system.  He can be reached at

Manufacturing Engineering: How crucial is it for manufacturers to use shop-floor data management today?

Greg Mercurio: One of the challenges we face every day is trying to educate the manufacturing industry on how critical this data is. It’s at our fingertips and it’s not being utilized because a lot of manufacturers think it’s too complicated or it’s cost-prohibitive. In reality, it’s really available to us and the cost has been driven down quite a bit. If we have the ability to monitor e-mails and texts constantly 24/7 with our smartphones, why aren’t we monitoring the shop floor?

Shop owners can get this information from the factory floor instantaneously to quickly resolve problems, put out fires, and focus in on problem spots. It’s a critical piece, because every second counts in manufacturing. Time is money, and the challenge is everybody’s been doing this on paper. With the technology we have, we can capture that data real-time, make informed decisions and reduce problems with materials, tooling, or sometimes company culture. It’s critical, because we all want to be competitive. We find more and more of our customers looking into this today because the technology’s there, and the machine tools allow more of this capability today.

ME: Is it mostly larger manufacturers monitoring the floor?

Mercurio: In the past, it has been the larger companies that were using it, because they can afford it. Typically you would see costs for monitoring anywhere from $2000–$3000 per machine. These prices are if they’re simple machines. If you’re dealing with older equipment that would require more hardware, those costs could be in the area of $5000 per machine. Technologies including wireless, barcode readers, touch screens and tablets have started to drive implementation prices down. IT departments are now involved with the shop floor. They’re embracing wireless on the shop floor, where five years ago, that wasn’t something that was typical—the shop floor was isolated—and that has helped bring down the cost.

ME: How have cloud-based monitoring systems, like the Scytec system you sell, helped reduce costs?

Mercurio: Customers are looking into utilizing the cloud. We’re storing our data in the cloud more frequently these days, and because cloud is being embraced, the costs are being driven down. SFA is working with Scytec as the sales arm for the cloud solution. We do the sales, the demos, and help with all other aspects of customer service to ensure a smooth implementation and ongoing success. One big difference with this approach is with Scytec DataXchange you can try the system on many Ethernet-enabled machines for a very low price and no long-term commitment. The initial fee is $1000 and then for $45 a month per machine, you can be set up in hours and quickly monitor that equipment. Typically when you’re buying an application, like Predator or another application-based product, they charge you by seat of the software—that can cost you $1000 per seat for licensing, whereas in cloud-based systems, there is no cost per number of seats of the software or users. It’s based on the number of machines connected, so the cost is driven down.

The Scytec cloud-based monitoring system from Shop Floor Automations offers users real-time views on key metrics including cycle times, spindle utilization, and machine downtime.

ME: Who is your typical cloud customer?

Mercurio: Customers range from a few machines to multiple plants with hundreds of machines. Many larger companies, like Boeing, have a lot of management to go through, and approvals, they may want to do a pilot. With an application-based system there are a lot of up-front costs, and it can be anywhere from $5000–$10,000 for a pilot. However, with a cloud-based system, there’s nothing that we need to do except plug in your network cable to your machine and you’re up and running. The ability to do a pilot is much easier to do on a cloud-based system, and there are no term contracts. So you can do it month-to-month, or you can do it for six months, there’s no long-term commitment. If you have two machines in your shop and you want to try it for a month, you give us $90 and we’ll hook up your machine.

ME: What’s new with Predator’s solutions for tracking and analyzing shop-floor data?

Mercurio: Predator is an application base, and works on the customer's servers, databases and company network. It’s our approach that not every customer is ready for the cloud. Maybe an application is best, and you can afford it. Other people may want to approach it cloud-based and try before they buy.

With new machines coming out with multiaxis machining capability and automation, Predator’s new CNC Service is a new way to interface with these types of equipment. Before there was a lot of hardware involved, but Predator’s embracing new technology, such as MTConnect and FANUC FOCAS, which are protocols that allow you to directly connect to the machine. There’s technology that allows us to directly track the control—to know exactly what program it’s running, what the feed rate is, what error codes are triggered in the machine, so you can see in real-time what’s happening on the machine.

ME: How does a shop-floor management system differ from ERP or MRP systems?

Mercurio: There is a distinction. People get this confused because when they see the term shop-floor management, they think of business systems, like an ERP and MRP system. We’re not interested in the accounting side of things. For instance, typical systems will tell you an operator clocked in at 8, clocked out at 3, and he’s made 100 pieces. All you know from those business systems is that from a shop-floor management side, the guy ran his machine for X amount of hours and made you 100 pieces, and ideally you can react through scheduling.

What’s different about these shop-floor management systems is we’re more machine-centric—we know exactly what’s happening with the machine side of things. When we go into companies we ask, ‘What is the business problem you are trying to solve?’ and they’ll say, ‘We want to see our utilization of the machines.’ How much time out of an eight-hour shift are they really running? Is it 100%, 90%, 70%? The reality is most shops run only at about 60-65% machine utilization. ME 

New Releases

The new Celos line of applications will simplify and accelerate the process from an idea to finished product, according to DMG Mori Seiki (Hoffman Estates, IL), which demonstrated 12 new Celos apps at EMO. The Celos applications will be available for all new DMG Mori Seiki machines starting in the second quarter 2014.

Celos applications include Status Monitor, Job Manager, Job Assistant and others that will help with collection and analysis of key shop-floor manufacturing data. With the Celos Control app, customers are given the option to switch to the usual control environment of the CNC by tapping on an icon on a multitouch screen This Control app is available with Siemens Operate 4.5 offered with the Siemens Sinumerik 840D solution line and on MAPPS V-equipped Mitsubishi controls.

Gibbs and Associates (Moorpark, CA) announced Oct. 4 the availability of two new CAM options for GibbsCAM software aimed at simplifying the five-axis programming used to make turbomachinery parts. The user interfaces are optimized for fast selection of geometry and toolpath parameters to program machining of impellers, blisks (bladed disks) and blings (bladed rings). These bladed parts, which are used in compressing gas and liquids, or transporting them under pressurized flow, are common components in the aerospace, automotive and power generation industries.

GibbsCAM’s new MultiBlade option simplifies programming of turbomachinery parts such as this impeller.

Each of the software options targets different levels of specialization and part complexity in bladed-part manufacturing. Gibbs’ 5-Axis MultiBlade Level 1 option is designed for parts of simpler to moderate complexity, and the 5-Axis MultiBlade Level 2 option increases the selectable toolpath options to accommodate the most complex bladed parts, which may have multiple smaller blades, known as splitters and sub-splitters, between the main blades. The options operate within GibbsCAM for five-axis machining centers and multitask machines, and are available immediately.

Apriso Corp. (Long Beach, CA), developer of the FlexNet manufacturing execution system (MES), on Sept. 26 announced availability of Apriso for Paperless Manufacturing. Built on FlexNet, this new solution lets manufacturers better manage complexities and details of plant floor operations without paper. With this solution, engineers can better interact with shop-floor operations by updating design and manufacturing instruction without paper-based sign-off processes.  



Invensys (Houston), a unit of Invensys plc (London) and a supplier of industrial software, systems and control equipment, announced Sept. 24 that it has acquired InduSoft (Austin, TX), a developer of HMI and embedded device software. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Software Update is edited by Patrick Waurzyniak:

This article was first published in the November 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 11/1/2013

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