In the fast-changing world of motorized vehicle manufacturing, supply chain companies are now offering numerous software suites, bringing digitalization software and customizable applications to machine tool builders, alongside CNC hardware and operating software. The possibility of a digital twin of the machine tool as well as the part enables significant reduction in the lead time of the machines as well as nearly 100 percent simulation accuracy of the part program.
Over the past few years, the key topics discussed regarding digitalization in the machine tool industry were basic issues of technological opportunities as well as areas of application. This applied not only to processes within an organization but also to the value-adding network of suppliers, manufacturers and customers.
The focus is on data, specifically how to gather it, store it in the cloud, prioritize, analyze and manage it for maximum efficiency and minimal reaction time on the factory or shop floor. Each department in a company has its own needs for certain kinds of data. All are interested in capturing data pools both upstream and downstream from the actual production floor where machine tools are making parts. Operations personnel can connect to a central hub of data and use customized applications to extract the prioritized snapshots they most need.
This is possible thanks to three recent advancements. These include advanced CNC technology, edge devices that capture high-frequency machining data capable of optimizing in real time, and the cloud configuration, with its ability to house applications within the total supply chain.
Most cloud applications used for prioritizing data are based on commercially available products from Microsoft and other vendors, with the ability to customize and cybersecure them. The long-term goal is connectivity from any controller, so that a machine with any brand of CNC onboard, for example, could be linked onto a system at an auto, bus, truck or other vehicle factory. In this way, data could be extracted from any controller seamlessly. All key individuals at a plant can have their own dashboards to track and analyze the data stream in real time. This is especially important in today’s manufacturing operations, where downtime must be greatly reduced or eliminated.
Predictive monitoring and machine monitoring are likewise critical and today’s software can aid those processes in many ways. If a part is not being made correctly, the machine tool can immediately adjust, based on the tool path and the condition of the tool. If a spindle motor is overloaded, an alert can be sent out to a local electrical distributor via edge technology to quickly deliver a replacement. These enhancements to machine management are designed to keep the line running.
In setting up the dashboards, it’s also important that each individual authorized to access the system define the critical parameters. In this way, users are independently alerted concerning the needed operational adjustments, materials flow to the line and basic maintenance requirements. To have a better grasp of what is happening with each machine in a factory or a global install base, Siemens devised a new process that allows the machine builder or end user to look into their machines from a remote location. This provides myriad benefits, including comparisons of productivity, line operators, atmosphere in the plants, shift performance levels, etc.
A further exciting development in today’s market is edge technology. Edge devices read high-frequency data off the CNC and send operational performance or part-specific data to the cloud. Furthermore, edge technology has the ability to process data with minimal latency.
All these developments help companies better manage their resources. They will add to the assessment in greenfield versus retrofit or brownfield utilization debate, one that will continue for some time to come in our market.