If you ask any number of manufacturers exactly what they felt the first time they crashed a stationary machine tool or dropped portable measuring equipment, you’re bound to get a range of answers—though dread, terror and even nausea will almost certainly be on the list of responses.
That unintentional throwing of a proverbial wrench into the works has a way of bringing sharply into focus the need to know exactly what went wrong and, while surveying the aftermath will provide answers, access to live data is the only sure-fire way to prevent it from happening again.
This, however, isn’t breaking news: We know that a significant number of shops around the world are either already smart factories utilizing live data to improve processes or are making plans to hitch their wagons to this common-sense global initiative.
One company that has implemented smart-factory asset management technology is Paragon Medical, which has facilities in the United States, Europe and Asia.
At one of its facilities in Indiana, Paragon uses asset management software to track activities on its 14 stationary metrology machines.
In addition to helping Paragon investigate problems, the software provides a point of access for employees to quickly gather information on what and how efficiently the company’s manufacturing cells are running, and whether those cells have had crashes.
Data on who accessed CMMs and when is also available, and staff can even determine if additional training needs to be provided to operators based upon the information collected.
As the software offers customizable notification options, equipment can safely continue to run night and day, even when employees are off the clock. Using real-time data, staff can determine what went wrong when problems arise and assess the damage from home before returning to work.
“We definitely use the critical notifications more than anything, especially when it comes to our controller and crashing a machine,” said Ashlee Chapman, a CMM programmer at Paragon.
Those notifications are used most often during off shifts, she added. “We know what we’re walking into; we know that we can notify management of what they’re walking into, as well, and how to diagnose the problem when we do get here in the building to assist.”
When crashes occur or subpar parts are produced, Paragon is able to use the data at its fingertips to quickly resolve the issue.
“From a quality perspective, we’re able to contain product right away and limit investigations based upon that information,” said Jeff Livingston, Paragon’s quality manager. “Just imagine having a flight-data recorder for everything that breaks on your production floor relative to CMM. We have that; it’s just a matter of knowing when to go back and look at it.”
In addition to using comprehensive live data to diagnose crashes, Paragon uses the information to plan everything from the layout of its factories to the optimization of its equipment.
The data can be used to ensure CMMs are correctly burdened, direct employee traffic on the shop floor and see how well equipment is being utilized across shifts.
Greater efficiency is always the goal. But with part complexity increasing and lead times shortening, quality can suffer and mistakes are made even under the best of circumstances.
The answer, then, is to look more closely at what we already have instead of continuously striving to reinvent the wheel. The answer is to work smarter, not harder.