In the auto racing world, time and accuracy are critically intertwined, driven by seconds. Not surprisingly, Roush Yates Engines (RYE) of Mooresville, N.C. and its manufacturing division, Roush Yates Manufacturing Solutions (RYMS), are anchored by this credo, which in turn influences how it evaluates and decides the optimal ways to leverage technology for its world-class manufacturing operations. So, when RYE explored ways to improve the accuracy, integrity and throughput of its measurement data, the decision to deploy DataSure 4.0, a data acquisition solution developed by The L.S. Starrett Co., Athol, Mass., boiled down to—you guessed it—seconds.
RYE is the exclusive engine builder of Ford Performance for the top levels of NASCAR, including the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series, as well as the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. In addition, RYMS is a CNC parts manufacturing organization with expertise in multi-axis machining of metal and plastic parts with complex geometries. RYMS’ in-house production includes machined parts for the Ford FR9 V8 NASCAR programs, Ford Mustang 5.2L V8, and other motorsports applications, as well as for aerospace, defense and other industries.
RYMS’ quality management system is AS9100 Rev D & ISO 9001 certified, as well as International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) compliant.
To help achieve its performance and company goals, RYE chose Starrett measuring tools and metrology systems to ensure that critical design specifications are being met at the level expected and required by engineering. Motorsports, defense, aerospace, and medical manufacturing require strict standards to achieve consistent quality. Add in complex requirements for high-performance and reliable parts, and the test and measurement processes are even more demanding.
RYE has two quality labs with the tools needed to measure and inspect a wide variety of parts being manufactured and supplied for its racing engines as well as for external customers.
Data integrity is a vital part of accuracy in manufacturing. If the measurement data taken from gages is recorded, transmitted or logged incorrectly, several problems could occur. Parts can be scrapped, product performance could suffer, production labor and machine time can be lost and excessive time will be spent logging data manually, which also increases the potential for error. In addition, none of the data can be officially documented or verified for SPC and traceable for customer requirements without a reliable automated system–one that can capture the measurement data to meet Industry 4.0 level manufacturing and make it available for integration with other plant data.
Understanding this and the need to achieve top data integrity, RYE reviewed its inspection and data acquisition process with Starrett, a developer of data collection systems for quality control measurement applications. Starrett analyzed the conventional RYE data collection process and determined that RYE would benefit from the latest data acquisition technology–its DataSure 4.0 (DS4) system.
“We are consistently looking for ways to improve and expedite our data collection process,” said Alex Marothy, quality control technician/programmer and automation lead at RYE. “Machinists and inspectors were writing down some measurements in log sheets, which then needed to be keyed into spreadsheets on a computer, taking time and possibly leading to errors, as operators may misread gages or write down incorrect values.”
Looking to migrate more toward reliable, seamless digital automation and leverage its data more efficiently throughout its facilities, RYE gave Starrett the nod to initiate DS4 in mid-2020. RYE opted to implement DS4 slowly, starting with a multiple digital indicator application fixture designed for engine inspection.
“DataSure 4.0 (DS4) is the first wireless system we have ever used to collect data on our manufacturing floor via in-process inspection, so we wanted to start small, verify the results and build confidence with our team,” said Todd English, vice president, strategic partnerships and marketing at RYE.
RYE has two 80,000 ft2 (7,432 m2) manufacturing facilities in Mooresville, with the DS4 application running in a 40,000 ft2 (3,716 m2) CNC machining area, transmitting data approximately 200' (61 m). In this area there are at least 15 CNC machines, so noise and signals are omnipresent, but despite the distance and potential ambient interference, DS4 operates smoothly via a remote gateway and an antenna.
Marothy described how the plan to deploy DS4 on the engine fixture system developed. “Previously, engineers used an eight-dial indicator fixture system. The new plan was to utilize eight Starrett W2900-01 electronic digital indicators along with DS4 in order to attribute and organize both values to that specific indicator to simplify data entry and review.”
The results from applying DS4 to the engine fixture were impressive. “Compared to our previous methodology, we substantially improved our data collection accuracy and time, but more importantly, the data was digitally transferred,” said Marothy. “The DS4 system effectively eliminated hand-written gage readings and the transcribing of values into spreadsheets.”
RYE also evaluated DS4 via labor savings by determining how many seconds were saved per measurement. “We found that DS4 saved eight to 10 seconds per measurement, and we are doing several thousand measurements per day, thus saving over seven hours of labor every day,” said Marothy. RYMS’ Production Manager Jennifer LaFever pointed out other systems-related benefits. “We practice continuous improvement at RYE through our Kaizen program, which DS4 contributes to via its ability to help us be faster, more accurate and efficient.”
The DS4 operates on the latest wireless networking technology, which uses short-wave radio frequencies to interconnect cell phones, computers and wireless electronic devices, enabling much faster speed, greater bandwidth and longer range for higher data throughput. The range of DS4 is 10 to 20 times that of any data collection system on the market, according to Starrett, capable of transmitting data literally hundreds of yards, even over a mile, which is ideal in larger manufacturing operations or multiple facilities.
DS4 features higher bit rates and a high-speed connection of less than 50 ms of data travel time and has an ultra-low latency network that enables high data volumes to be processed without delay, even at full capacity. Users of DS4 can use multiple remote gateways and repeaters, which serve as central or distributed points for data collection, versus conventional systems that have only one gateway.
DS4 is built on a secure, proprietary wireless platform. Transported data is encrypted using a multi-layered approach that prevents outside access to the data, whether passive or active. “We keep data on our physical parts in our network under strict security to meet CMMC and ITAR requirements and we are fully confident that DS4 meets the criteria,” said LaFever.
With DS4, a new network topology can be configured to simple or complex situations and distributed remote gateways can also be utilized. Data is transmitted from gages that have either built-in radio transmitters or externally-mounted end nodes to gateways, and is operable on Android or iOS mobile platforms and Windows-based computers, including laptops, desktop PCs, thin client PCs, and servers. DS4 repeater and bridge components can connect directly to PLCs and other high-speed serial automation equipment for real-time data collection or remote machine operation.
DS4 is compatible with all Starrett electronic digital gages, as well as electronic gages of other toolmakers, and works with gages with wireless capability, such as Starrett W798 Calipers, W733.1 Micrometers and W2900 Indicators. It is also compatible via Starrett and other tool manufacturers’ electronic gages by externally mounting Starrett DataSure End Nodes on the gages.
Recognizing the positive impact DS4 made in its manufacturing operation, RYE has bigger plans for data collection. “Ultimately, we want to further leverage DS4 by integrating it into our ERP system for a full end-to-end data solution to help make our organization move more aggressively toward an Industry 4.0 digital factory,” said English. RYMS will also expand DS4 to other industry applications—particularly in aerospace, medical and defense—by broadening the use of DS4 throughout all of its gaging operations in CNC machining.
How will RYE know when DS4 reaches its fullest potential in the organization? “We’ll know it’s working by the wins on and off the racetrack,” said Marothy.