Manufacturing companies always focus on downtime to improve processes and increase efficiency in a facility. There are many different categories of downtime, including downtime from jams, breakdowns, operator errors, and more.
Machine setup is one area where downtime is manageable and predictable. It’s critical to efficient business processes and producing profitable parts with the least amount of time and resources. And in discrete industries like CNC machining, it can make all the difference.
Below, we’ll explore how you can use data to reduce setup times and increase uptime.
Machine setup should be a meticulously planned and standardized procedure. The practices and order of tasks should be measured and documented so that all tasks are easily understood. This is essential for high-mix, low-volume producers for whom an entire job for a critical customer may consist of a single part.
While each company will have its own system, there are common steps that should be performed to ensure jobs are done correctly and are repeatable from job to job and operator to operator. Not all operators possess the same skillset, so standard work instructions are needed.
Essential steps for CNC setup include:
For high-mix, low-volume manufacturers such as job shops and contract manufacturers, one of the biggest contributors to downtime is setup time. In these types of environments, most of the products produced require machine operators to perform a unique setup process to ensure that equipment is prepared for each specific job.
If any element of the setup process is done incorrectly, it can result in high scrap rates, low yield, poor product quality, and missed orders. Understandably, operators take the setup process very seriously.
But achieving the required level of precision and attention to detail also takes considerable time, even more so if the company has not established crystal clear communication between departments or struggles with workforce turnover. For companies with a large number of jobs, this time can add up in a big way.
Modern CNC machining is a highly accurate and reliable way to produce precision parts. However, several variables must be considered to ensure the best results.
These variables include:
Taking these variables into account and implementing best practices for setup times provides several benefits:
Setup time begins between the end of the previous part or job and the beginning of the first good part of the next part or job.
To reduce CNC machine setup time:
The first and most important step in optimizing setup processes is to have an accurate measure of how long each setup is taking.
For manufacturers that don’t have technology in place to accurately track their setup times, this is much easier said than done. Supervisors are often relying on such rudimentary methods as timing their operators with a stopwatch or asking operators to self-report their setup times, adding more tasks to an already complex process. This is clearly inefficient and inaccurate.
With MachineMetrics, manufacturers can accurately track exactly how long each setup takes and use real-time reporting tools to quickly pinpoint which setups are running inefficiently and identify if those setups have any commonalities - is it always the same machine, the same operator, or the same job type? - in order to address the problems. Additionally, MachineMetrics customers use these tools to identify which setups are running most efficiently so they can establish best practices that can be applied more broadly.
Machine operators interact with MachineMetrics through the Operator Dashboard via devices throughout the shop floor. To capture accurate setup times, the machine operator selects "Start In Setup" at the beginning of each new job. Once the setup process has been completed, the operator simply selects "Start Production."
Throughout the Setup process, the Operator Dashboard provides machine operators with clear visual cues and the ability to call for assistance if required.
Using MachineMetrics' reporting capabilities, supervisors can easily compare Actual Setup times to the Expected Setups. Users have the ability to slice the data by a number of factors - such as machine, shift, job, or operator - to detect commonalities.
MachineMetrics provides a quick view of Setup performance that can be filtered by machine, job, or operator in order to quickly identify areas that require more attention.
To get a better sense of what these high-mix, low-volume manufacturers are up against, let’s look at an example from a customer that was able to use MachineMetrics to dramatically improve their setup processes.
General Grind & Machine produces quality precision parts for a number of industries including agriculture, construction, and heavy equipment. With a diverse range of capabilities to meet their equally diverse customers’ needs, General Grind was conducting 126 setups on 20 different machines during just one month’s setup period.
Company leadership knew they could do better and embarked on a continuous improvement program to increase overall equipment effectiveness. They recognized that this would improve throughput, allowing them to continue their growth trajectory and boost their levels of customer service. Ultimately, the goal was to gain complete control over their machine and operational data to reduce downtime, identify production bottlenecks, and improve reaction time to factory floor issues.
Using MachineMetrics, General Grind was able to accurately measure their setups, which accounted for a total of nearly 212 hours of non-production time in just one setup period. Moreover, their actual setup times were taking an average of 35 minutes more than their standard expected time-per-setup. When you add that up, the setup overage was costing General Grind nearly 74 extra hours of valuable production time than they had planned against.
Armed with accurate data and visibility into which setups required their attention, General Grind’s production team now meets every week to review the MachineMetrics reports and uses that time to learn best practices from top performers.
Additionally, the company has also implemented a bold new setup strategy that they expect to pay dividends:
“We’ve also established what we call the pit crew. This involved putting together a team that's exceptionally good at doing different setups. They have a daily schedule that details what's going to be set up and roughly when, so they have a better idea of exactly what to expect. They can get everything prepared, complete the setup, leave, and everything starts running smoothly. We expect this to further reduce our setup times.”
— Blake Bieri, COO of General Grind & Machine
All told, since implementing MachineMetrics, General Grind & Machine has gained an additional 6,900 hours of machine capacity and increased machine utilization by 100%.
MachineMetrics gives manufacturers the tools they need to get a clear view of what is happening on their shop floor and enables them to pinpoint the areas in need of attention.
The benefits of accurate data and insights from MachineMetrics cannot be overstated:
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