Benefits of a Networked Plant

Mazak doesn’t just talk about the benefits of networking machine tools with MTConnect. At its 536,000ft2 plant in Florence, Ky., the company is proving that connectivity is providing manufacturing’s first major shift in the 21st Century.

No more will the disconnected manufacturing environment be competitive. No longer can manufacturers invest in islands of manufacturing technology that are rooted in in the past. These methods have run their course. Today’s manufacturing environment, regardless of the shop – job shop, production shop, CNC shop, or PLC-based shop – is now an MTConnect environment. The industrial Internet – in the form of machine-to-management communications – is proven productive by Mazak monitoring via MERLIN and the MTConnect protocol.

Earlier this year, Ben Schawe, vice president of manufacturing, presented the results of the implementation of an MTConnect networked plant using MERLIN, a real-time machine monitoring and manufacturing execution systems (MES) solution. The results are nothing short of stunning and a clarion call to manufacturers, globally. With a 17% increase in plant-wide productivity, Mazak has demonstrated the validity of the MTConnect networked plant.

To achieve these results, Mazak created an evaluation plan, then formed an inclusive evaluation team comprised of operators, supervisors, manufacturing engineers, maintenance personnel, and executives with MTConnect expertise. Schawe says the team then generated evaluation criteria that included weighted evaluations and a consensus-based decision methodology. Then, it completed due diligence of seven companies’ offerings, conducted client reference checks, and two or more face-to-face technology assessments of each contender. In the end, the technology advisory group’s consensus was that MERLIN provided the package best suited to Mazak’s current and future requirements.

Implementation phases

Mazak’s implementation of MERLIN was conducted in several phases. First came installation, included the networking of 15 machines. Picked because the area was stable given Mazak’s $30 million capital investment in a100,000ft2 plant expansion, the team immediately installed 60″ monitors on the shop floor to provide visibility of MERLIN, giving operators a real-time understanding of the impacts of their workflows.

“We observed a 6% increase in production as soon as we installed MERLIN and the monitors as operators could immediately correlate the impact of their activities in real time,” Schawe explains.

The Mazak production team found that MERLIN lived up to its stated capabilities to measure, understand, and manage its manufacturing processes objectively. The application enabled the Mazak team to understand root causes for idle time. Mazak engineers quickly measured operator awareness of workflows, spare tooling requirements, the addition of a loading station operator to keep a system operating, modifications to part programs to remove unnecessary M00s and M01s, and the differences between two foundry suppliers, allowing those factories to be modified. In addition, operator training issue identification and mitigation addressed the incorrect use of feed hold to effect tool servicing, program stop reductions, and the incorrect use of E-stops to generate faster responses from maintenance.

Significantly, utilization of equipment improved on all three shifts, and all three shifts’ performance normalized at close to 80%. Before MERLIN, each shift’s performance was inconsistent, below 64%, and erratic.

Benefits realized

Financial benefits Mazak generated from MERLIN included the reduction of 100 hours of operator overtime per month and the repatriation, in-house, of 400 hours of work per month that was contracted out to third parties.

Additionally, Schawe explains that Mazak was able to generate a spindle and head stock unit test to verify proper bearing loads, temperatures, rpm, and vibration analyses during the break-in cycle. In result, the MTConnect-enabled machines can monitor parameters, tolerances, machine states, and conditions during the manufacturing envelope.

MERLIN also made the information accessible to anyone on the corporate network. Consequently, metrics of parameters, tolerances, how to make more production, and how to make more profit were generated in a way that enabled the whole team to get on the same proverbial page, regardless of their position in the company or location on the globe.

“The machines’ objective voices were telling us how to convert 17% or more hidden capacity within our world class plant…that’s impressive,” Schawe says.

The benefits of real-time monitoring of production at Mazak demonstrated that the Internet of Everything in manufacturing is the MTConnect networked machines. MERLIN is a viable MTConnect methodology to network any machine into management information systems (MIS) and thereby measure and manage the manufacturing device and the manufacturer’s processes. It’s important to link the real-time data collection measurement to the operator, and it is important to educate the operators on the impact of their workflows.

More than anything, the measurement of workflows in a visible way enables the self-management of production capacity. Monitoring equipment utilization is a more productive and profitable way to run a plant.

Memex Automation Inc.
IMTS 2014 booth # E-3368

Mazak Corp.
IMTS 2014 booth #S-8300

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