It’s no secret that the ability to find workers to staff the floor of manufacturers, fabrication shops and other facilities has become much more complex over the last few years. Almost all businesses are experiencing the same fundamental staffing issue, from corner coffee shops to giant tech companies. The reasons for this continue to be discussed on news talk shows, in newspapers and in magazines, with opinions that range from involving politics to facing current pandemic realities.
Regardless of the reasons, unless businesses learn to adapt and adjust, the problem will persist until the labor issues are resolved. Nobody can say with any certainty when that will happen. HE&M Saw has invested a great deal in technology and in integrating new components and improving existing components and systems in its product line. This effort redefines how some customers increase or even exist in their marketplace.
Increasingly, customers reach out to HE&M engineers to solve production woes caused by the labor shortage. Technology has long been blamed for replacing employees. However, now technology is responsible for filling the faltering supply chain left by the labor gap. As a result, companies are investing more than ever in automated equipment and integrated systems that utilize technological advancements. And even more innovations are on the horizon. For example, the new network architecture that connects machinery in a meaningful way is constantly improving HE&M’s day-to-day processes.
Connectivity is a relatively new buzzword in manufacturing. However, the information generated through connectivity streamlines processes and makes decision-making more proactive and less reactionary. This is assuming it is provided in a format that can be understood and managed correctly. With advances in the ability to obtain real-time information, the possibilities for the amount of data that can be obtained to improve the way businesses operator could be limitless.
At HE&M, the new Smart Saw control with MTConnect is a newly improved platform that leads the way for bandsawing. In addition, the software associated with Smart Saw is fully compatible with the latest MTConnect model. MTConnect is the non-proprietary manufacturing technical standard, adopted and supported by ANSI, designed to allow data exchange between software applications and equipment on the shop floor.
MTConnect allows all machine tools to speak a common language, allowing for more secure and efficient communication. The ability to obtain real-time data on machine performance also aids in determining operator performance and allows management to oversee what is happening with the machine and its operation.
Since around 2007, the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) has driven and funded the effort to develop and support implementation of digitally connecting various machine types and brands.
According to the AMT website, “applications that consume MTConnect data provide more efficient operations, improved production optimization and increased productivity.” The first release was 11 years ago and is currently used on more than 50,000 devices in more than 50 countries.
MTConnect is a free, open-source domain model for manufacturing equipment, providing a standard to drive analytics, describing the information that can be taken from equipment on the shop floor and making it understandable so that the data can be used for making decisions. MTConnect does not provide analytics; instead, it provides a platform to drive or enable analytics.
Adaptors are required for full implementation, as these adaptors translate the device language specific to that piece of equipment to MTConnect. The adaptors are provided by the device builder, control manufacturer or third parties. Many well-known machine tool manufacturers offer full or partial MTConnect support from their factory or from third-party adaptor developers. A partial list of these manufacturers is available on the AMT website.
HE&M has invested in newer technology and integrated these advancements into controls and systems. Sensors and software help to keep track of maintenance items and diagnose issues faster, saving and optimizing labor resources. Data available on Smart Saw touchscreens, such as that provided by the PLC Input Signals Monitor, help operators or maintenance personnel determine the current status on a number of inputs with a user interface design that is easy to read. This provides feedback that otherwise could take hours to diagnose.
Other diagnostic tools, such as the safety signals monitor, displays safety sensors on a single screen to identify issues that can be resolved quickly when a saw is paused due to a safety switch or safety sensor issue, saving valuable time in resuming a sawing operation by providing the ability to return to the sawing cycle much quicker.
The I/O link signals monitor also displays essential diagnostic information, providing real-time feedback on the current status of various sensors. Viewing the alarm history could indicate repeating issues, which might indicate an ongoing maintenance problem that needs attention. These are just a few examples of integrated diagnostic tools in the Smart Saw control.
The ability to preprogram jobs, complete with a material list that automatically sets the cutting parameters on the saw and saves the job for future use, is also a function contained in the Smart Saw control. Customers can add jobs as needed with the editable programs. This is a huge savings on the operator’s time and works around their limited abilities.
HE&M has invested heavily in material throughput, designing and manufacturing various levels of material handling components and controls to meet customers’ requirements. As a result, time- and labor-saving components have a fast return on investment when selected to match customer needs.
Moving material in, processing it and moving it out of the facility can create major bottlenecks in many operations. Therefore, components must be carefully selected to offer the most efficient solution to each situation. Examples of these solutions include utilizing static storage arms to store material near the saw. Integrating powered transfer systems that move material onto powered roller tables that transport material to the saw, position it and move it out after the cut is another example of a bottleneck-reducing component. Moving material efficiently is critical to saving time, labor and, ultimately, money.
Because HE&M Saw is founded in sound engineering practices, the ability to design systems that integrate more seamlessly into a customer’s location, process and budget can result in an entire sawing system, which includes saws and the equipment to handle the material before and after the cut.
This provides the most efficient outcome possible because design, manufacturing, installation and service after the sale are available from HE&M’s “one-stop shop,” where there are no oceans between the company and North American customers. HE&M products have historically been based on this engineered approach. This mindset was the foundation first cemented by company founder, Gerald Harris, and is being continued by the second and third generations of the Harris family.
That philosophy holds true for material handling products, as well. Consideration of material handling components should be integral to any sawing process.