So many things in our daily lives have become digital. Each day, a new world of opportunity awaits at the press of a button. Thanks to digital assistance from the phones in our pockets, we can make a purchase, get information, take a photo and more. Digital technology gives us the freedom to move confidently around the world, even if we do not speak the same language, know the local directions or use the same currency.
The positive effects of digital technology are as evident in a coffee shop as they are on a fabrication shop floor. Technology designed to improve our world can be found at the heart of software used for the sheet metal industry, as well. The latest manufacturing software from companies like TRUMPF has the capability to integrate with the production workflow and provide real-time feedback from the machinery.
Well-designed software is not just about automating a single process or machine, these steps are just the first in the sheet metal technological journey. The latest software platforms, such as TRUMPF’s Oseon, were created to enable every customer to build the future of production and become a smart factory.
The thought of building a smart factory might seem daunting at first, but implementing software designed to create a production environment for the future can be completed in an easy step-by-step process. Platforms like Oseon help those just getting started take their first step into Industry 4.0 and guide them as they move forward. Scalable software reduces the initial investment and allows for a more manageable growth over time. It gives manufacturers the ability to change and learn while they grow and figure out the potential gains that can be achieved.
For most manufacturers, the first step in implementing software is using it to program manufacturing equipment. Modern machines often require programming to take full advantage of the advanced capabilities of today’s punch or laser technology. One piece of equipment that is often overlooked in this process is the press brake.
Many manufacturers still rely on bending machine operators to manage their workflow on the shop floor and create programs for each job that comes to their station. A manual process like this can work, but there are some downsides. Every minute a press brake isn’t operating is lost efficiency.
Fortunately, today’s programming software is so advanced that going from a 2-D or 3-D model to a finished bending program only takes a couple of seconds. Implementing software helps improve parts per hour out of the press brake. It also reduces scrap because every part is validated with the tools, bend sequence and back gauging ahead of time. Press brake software is just one possible first step manufacturers can take.
What’s the problem?
Modern production control software has the capability to fix the most common problems in any production environment. It can help answer the questions: Which nested job must be run first on the machine? How can the operator sort the parts from an already cut nest and which operation(s) are the sorted parts going to next? Where are the various materials and resources located within the shop and in what quantities? How can scrapped parts and missing parts be managed to produce re-work as quickly and efficiently as possible? These are some of the big questions being asked by sheet metal manufacturers that are easily answered with TRUMPF software solutions.
Another good example is the paper problem. Many manufacturers still use paper, and this can result in thousands of sheets needed to provide the right information. The issue is not just clutter and potential delays from lost or misplaced documents; paper creates another problem when updates or changes are made to production. Production updates require more printing, creating additional waste and confusion.
Using this system, when information is updated, someone must print new documents, locate the old “traveler,” and replace it. In the worst-case scenario, the paper never makes it to the right source, with the best case being a perfect exchange of old and new papers. Either way, the extra effort means losing time and money and producing material waste that could be saved by using software.
Technology to the rescue
As a result of its connectivity with machines, advanced software can prepare a production plan with the right programs in the right sequence – no paper required. The next steps are also managed digitally; operators can see how best to remove parts from a nest and sort them according to different criteria.
Whether by customers, assembly or next operation, parts are sorted in whatever way works best for the next stage in the process. The software can also track scrap parts and automatically make changes to nesting requirements, so the affected parts become ready for re-work.
Hide and seek
Most shops often face another challenge – lost time looking for parts. Imagine if the time spent finding the parts on the shopfloor could be recaptured and put to better use. To improve efficiency, fabricators may find themselves asking “How much time is needed to get the right part to the right workplace in time for the next process?”
How can technology help customers from wasting time playing hide and seek with parts? In the case of TRUMPF’s solution, each machine reports to Oseon when a part is ready for the next operation and the software monitors each machine.
The software knows when the workplace is available to receive the next job and coordinates the part movement. Through Oseon’s Logistic Manual Transport module, a command is created for the material handler to move resources from one workplace to another. By adding automation, such as a storage system and automated guided vehicle (AGV), these movements are handled automatically, without “hide and seek” or physical input.
Moving toward the future
Think about how much time is spent reporting data from one software to another. For example, look at order information that must be imported from an ERP/MRP system. Wouldn’t it be easier if that data flowed from one software to another automatically?
There are already standard interfaces to communicate with and provide feedback to commonly used order management software. Even if a smaller job shop uses spreadsheets to register orders rather than a system mentioned above, smart software can import and manage this order data, as well.
Tomorrow’s smart factory may look different from what we see today, and the digital journey can vary from one manufacturer to the next. The important thing is taking a first step, even just a small one, into the sheet metal shop of the future.