Squeezing every minute of spindle utilization out of each machine tool on the shop floor is essential for profitability. When purchasing new equipment, shop owners are going to seriously consider any feature that gives them the opportunity to slice downtime before they sign the order.
In our last post, we outlined five ways Athena, the first voice-operated digital assistant specifically designed for manufacturing, minimizes daily disruptions in the machine shop or even keeps them from happening in the first place. Since Athena makes almost every operation easier and faster every day, there are plenty of additional examples for this second article in the series. The bottom line: machines tools that offer buyers the Athena Advantage can minimize headaches and maximize profitability for machine shops.
Making Preventive Maintenance Manageable
Problem: “My operators just plain hate to do preventive maintenance and look for every opportunity to skip it. In the short term it might make sense to use the time for production. But when a machine breaks down due to lack of regular upkeep, even more valuable time is lost. And the repair bills are really cutting into the bottom line.”
Solution: Athena makes preventive maintenance less of a chore by guiding operators through the process in an easy-to-understand method. Up-to-date maintenance information can be stored in Athena for immediate access. There’s no time wasted looking for lost operator manuals or the proper maintenance procedure. In addition, customized checklists can be created and programmed to alert operators at incremental times throughout the year so that tasks won’t ever be forgotten again.
Turning Complex Processes Routine
Problem: “We’re a high mix, small volume shop. We’re constantly having to run through machine setups when the jobs are finished, and we train our operators to handle that. And when we’re forced to put rookies on the job, they can get totally lost. Then one of the more skilled workers has to take time to bail them out. We need some kind of system that standardizes our processes, and then that information needs to be readily accessible at every machine tool on the floor.”
Solution: Athena can help by providing a variety of information for any job setup. Up-to-date digitized job jackets, part drawings, fixture drawings and any supplemental notes about the program can be accessed by the operator simply asking for it. It is important to note that this information does not consist of generic, broad-stroke prompts. Videos on how to set your tool offsets with the touch setter or where to position the workholding can be accessed as well. All of this information can be customized and tailored by the end-user to match a shop’s particular needs.
Building Better Communication Channels
Problem: “Our supervisors and operators are supposed to touch base with each other on a regular basis, but things still fall through the cracks and don’t get done. We’ve tried voicemail, paper notes and verbal reminders between shifts. But the results are often vague, misunderstood, lost or forgotten before any action is actually taken.”
Solution: Communication is nothing more than a fast and accurate transfer of information. The problem is the message degrades quickly if a trustworthy method is not employed. There’s no guesswork when Athena acts as a communication facilitator. Operators can record messages for the next shift’s operator, send reports to other departments via email and even capture a screenshot to illustrate their point. Everyone sees the same message from the same source, making it easier to follow through.
Reducing Service Calls with Machine Recovery Prompts
Problem: “Our service bills are skyrocketing. Not to mention the downtime. It’s not big things, but a bunch of little things. We need something like a First Aid Kit for machine tools. A way that the operators themselves could take simple steps to put the machine back in operation without picking up the phone.”
Solution: What does that alarm number mean? Do you know what to do if the chip augers or chip conveyor get jammed while in operation? Athena can help identify alarms and provide a checklist that instructs you where to look to isolate the problem and give guidance on recovery procedures so that you can continue operations instead of making a service call. This can be applied to any recovery function your machine may have built-in, such as a tool changer or pallet changer.
Putting Data to Work
Problem: “We can download a lot of data from our machine tools, but to be honest, we don’t do much with it. I know there must be some practical applications, but we’re just too busy to try and figure out what exactly the data is trying to tell us.”
Solution: OEMs can create a path from sensors on the machine tool to Athena. Once the connection is made, they can route the information to trigger alerts in certain places, like Athena’s Alarm page. The page allows the operator to filter or sort the alarm by level of severity and more. For example, data from a sensor placed on a spindle may contain values that show vibration, heat and noise. The data might also show that maintenance is required. With this knowledge, the operator can take the proper preventive action so production can continue without a failure.
Reaping the Benefits of Athena’s Voice-Operated Digital Technology
Shop operators are urgently seeking ways to speed up production, reduce downtime and maximize output from a limited labor pool. Adding Athena to your equipment line will go a long way in helping them achieve those goals. When you’re ready to learn more, contact us so we can get the ball rolling.