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Before digital technologies and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) changed the game, manufacturing optimization — especially for smaller manufacturers — tended to proceed pretty ad hoc.

Let’s play a quick game. Over the course of your machining career, how many of these have you heard:

  • “Hey, let’s try…”
  • “Ask Ed what he thinks about…”
  • “Well, this is how we did it at the last shop I worked in…”
  • “The tooling distributor says to run at…”
  • “I found the machining parameters in a web forum.”
  • “This worked last time.”
  • “Ed says we could switch it over to this one and see how it does.”
  • “This is how I’ve always done it, so…”
  • “This is like that one job we ran two years ago. Hey, Ed, remember when we…?”
  • “I had a dream about it last night. We just need to…”

Well, how’d you do? Did you get a bingo?

Every shop has an Ed who’s been there for 30 years and knows everything there is to know about machining. That’s no knock on Ed; he knows what he’s doing because he’s been around awhile.

But…Ed knows what he’s doing because he’s been around awhile. Does he have a firm grasp on the newest machining capabilities? Is he still open to new manufacturing ideas? You can’t beat Ed for experience-driven intuition and innovative capacity. But you can beat him on objectivity.

You can also beat that tooling distributor: he has a vested interest in selling you more tools and supplies, so his business goals are inherently opposed to helping you to maximize tool life.

And trusting your costs and machines’ operational health to random recommendations on a web forum seems a bit risky. We don’t know about you, but we’re not in the habit of accepting rides from strangers.

So, how can you move your shop past the bias (well-intended or otherwise) and the flat-out guesswork that constituted “optimization” in the good ol’ analog days?

You connect your floor and take advantage of the opportunities the IIoT provides you access, standardize, analyze and act upon your machining data.

Here are 10 compelling reasons to connect your production floor.

Let’s look at each in turn, shall we?

1-Machining data is objective.

Facts are facts. Businesses can’t afford to base their decisions on anything less — especially in an industry in which margins are so tight and competition is stiff.

Science fiction tropes aside, machines don’t have opinions, they never have ulterior motives and they continually report the truth. If you listen to them and correctly interpret what they’re telling you, your company can learn and evolve at a formerly unheard-of pace.

2-Your team will have the insight it needs to improve productivity.

Once your machine shop’s data is accessible and flowing in real-time, you could program notifications that alert the team to slowdowns or stoppages in progress, allowing it to immediately deploy resources to correct issues and bring production back to optimum levels.

Or, if the data showed the problem would take a concerted effort to fix, your team would know that it should redeploy to other machining tasks for the remainder of the shift and perhaps tackle the bottleneck outside production hours.

You’d also be able to identify chronic limitations on your shop’s throughput — e.g., cranky machines, time-intensive set-ups, inefficient workflows, and operator errors — so that you could address them with additional investments, revised schedules or work plans, or additional mentoring and training.

3-Improved efficiency leads to better product quality.

As floor procedures become more streamlined and optimized, the production staff will be freed up to engage in fine-detail quality assurance and product improvement. They’ll catch more minor mistakes and correct them for future runs.

What’s that mean for your business? More reliable and/or safer products. A better reputation. More orders. Eventually, growth.

4-Data-driven production efficiency leads to more human creativity.

Machines are wonderful reporters, but they can’t invent or create. Once it’s freed up from some of the daily scut work, your production team will have more time and energy to devote to experimentation and innovation.

That, in turn, will keep your employees feeling engaged and personally invested in the enterprise. They may even begin, on their own, to uncover new business opportunities for the company.

5-You’ll avoid unnecessary costs.

Do you really need to purchase that extra machine to scale up production, or do you just need to re-tool an existing machine, re-work a production flow, or augment your team with a less-expensive cobot?

Do the product’s specs require a reductive process, or could you switch to a less-wasteful additive manufacturing strategy?

Could you keep less stock on hand and feasibly run the job on a just-in-time schedule?

These are questions that your machining and manufacturing data could readily answer for you.

6-You’ll create a “digital thread” for root cause analysis.

Vendor transparency is critically important for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) — especially in high stakes, no-fail industries like aerospace and defense. When a product fails in the field, you need to know why.

If your shop is IIoT-connected, and recording and storing standardized manufacturing data, you — and your vendors and OEM customers — will have the ability to quickly determine the root cause, without undertaking a lengthy incident reconstruction or reverse engineering process.

That, in turn, will allow the whole supply chain to work together to swiftly correct the problem, reassuring the public, your OEM customers and stakeholders alike about your company’s commitment to quality and safety.

7-Your operations will become more sustainable.

Real-time monitoring and data analysis allow your team to predict and prevent tool failures or other mechanical breakdowns. Data-driven repairs can extend machine life, freeing up investment capital for reserve or redeployment.

Downtimes can become calmly scheduled, budgeted occurrences rather than inconveniences that need to be frantically dealt with whenever they crop up.

With maintenance predictability, comes production stability and profit sustainability.

8-You’ll see better returns on investment (ROI).

Data-driven business decisions tend to be surer bets and efficiency-derived savings quickly add up.

9-Your growth strategy will have more clarity.

Manufacturing data analysis has an uncanny way of pointing out new business opportunities. If you know where the market is headed and how you can meet it, you’ll know where and when to invest hard-earned capital.

10-You’ll improve your company’s agility.

Part and parcel with that last point, if you know where the market’s headed, your company will be able to adapt quickly and easily to meet it. You won’t hang on to legacy processes or spend time trying to boost sales for a product that that market perceives as reaching its obsolescence point.

You will spend time testing new ideas, prototyping new products, developing best-practice procedures, and leading in your niche. And that bodes well for your company’s long-term growth.

Your competitors are already investing in IIoT connectivity.

Whether or not you’re already on board with Industry 4.0, they are. If you want to beat them to the punch, we can help.

At TechSolve, we offer you deep, unbiased expertise and assistance as you begin your connectivity journey. We can help you with IIoT consulting, solutions identification, strategy development, and risk mitigation.

Curious to learn more?

Click here, tell us about your needs and ask away; we’re happy to assist!