2016 Manufacturing Outlook: Automation & Digital Integration

By Brian Papke, president of Mazak Corporation

Now is the perfect time for manufacturers of all sizes to develop strategies for incorporating automation and digital integration into their operations. Technologies that enable them to effectively do so are readily available. Production demand is up and predicted to maintain an upward trajectory, especially in the second half of the year. And, unfortunately on the downside, we must face the reality of and deal with a continuously shrinking skilled work force while still maintaining this nation’s manufacturing productivity.   

Industry Week predicts that by the end of 2017, 50 percent of manufacturers will be using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), big data and advanced analytics to facilitate innovative, integrated ways of working on the factory floor. The integration of Multi-Tasking machines, advanced manufacturing cells and robotic automation systems combined with real-time data acquisition offer huge potential to solve the critical challenges our industry faces. Factories can streamline product delivery cycles, improve output through increased machine tool utilization, maximize workforce productivity, enhance part quality consistency and reduce energy costs. But most importantly, manufacturers, through digital integration, can significantly boost their responsiveness to customers and market changes as well as strengthen their competitive advantage. 

Today’s manufacturers are both excited and nervous about incorporating these digital concepts into their operations. They understand the potential for growth and efficiency, and they know such technology is the future of manufacturing. But at the same time, factory management and IT specialists, in particular, are concerned about the security of their data and the risks of connecting more of their business operations and machines to the Internet.

This concern for cybersecurity is why Mazak developed its Mazak SmartBox in collaboration with IT leader Cisco Systems Inc. The Mazak SmartBox is a launch platform for easy and highly secure entrance into the IIoT. It uses MTConnect® technology to connect machines and devices to allow management and shop floor personnel to monitor, analyze and control processes and operations from computers, smartphones and tablets. 

Because it is open and integrates with a wide range of software packages, Mazak SmartBox offers adaptability and flexibility in terms of a user’s application, existing facility software and operational needs. Our strategy of non-exclusivity means that our customers have the freedom to choose any software based on performance levels and capabilities and select the package that best fits their needs and fulfills their particular analytical expectations. 

As is the case with all technology Mazak develops, the Mazak SmartBox was first implemented into Mazak’s own manufacturing operations.  It is now a key component of the Mazak iSMART Factory™ concept in place at Mazak manufacturing facilities in both North America and Japan. 

As a result of Mazak SmartBox and full digital integration, we have experienced a double-digit percentage increase in machine utilization for the monitored machines within our Florence, Kentucky, plant. Our manufacturing personnel are now fully aware of program stops, feed holds, spindle overrides, tool changes and any other reason a machine is idle, which allows us to quickly address problems and keep our machines producing.  

Digital integration via sensors on machines and other equipment also allows us to to perform predictive diagnostics. The technology is also the foundation of our fully automated paint line.

We urge you to visit our Kentucky Mazak iSMART Factory™ to see how digital integration and automation could improve your operations as it has for us. In the meantime, feel free to download our whitepaper Complete Digital Factory Integration and the IIoT to learn more about our productivity gains that you too could achieve in your own manufacturing operations. 

About Mazak Corporation

Mazak Corporation is a leader in the design and manufacture of productive machine tool solutions. Committed to being a partner to customers with innovative technology, its world-class facility in Florence, Kentucky, produces over 100 models of turning centers, Multi-Tasking machines and vertical machining centers, including 5- axis models. Continuously investing in manufacturing technology allows the Kentucky Mazak iSMART Factory™ to be the most advanced and efficient in the industry, providing high-quality and reliable products through its “Production-On-Demand” practice. Mazak maintains eight Technology Centers across North America to provide local hands-on applications, service and sales support to customers. For more information on Mazak's products and solutions, visit www.mazakusa.com or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.