The Internet of Things (IoT) is not a fad. Research provider BI Intelligence predicts the number of IoT devices connected to the Internet will more than triple by 2020, from 10 billion to 34 billion. Networking computers, devices and machines to collect and share data is transforming many industries, including manufacturing where it can help lower operating costs, decrease machine downtime and increase overall productivity. To realize the full benefits, however, manufacturers must view the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) like Lean Manufacturing – a long term initiative that creates an avenue for continual improvement and innovation.
Our SMOOTH TECHNOLOGY platform does just that. As an ever-expanding umbrella of solutions and advanced technology functions, it creates a structure for digital factory integration and brings new and innovative capabilities to manufacturers. From programming and metal removal to automation and data collection, this all-encompassing platform merges all the tools necessary to stay competitive, achieve goals and find new ways to grow.
For example, our MAZATROL Smooth CNCs make it easy to get started down the road to IIoT. These powerful controls allow shops to easily program many different applications at the machine to dramatically increase the performance of our machines. These applications include Variable Acceleration Control that calculates optimal acceleration for a combination of axes and the Intelligent Pocket Milling function that engages a high-efficiency toolpath when milling part cavities. The controls even have an Orbit Machining function that allows a machining center with a C-axis to turn complex features on parts.
Our family of MAZATROL Smooth CNCs includes the MAZATROL SmoothX, SmoothG and the new MAZATROL SmoothC. They are all MTConnect® ready to enable equipment connectivity and the use of various software packages that make it possible to monitor and manage machines and equipment from anywhere and at any time. Operators can use data captured by the machine to easily spot and correct errors, and they can quickly validate cycle times — all of which make a shop more productive and efficient.
One of the biggest concerns for shops considering equipment connectivity is cyber security. Almost every day, we read about a new security breach or “hack” affecting businesses worldwide. As part of SMOOTH TECHNOLOGY, our Mazak SmartBox is a scalable, end-to-end solution that connects your manufacturing equipment – machines, software and other devices – to your network and allows the free flow of information to management systems via MTConnect. It’s an easy and secure way for integration into the IIoT.
SmartBox technology is also the cornerstone of our Kentucky Mazak iSMART Factory™ where it connects full simultaneous 5-axis, Multi-Tasking and DONE IN ONE® machining technologies, advanced automation and other innovative machining systems – even a fully automated paint line that completely changes over from one color to the next – into our ERP system. Now, everyone across our shop floor, as well as management has access to reports and data indicating what is happening with these systems in real time. We can quickly see program stops, feed holds, spindle overrides, tool changes and other reasons why a machine is idle, which, of course, allows us to identify and easily fix problems and continuously improve overall utilization.
Since implementation in 2014, the results have been phenomenal. We experienced a six percent increase in utilization as soon as we produced our first reports on the shop floor simply due to operators being aware of how their time management affected machine utilization. And that was just the beginning. Using the reports, we were able to reach double-digit percentage improvements in machine utilization for the monitored machines, which ultimately led to our reducing operator overtime by 100 hours per month and bringing 400 hours per month of previously outsourced work back in house.
One of the biggest advantages we see in the future is predictive technology to perform predictive diagnostics through monitoring sensor packages on machines and other equipment. Instead of having to reconfigure an entire system’s network software as was required for incorporating such sensors in the past, we use predictive diagnostics through a SmartBox, regardless of machine type, model or age.
While these tangible benefits have made a real difference in our business, they just whet our appetite for even more highly advanced innovations digital integration can bring. For example, earlier this year, we announced a new smart automation system developed in collaboration with Muratec, a supplier of automated material handling systems.
Called the MAZATEC SMS (Smart Manufacturing System), it combines our machining, automation and Smart technologies with Muratec’s automated high-density storage and retrieval system to provide unmanned, lights-out manufacturing and high output, as well as IIoT connectivity. This is exactly the type of innovation that highlights why it is so important for shops to establish an entry point into IIoT sooner, rather than later.
These are exciting times to be in manufacturing, and IIoT connectivity opens so many doors to new combinations of processes and technologies that will improve manufacturing performance. We invite you to visit us at our Kentucky iSmart factory to learn more and see firsthand how we’re using and continuing to benefit and improve from IIoT in our operations.