Machine Monitoring Helps Job Shop Become Lean

A Kaizan event led to GEM Manufacturing’s investment in an eNetDNC system for its shop to address inefficiencies with CNC program transfers and file revision control.


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What started out as a 5S toolroom project to bring organization and reduce setup times has blossomed into an organization-wide commitment to becoming lean. 

The first successful 5S toolroom project inspired brothers Kevin and Rob Gottschalk to proceed into a Quality Lab 5S project for their shop, GEM Manufacturing Inc., and then a Kaizan event. That Kaizan event led to GEM Manufacturing’s investment in January 2010 for an eNetDNC system for its shop to address inefficiencies with CNC program transfers and file revision control. eNet’s file revision control tools, such as the Smart File Compare feature for edited/uploaded programs, ensure that GEM’s master programs will never be lost or even edited without management approval. Using eNet also allowed operators to call and send programs quickly, right from the machine control. 

GEM Manufacturing, opened in 2006 in Bristol, Wisconsin, offers contract prototyping, machining, finishing and assembly for some of the largest agriculture, oil and gas, and hydraulic OEMs. The company manufactures about 2,000 different parts annually with runs ranging from 5 to 50,000 pieces. By May 2011, they opened a second facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to be able to keep pace with customer demand. GEM Mfg. is ISO 9001:2008 certified and has more than 50 machines between its two locations.

Previously, GEM relied on a time consuming process of having to remotely cue programs from a CAM system, which involved the operators having to leave their machines to cue programs from a workstation computer. This cumbersome process came to a head when the CAM systems were unable to transfer programs to GEM’s newer Mazak, Makino and Haas machine tools. The eNetDNC system worked flawlessly for all of its machines and control types, according to the brothers.

Encouraged by the fact that these lean tools were allowing GEM to improve costs, quality and delivery times for their customers, the company appointed an in-house coordinator of continuous improvement in 2011. Their organizational commitment to being good manufacturing practice (GMP) compliant and applying lean and Six Sigma techniques throughout led directly to the company winning a Small Business of the Year award from KABA in 2011. 

Motivated to keep the lean momentum going, the Gottschalk brothers attended IMTS 2012 to learn about eNet’s real-time machine monitoring. They were interested in streamlining the data captured on the floor and gaining insights into its machine utilization, so in early 2014, they added eNet’s Machine Monitoring and Data Collection program. 

According to owner Rob Gottschalk, “We found eNet to be extremely customer focused, and since its hardware is made in the USA, the system is rock solid, so the company doesn’t have to charge its customers yearly maintenance fees. Since it also provides free software and hardware updates and phone support, choosing eNet for machine monitoring and data collection was a no-brainer for us.”

Operator log-ins, machine status, cycle times and preventive maintenance information can be monitored in real-time and stored for export into Excel or Access for further analysis. When a machine is down, the operator can be required to put in a code corresponding to a predetermined list of reasons. An alert can then be sent to specific distribution lists via email or text message. 

If the code for “out of material” is entered, a material handler can be alerted. If the code for “tool breakage” is entered, tool crib can be notified. Down codes and notification distribution can be customized according to each customer’s application. Real-time monitoring also tracks how often a machine is operating during a shift, holding operators accountable for their production rates. By requiring operators to log in to the machine, management can more accurately track labor costs for a given part number or machine cycle.

Software easily interfaces with existing networking systems and runs on all versions of Microsoft Windows. Front office personnel and floor management can access a dashboard that provides a snapshot of the shop floor, including machine status and current cycle time. 

The brothers are still satisfied with that decision to trust in this machine monitoring system. GEM Mfg. has even rolled out an employee incentive program tied to machine cycle-on percent/chip cutting time, based on the data they collect through eNet.   

For more information from GEM Manufacturing, call 262-857-7274 or visit gem-mfg.com.  


 

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