Tour Showcases Plant-Wide Connectivity

Mazak’s North American headquarters, located in Florence, Kentucky, has been manufacturing multitasking, five-axis, turning and milling machines since 1974 and was recently reimagined as a Mazak iSMART Factory concept.

I recently had the opportunity to tour Mazak Corporation’s North American headquarters, located in Florence, Kentucky. This was my first experience seeing such a large manufacturing facility, and I was impressed by the operations and even somewhat awed by the size of some of the machines.

The machine tool builder has been manufacturing multitasking, five-axis, turning and milling machines since 1974, and was recently reimagined as a Mazak iSMART Factory concept as a path forward for the company. About 500 people work at this location.

As we walked through the facility on a guided tour, it was clear to me how varied and diverse manufacturing can be. Each section is one of the 16 expansions the factory has undergone through the years.

The assortment of machines of varying sizes and functionality grabbed my attention first. We passed by a Versatech five-axis with a 10 meter table, “one of the largest tables Mazak has built,” says Jared Leick, the product specialist for the Cybertec division.

Being Mazak iSMART equipped, the factory’s MTConnect open communications protocol monitors and harvests data. Mr. Leick showed us a SmartBox connected to another machine. “It adds another level of security beyond a firewall,” he says, “and we’re working with a university on an algorithm to show when things will go wrong.”

And along with the vast workforce, there are also automated cells that are “very flexible,” according to Mr. Leick, and suited for “small batches of parts.” This is a strategy geared toward plant-wide connectivity, with the goal of optimizing production flow.

Each visit to a facility like this brings new learning opportunities for me. The breadth of operations at Mazak are remarkable, and it will be even more interesting now for me to see their machines in operation in shops around the country.