Take Your Manufacturing Business to the Next Level – Ingrain Technology

Take Your Manufacturing Business to the Next Level is a five-part blog series:

  1. Introduction and Opening Moves
  2. Commit to Post and Go
  3. Ingrain Technology
  4. Use Training as a Tool
  5. Press Your Advantages and Conclusion

Part Three: Ingrain Technology

Celebrate your new employees.

We are starting to see a lot more millennials in positions of responsibility on the shop floor. These are young men and women who grew up ingrained in technology. If you put advanced manufacturing technology in their hands, they will quickly figure out how to use it and find even better things to do with it.

“I am fluent in Mastercam, but every semester, a student will teach me something new. They’re so computer literate—it’s amazing what the kids can do.”

—David Fox, Instructor, Butler Tech, Colerain Township, Ohio

To take the best advantage of this burgeoning workforce, we need to ingrain our manufacturing businesses in the best available technologies. This is not something to leave to chance. You need to establish plans, set goals, and review results. You can also enlist your Mastercam Reseller and other trusted advisors who have wide-ranging experiences that you can tap into to help you formulate your plans and review your results.

Put process improvement in your budget cycle.

If you are serious about it, then you need to budget for it, or it isn’t going to happen. A Mastercam customer once challenged his Reseller to show him why he should be paying an annual fee for his Mastercam license. After spending some time at the plant and reviewing how the machinists were using the software, the Reseller reported back to the owner that there were some training issues that needed to be resolved. The owner gave the Reseller one week to fix them. The result? The owner was so impressed with the immediate productivity improvements in the shop that he budgeted to have an Application Engineer from the Reseller come in every quarter to target further improvements.

The AE returns to this company once a quarter to assess progress that has been made, recommend refinements that can be implemented to the current objectives, and work with the team to select additional process improvement goals for the coming quarter. The process itself, which has made important contributions to the company’s bottom line, has been ongoing for more than three years at the time of this writing.

Make a leap with turnkey technology.

Sometimes the process improvement team will determine that major leaps in manufacturing productivity can be achieved by implementing specialized cells for manufacturing selected families of parts. These systems tend to be tightly integrated to streamline programming, setup, in-process inspection, and allow for multiaxis operation for long sequences of unattended single set-up manufacturing.

Some manufacturers will assign the task of getting these systems up and running to one of their best engineers. There are two potential problems with this approach to consider. First, much of that engineer’s valuable expertise will be lost to the company while he is immersed in this project. Second, there may also be tremendous opportunity costs as the system lags behind its full potential for many months, sometimes years, before it is fully optimized.

Another approach is to have the primary suppliers organize a multidiscipline team comprised of the representatives from the machine builder, cutting tool supplier, and CAM software developer to install a work cell that will operate at near peak productivity soon after it is installed. Mastercam representatives have engaged in many of these projects. They result in highly efficient processes in every respect, with immediate step increases in manufacturing efficiency and profitability.

Break outdated habits holding you back.

Many people, once they learn how to do something, tend to do it the same way repeatedly, year after year, because time is limited while the things waiting to be done are not. For example, taking time today to learn how to use a roughing toolpath incorporating Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion technology (or other CAM vendors solutions for constant chip load machining) might cost the learner a couple hours today. However, Mastercam users who invest that time learn some things with perpetual value.

Using these toolpaths is easy and the time it takes to learn them is returned many times over in terms of faster programming, high material removal rates, and longer tool life.

If you are using the current version of Mastercam (even one of the last few versions), this tool is already available to you. People who invest just a little time to learn about it are having those wonderful “a- ha” moments when they realize how much better they can do.

For most Mastercam users, there are a great many “a-ha” (or at least mini “a-ha”) experiences waiting for them when they begin to explore some of the enhanced capabilities that have been added to the product over the last several versions. If every programmer or programmer/machinist learns to use just one of these capabilities a month, these personal initiatives can amount to a substantial manufacturing process improvement program all by themselves.

The next installment in this blog series will explore ways you can use training as a tool. If you don’t want to wait to take your manufacturing business to the next level, you can download a free white paper that overviews the content of this series as a manufacturing action plan here: Ignite Your Manufacturing.

This blog series was written in partnership with QTE Manufacturing Solutions, a Mastercam Reseller providing CAD/CAM solutions in St. Louis, Kansas City, Wichita, Springfield, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Hannibal, Quincy, St. Charles, Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cookeville, Little Rock, Bentonville, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and most other locations in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.