How Advanced Technology is Impacting Machine Tools

How Advanced Technology is Impacting Machine Tools

As part of the larger Industry 4.0 trend, the machine shop of the future will look much different than it does today. The movement is pushing towards the widespread use of advanced automation that relies heavily on connectivity and data collection. Industry 4.0 hopes to have machine shops and other industrial trades follow the lead of the business world in connecting many of its functions to the cloud and Internet. The primary goal of the movement is for factories to operate as a single system rather than individually as parts.

By connecting multiple devices, machine shop operators can produce large amounts of data to provide to the people running the machines. With multiple options available, machine operators can make better choices and run the machines in more of a hands-off fashion. Their involvement will take on more of a higher-level overview rather than someone right in the trenches. Industry analysts predict that machine tools will be an important part of this smart new system. We outline several anticipated changes below.

The Role of Human Workers will Shift

When large-scale changes such as Industry 4.0 arise, it’s common for workers and managements to resist them for fear of losing human jobs. However, this movement was never about making people obsolete. Instead, it changes the primary functions of their jobs from operating machine tools directly to operating them via computer. It will require a significant investment in training these workers to monitor data and make on-the-spot decisions about whether to halt or continue running the machines.

Besides increased automation, the Internet of Things will also make work safer for machine operators. Operating the machines via computer allows them to stand further away and reduces the risk of human error. With so many changes to introduce, machines shop owners should consider introducing one small change at a time until machine operators feel comfortable with the new process.

Better Quality Assurance

Allowing a faulty product to slip through the entire manufacturing process can have disastrous consequences for machine shops and the customers who purchase the products. With Industry 4.0 in place, operators will be able to detect the improper use of a machine much faster. Once detected, the machine can send out an alert to the operator to stop using the machine and correct the error right away. The computerized system also makes it possible to find products that have already moved through a faulty machine and pull them before they leave the building.

Energy Savings and Improved Utilization

With the Internet of Things enabled, factories and smart machine tools can collect and store data on energy usage. Shop owners can then analyze this data to make more cost-effective decisions in the future. Another benefit is the ability to reduce power usage during off-peak times when it’s not needed as much.

Some industry surveys indicate that the machine tools of the typical factory run only 25 to 40 percent of the time. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy for managers to determine the cause of this idle time. Industry 4.0 collects data on such things as feed holds, program stops, and tool changes to better recognize idle time and plan to avoid it on future runs.

Preventive Maintenance Notifications

Machines connected to the Internet of Things will include sensors that can collect data such as how long each machine has run since its last maintenance, the conditions of each of its components, and its overall operating condition. The computer sends this data to a human machine operator who puts in a request for repair or replacement. This proactive approach saves the machine from further deterioration that would only cost more money in the long run.

AAA Tool & Machine is excited to see these upcoming changes. We have become recognized as a valued partner in the metal stamping industry for our strong Tool Design and Build competency. This, combined with our metal stamping capacity, precision machining services, and EDM capability make us a full service provider that can deliver value in your tooling and stamping needs.  Contact us today to see how we can help you work even better.