Note to CNC machine shop owners: Texting is not just for teenagers
Randy Pearson, a longtime veteran of the machine tool industry, is the Siemens sales support manager for U.S. dealers and OEMs. His special interest is training on CNC machine tools, which he does through various seminars and classes the company conducts at schools, on-site at shops, and at Siemens training facilities around the U.S.
One of his recent lessons involved technology that can call, text or e-mail machine shop owners with alarm alerts. While users of larger systems have enjoyed this technology for a while, systems are now available for small machine shops that run unattended cycles over the weekend and on holidays, he says.
When you would setup your machines for unattended operations in the past, says Pearson, you often had the following scenario: Load the bar feeder, set the program, go home and pray nothing goes wrong.
"About 15 years ago, some machine tool and fabricating equipment companies began to institute call centers to flag you on an alarm, but those systems were often hit-or-miss, depending on the quality of the personnel and the chances of reaching you at your designated phone number. One laser manufacturer had this system running, in fact, but the success rate was far less than optimal. Entire weekends might have meant lost production due to a single tool break, bar jam, low lube or coolant level, air compressor stall, spindle speed slowdown or just a power spike," he says.
"You set the program, go home, and enjoy the weekend…. With the purchase of a pre-paid SIM card, the machine becomes another one of your kids, who calls you only when he gets into trouble!" –Randy Peterson
With the @Event software embedded on the Siemens Sinumerik 840D CNC, machine shop owners and operators can get alarm alerts by phone, fax, e-mail or mobile phone via a call or SMS text message. "A message telling you what alarm has tripped comes to you automatically, because the software is encrypted right on the CNC.
There is no human intervention needed, except by the shop owner or production supervisor.
The above scenario now can look like this: You load the bar feeder, and setup the machine for a pre-determined alarm tag or sequence of alarms, since the machine can now periodically alert you to various parameter checks. Then, you set the program, go home, and enjoy the weekend. There’s no chance of a shutdown that isn’t flagged for you, depending on the way you program the machine. Since the alarm is set off the fault code on the machine, there’s no human intervention whatsoever, and the messages are completely automated.
With the purchase of a pre-paid SIM card, the machine becomes another one of your kids, who calls you only when he gets into trouble!
"This is a relatively simple system to setup. With the purchase of a pre-paid SIM card, the machine becomes another one of your kids, who calls you only when he gets into trouble!" says Pearson. "Of course, what such systems do is keep your productivity in motion, all weekend or anytime you can reasonably run unattended. Especially for the shops where you have more machines than operators, this can be an instant journey into the world of remote alarm sequencing, formerly the realm of only the biggest shops and captive production departments in automotive, aerospace and other dedicated production operations."
On a higher-level CNC, you can get this feature as part of the production software embedded in the controller. The savings from just one occurrence will more than pay for the upgrade. Most popular CNC brands currently have some type of e-mail client server such as Outlook Express, but the @Event system is the next step up, because the software is fully automated to send messages to selectable locations in different modes for an array of messages. The e-mail or text message, for example, can contain one or more alarm messages, with details provided as attachments. One e-mail or text can be set for each alarm or sent periodically with all the alarm messages that have been generated during a specified period of time.
This piece was adapted from an advice column for machine shop owners and production supervisors.
Reach Randy Pearson at 1-800-879-8079.
– Edited by Renee Robbins, senior editor
Control Engineering News Desk