Firms that do not understand their business model before adopting an FMS may fail, he cautioned. It makes sense for some shops. But the investment may do other shops in if demand changes. “The question becomes, do we understand enough about our business to do the ROI calculation? That’s really the key,” he said. “Anybody can make a million of some- thing. What’s hard is to make small groups of dissimilar parts where you won’t go broke doing it.” There are many reasons to automate. Customers David

Ward of Makino has met were looking to eliminate repetitive setups, work with decreasing lot sizes, reduce overall piece cost and do away with the inefficiencies of having to set up and tear down these operations hurting productivity. The most common reason shops buy a Makino Ma-

chining Center (MMC) is to deal with the skills gap and shortage of skilled workers, which make it difficult to execute production during extended off-shifts and on weekends and holidays. “Unfortunately, our industry is not making any more

machinists,” Ward said. “It’s becoming a lost art.” While some believe automation is about cutting labor

costs, Ward sees firms struggling to grow despite a lack of qualified operators. The constant drive toward greater efficiency compli-

cates this situation. Because it is run by a computer and not a person, an FMS will force the operation to become

scrap and locate redundant inventory, even before it becomes redundant? Down the road, tooling requirements will add costs and

many firms can’t see beyond the fact that a single machine can be bought for far less than the initial FMS investment. “Automation is the only way in which we can stay

competitive in this global market, says Robert Humphreys of Fastems. The idea is reflected in Fastems’ logo: a red dot with

“8760” written on it. There are 8760 hours in a year, and the maker of automation systems wants customers to get the most out of each. Some Fastems customers can achieve spindle pro- ductivity for more than 7000 hours per year—more than twice the 2000 hours per year that stand-alone machines typically run, Humphreys said. Because of this, an invest- ment in FMS can be paid back faster than a comparable investment in a stand-alone machine, he said.

Returns not really possible “Buying a machine is low risk. It either does what it should or it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, you send it back,” Gorham said. “But buying an ERP system is seen as a bit of a gamble; it isn’t that simple to send it back if it doesn’t work.” Fujitsu Glovia offers Glovia G2 software, an ERP system

Firms that do not understand their business model before adopting an FMS may fail. It makes sense for some shops. But the investment may do other shops in if demand changes.

more efficient, Ward said. It forces the globalization of all the data, forces tooling standards and programming meth- odologies and implements predictive maintenance.

Look at costs over period of time However, the decision to implement an FMS can be dif-

ficult to justify. There’s a large upfront cost, for one—and it’s not just about the money. Makino spends about 100 hours per installed system training shops on their recently purchased MMCs. Most of the training customers get revolves around the philosophy behind FMS, James Gorham of Fujitsu Glovia said. A typical question: How do you identify


that promises flexible production, high quality and low cost. Among the capabilities is the ability to predict how changing between jobs will affect overall shop productivity. With Glovia G2 software, the user can

test a potential order on the factory floor before committing—even months or quar- ters ahead. The FMS generates several scenarios, so a business can envision the

impact on other orders and decide whether to take on the proposed job. Built on lean principles, the software can analyze both material and process quality. With a simple user interface, the software can run on

desktop and mobile devices. Color-coded, “traffic light” style alerts simplify the work process by providing end users with only the screens and data they need to com- plete their tasks. Shops considering FMS need to have or develop

long-term visions, Towner said. What will happen if a new machine needs to be added, or a new process must be integrated into the shop? It may be incredibly expensive or impossible, he said.

Summer 2016

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