A shop-floor workout plan


Machine tool builders and users alike are facing growing challenges to enhance productivity and adapt to constantly changing conditions. As traditional optimisation methods reach their limits, the digitalisation of production processes is an important tool for addressing these challenges. However, with many companies unsure of where to start, Siemens suggests that a tailored ‘workout plan’ can provide the pathway to digital transformation. With specific use cases and digital solutions, companies can get their shop floor fit for the future.

Importantly, it’s not just large automotive and aerospace plants customers that can benefit from this approach, as Mark Coombes, Machine Tool Systems Business Manager for Siemens in the UK explains: “It’s definitely changed over the past few years; many SMEs are now embarking on their digital transformation journey. With a portfolio-based digitalisation solution, SMEs can make the transition step-by-step as budget and time allow.”

Christian Meltzer, Head of Machinum Product Management at Siemens Campus Erlangen, Germany, adds: “For machine tool users and their many challenges – such as supply chain pricescrises, skills shortages and market uncertainty – digitalisation is becoming more realistic. Smaller machine shops want to know what’s available to make production more flexible and resilient. Notably, there’s no need to make a big investment up front. You can start by attacking specific pain points.”

Case in point
Nuremberg-based business W. Andreas Pfeiffer – Maschinen- und Apparatebau W Andreas Pfeiffer Maschinen knows all about the current challenges for companies in the metal-cutting sector. This family-owned business produces components for applications that include optics, precision mechanics and medical technology. Business is strong, but the market is becoming more demanding, which is why Andreas Pfeiffer is adopting end-to-end process digitalisation to help reduce set-up and throughput times.

“Andreas Pfeiffer is demonstrating that traditional perceptions of barriers to digitalisation – such as cost, complexity and lack of knowledge – are eroding,” says Mr Coombes. “Companies can see the value in digitalisation and how much it can improve their processes. We have solutions that allow SME manufacturers – including those without the latest machines – to achieve gains in productivity or tool life, for example.”

Despite the potential on offer, many companies still struggle to find the right starting point for their digital transformation. Siemens says the process is similar to striving for personal fitness: good preparation, clear goals and tailored measures can help machine shops get fit for a digital future.

The company sets out three performance enhancement goals to assess shop-floor fitness: speed, agility and endurance. With its Machinum CNC digitalisation portfolio, which is specific to machine tool users and builders, the company says it offers an easy and convenient way to achieve these ambitions.

“Importantly, Machinum is suitable for all shop-floor machines, not just those with Siemens controls,” says Mr Meltzer. “By way of example, a small machine shop near here has been focusing our digital tool management solutions, leading to a reduction in set-up times of circa 50%.”

Full speed ahead
A key point in the process chain between order receipt and finished product is machine tool set-up and programming. Errors here can lead to machine idle times. This is where simulating the machine program using a digital twin makes it possible to create and check NC programs offline without a real machine, safely optimising machining processes in a virtual environment.

Furthermore, digital resource management helps to link tools and machining resources with the correct NC program, saving significant time in job preparation. Manufacturers can also reduce cycle times, as adaptive feed control is able to minimise machining times and detect tool breakage at an early stage. Machine tool manufacturer Grob was able to reduce its cycle times by 18% using this solution.


The ability of agility
If companies want to produce small batch sizes and complex geometries quickly and cost-effectively, they need to make their processes more flexible. Before starting the job, the user can employ the machine’s digital twin to check whether efficient component manufacture is possible using that specific machine. He or she can also calculate the run time.

In addition, users can develop virtual prototypes in the model to map new requirements. It is then possible to allocate corresponding production resources via digital resource management. Efficient and targeted re-tooling on the machine allows companies to take production plan changes into account and implement them more quickly, as confirmed by Andreas Pfeiffer. The company is using digital resource management to achieve set-up time savings of around 50%.

Machine endurance
Digital solutions also help companies to extend the service life of their machines and tools. Special apps use machine data to enable predictive maintenance and prevent unplanned downtime. Digital solutions can detect tool wear and excess stress to avoid tool breakage.

Alongside information from the digital twin, data from cameras and sensors helps to detect collision risks, signs of wear and errors in advance. Tool manufacturer Emuge-Franken is able to carry out around 95% of measurements without investing in an expensive tool external measuring system thanks to in-process monitoring of high-frequency data.

Open shop approach
Machinum from Siemens is an open, modular digitalisation portfolio based on Siemens Xcelerator for the machine tool industry that can benefit small and medium-sized companies and large enterprises.

“In the development of Machinum we tried to look at all elements of the machine shop: the machines, the virtual machine and the shop-floor processes,” explains Mr Meltzer. “Also, we focus on making the solution is control-agnostic. As a result, I’m not aware of another portfolio of solutions with such a breadth of capabilities.”

Adds Mr Coombes: “The portfolio also dovetails with sustainability initiatives, an example being as using virtual machines means to simulate and verify ation on a PC NC programs rather thane consuming energy and material by running actual machine tools. In fact, the fourth performance goal of Machinum will be sustainability, arriving in 2025.”

Fighting fit
“A digitalisation transformation project is like going to the gym for the first time,” concludes Marketing Communications Manager Bozena Immonen. “You don’t run a marathon on the first day; you build steadily towards goals like more speed, agility or endurance. And although every machine shop is different, the ambitions are the same: you want to be better than before. You’ll need certain things, namely a personal trainer [Siemens], a workout plan [use case clusters] and equipment [Machinum apps]. The time to start is now because what will happen if you don’t? You’ll continue suffering flabby production processes, dispiriting setbacks and poor recovery times.”

Siemens offers a shop-floor check-up tool to see where machine shops can make savings. This informative tool also compares resource management – including tools, NC programs and machine data – against industry standards. Now is the time to get fit.

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