Cloud-native asset management revolutionising CNC OEE gap

2 mins read

Cloud-native CNC (computer-numerical control) machine-tool asset management introduced today by Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division connects to almost any machine-tool, enabling machine shops to optimise their return on investment (ROI) using its real-time status dashboards with mobile operator alerts and enabling global manufacturers to analyse machine fleet utilisation across multiple plants.

Increasing overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is the goal of any manufacturer, but without reliable information it can be difficult to pinpoint improvements to machine shop operations.

Purchasing a £200,000 - £500,000 machine tool will increase productivity, but few manufacturers are able to realise the full potential of such expensive assets because critical information such as machine-tool availability is often recorded via paperwork or spreadsheets. This can introduce human error, and the data is not made available fast enough to be analysed and actioned.

In operator-intensive departments, this data gap presents difficulties valuating machine availability and performance over time. For unattended series machining, timely performance information becomes critical because consistent historical data makes it possible to predict problems, and plan operator inventions and maintenance.

While OEE is based upon a machine tool’s availability, performance and the quality of the parts it produces, accurately measuring OEE is difficult without immediate access to comprehensive operating data.

Hexagon’s SFx Asset Management application is already trusted by global manufacturers to improve employee productivity and the utilisation of Hexagon metrology devices, and now also records CNC machine tool operating data so that teams can analyse and mitigate downtime. The application can be used by production staff across manufacturing organisations to pinpoint bottlenecks and optimise the utilisation of CNC machinery, and by management to measure the ROI of those assets and identify valuable improvements in OEE.

Built in Hexagon’s cloud-native SFx platform, the application acquires and processes Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) data in real time to provide shop-floor operators access to machine-tool status at any time. Role-based access provides staff access to the status of the required machines, so they can check programme and utilisation information from any location using a computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

Customisable system alerts make it easier for an operator to supervise multiple machines and help instil greater confidence in lights-out production. The accompanying SFx Asset mobile application provides secure mobile-optimised access to status alerts and KPIs without the complexity of a virtual private network (VPN).

“Machine tools only make you money when they’re running, so reporting on the root cause and duration of downtime is critical to reacting quickly and making changes when needed,” said Greg Holdsworth, senior product manager for digital operations, Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division.

“Looking at historical usage data to see – for example – if a cycle ran in the time predicted, or if a machine tool had to wait three hours for a setup is just as important as responding to crashes. All of these factors contribute to the overall effectiveness of a machine tool and, when you’ve made a significant financial investment, it’s important to take full advantage of the technology at your fingertips.”

When a machine tool is down for any reason – such as maintenance, a collision, or waiting for materials or a setup – a tag can be generated by SFx Asset Management to categorise the cause of the downtime. Once the machine tool is up and running, the system automatically removes the tag and records the new activity.

Charts generated by the application display machine tool availability to simplify job scheduling and highlight usage over time, clearly identifying opportunities to improve gaps in productivity.

Any manufacturer can implement SFx Asset Management within hours by connecting a local server to the CNC controllers they use, which can be from any leading vendor. This includes Fanuc, Haas, Heidenhain, Mazak, Siemens and all those that support the popular MTConnect (ANSI/MTC1.4-2018) technical standards for CNC data exchange.

Using a commercial off-the-shelf internet-equipped personal computer, the SFx Asset Management server software efficiently connects multiple machines to Hexagon’s highly-scalable cloud-native platform. Any global user from any location can then be immediately provided secure role-based access to the required assets and sites.