The factory floor is the heart of the manufacturing process, but process inefficiencies all-too-often go undiagnosed and unrectified, contributing to poor productivity and quality issues.

Machine programming is one such area of inefficiency. Faulty programming can lead to reduced productivity, high scrappage rates and poor component quality.

One way of ensuring that the programme is correct prior to cutting is via the use of 3D simulation, which ensures that every aspect of the programme has been tested before machining is commenced. A high value subsea valve made from Inconel block, for example, can be reduced to scrap if the machine has been poorly programmed. Mazak’s SMOOTH Technology is equipped with SMOOTH Cam RS which performs fast and accurate programme verification by 3D simulation, including 5-axis programmes, providing accurate interference checks and set-up time reductions.

Within any machine shop or factory there is a constant need for smarter production processes that can unlock greater productivity. The use of data and analytics is one way that tool management can be significantly improved, with better tool utilisation, chip to chip time and reduced downtime.

SMOOTH Tool Management centrally manages the tool data in the machine shop, reducing downtime and increasing utilisation. The programme links with a tool pre-setter to automatically enter tool length and diameter offsets, whilst a tool ID chip is linked to a database to easily track the transfer of tools from magazine to machine.

Finding and employing skilled engineers and CNC machine tool operators is an enormous problem across Western Europe.

When skilled employees can be found their abilities command high salaries, which inevitably increase the cost of production and decreases competitiveness.

Far better to focus human resources at highly skilled jobs and tasks, leaving automation equipment to fulfil more menial tasks, which in turn will increase efficiency and aid smarter production. But, greater automation must be allied to greater connectivity in order to unlock the potential of machines and automation working closely together.

Mazak’s SMOOTH Technology can act as the catalyst for closer co-operation between machines and automation equipment. The technology comes equipped with SMOOTH PMC, a management software for Mazak’s PALLETECH automation system that is capable of optimising the schedules based on manufacturing requirements and operator shift pattern.

The software creates prediction load requirements, simulates specific machine loading requirements, displays tools needed to perform tasks, displays actual results and identifies any overdue workpieces.

All of this information is displayed on the home screen or can be viewed remotely by mobile device or on an office PC, ensuring that key information is available to factory floor and management at any time or any place.