REDwire Software takes data-driven manufacturing to a new level at Mazak

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Memex's MERLIN Dashboard shows key indicators such as performance, OEE and quality for each machine, and is often displayed on shop floor monitors for all to see. Photo courtesy of Mazak Corp.

Mazak is always exploring manufacturing processes and continuous improvement methodologies that can be implemented in its other manufacturing plants to improve productivity and efficiency. The team at Mazak understands that in order to maintain their title as a world-class leader in OEM machine tools, they needed to improve production across the shop floor, particularly in regards to machine availability and associated downtime. 

The challenge for the Mazak team was they needed to figure out how to improve their already successful operation, and so began the hunt for a commercially available software package adhering to the MTConnect protocol — an open, royalty-free standard intended to foster greater interoperability between manufacturing devices and software applications — that could produce meaningful reports that both production and management teams could act upon.  

After an exhaustive search, the company unanimously selected Memex Automation’s MERLIN product.  

“We ended up choosing MERLIN for its ability to collect data using either MTConnect adapters (to newer machines) or through its Universal Machine Interface circuit board (for legacy machines). This advanced technology board can capture signals directly from the machine and translates them into the MTConnect standard protocol,” said Ben Schawe, VP of manufacturing at Mazak.

“The combination of MTConnect software protocols and hardware circuit boards means that every machine on the shop floor can be MTConnect-compatible, enabling a common technology analysis platform. In particular, we liked MERLIN’s ability to display and report on information related to downtime, and to answer questions such as ‘Why is the machine not running and what can we do to get it running?’” said Schawe.

MERLIN had an almost instant impact at Mazak. In a test section of the plant designed to contain a cross-section of plant equipment, a series of 60-inch display monitors were installed to present real-time machine utilization data. This data assisted in establishing performance benchmarks and identified the need for related training that could easily be extended across the entire machine-tool manufacturing plant.

MERLIN’s easily interpreted visual report format provided shop floor operators with at-a-glance information on how machine tool conditions were influencing efficiency. Bar graphs that summarized activity across a number of machines simultaneously informed supervisors and managers of trends useful for decision-making and long-term planning. Analysis of this data provided opportunities to reduce or eliminate many stoppages, improving overall machine utilization. 

Schawe also praised the advantage of MERLIN’s ability to take the guesswork out of tracking machine utilization.  

“We can tell at a glance how we are doing, and the basis is in real-time and historical data,” he explained. “There is so much information, accurate and detailed, and all easily accessed, whereas before it was difficult to find information if it was even available.”

This effective deployment of real-time machine automated data collection resulted in many benefits, including: an immediate six per cent increase in machine utilization after MERLIN’s real-time dashboards were displayed; a 42 per cent increase in utilization across machining areas monitored by MERLIN in the first five months; a reduction in operator overtime by 100 hours per month; and a return to Mazak of 400 hours per month of previously outsourced work, improving profitability.

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