Manufacturing AUTOMATION

The top five ways to pump up productivity in your facility

January 10, 2011
By KBC Tools & Machinery

Accuracy and throughput can be greatly increased simply by choosing the best tool for the job. Below are the top five improvements for shops with up to 40 machinists, according to KBC Tools & Machinery.

1. Add a digital readout to any mill, lathe or grinder currently without one.
The digital readout (DRO) is a must for shops everywhere. Fitted to machines such as lathes, cylindrical grinders, milling machines, surface grinders and boring mills, DROs allow an operator to boost both speed and accuracy. They are highly functional, giving you instant fingertip control over the most frequent shop operations. Other advantages include:
• The "half function" takes the current value of an axis and divides it in half. This can be used to find the accurate centre of a work piece with time to spare;
• The ability to compute a cut across an incline;
• A full scientific calculator on some models;
• Absolute and incremental modes, allowing the operator to set the unit’s co-ordinates to the part’s absolute zero point or to some other relative value; and
• The ability to store huge numbers of points in the DRO’s built-in memory.

2. Add a power drawbar to any manual milling machine without it.
Manual drawbars are a royal pain to change, and let’s not forget the safety risk posed by frequent trips up that rickety old shop ladder. Power drawbars are used in place of manual drawbars, and their advantages include: 
• Greatly increases the speed of changing tools. Cut the tool change time to a quarter of the time required when changing manually with wrenches, potentially saving you several hours every month;
• Increases productivity on milling machines and decrease down cycle time on CNC mills;
• Allows more productive cutting time, which in turn reduces operator fatigue; and
• Avoids accidents relating to machinists climbing ladders to change manual drawbars.

3. Install a quick change tool post system on your lathe(s).
Regardless of the size of your shop, you’re always on the lookout for ways to speed up simple jobs on the lathe. The quick change tool post is a great way to do just that. With this system, the tools you need are always set in the holder, and if any adjustment or change is required, it can be done quickly with little hassle. Such shortcuts may seem minor on their own, but added up over the course of a year’s work, they contribute greatly to overall productivity.


4. Use an automatic cycle bandsaw to cut your stock.
Yes, it’s big, and no, it’s not cheap, but the automatic cycle bandsaw will greatly streamline cutting activities in your facility and, therefore, pay for itself in short order. These machines are fully automatic, meaning all you have to do is preset the number of cuts, adjust the stock feed for the desired length of the cut and let the saw do the rest. It will repeat the automatic cycle and switch to off when finished or when the stock is exhausted. With no attendant required, the time savings are enormous.

5. Replace manual tool room machines with CNC to save set-up and run time.
It used to be that even the mention of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) caused the company accountants to sweat. Times have changed, and where once CNC was cost prohibitive to all but the largest facilities, advances in technology have brought it within the reach of just about every shop regardless of size. In the old days, a trained engineer was required to run centre lathes, vertical millers, routers and various other important pieces of machinery, which are all now candidates for this technology. Benefits inclue:
• It removes the highly trained technician from the equation and can be run safely and effectively by operators with far less training. This alone represents huge cost savings;
• Hundreds or even thousands of the same design will be rendered identically, removing the variance inherent in human-guided processes of old. Modern production demands that products be manufactured to the most precise specifications every time, and CNC can accomplish this;  
• CNC machines can be used continuously all day, every day, and only need to be switched off for occasional maintenance;
• It allows you to accurately calculate turnings for resale purposes, while simultaneously decreasing scrap; and
• CNC machines can be easily and cheaply updated by improving the software used to drive the mechanics, a huge factor in future-proofing a relatively expensive unit.

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