Firetrace International recently sat down with Eric Fogg from Machine Metrics, and Conor Puckett from BioChem Fluidics to understand the rapid changes they’ve seen in the safety and data overlap due to COVID-19, and how this will continue to impact the manufacturing space well into the future.
A Real-Life Example
Despite social distancing measures in place, essential businesses still need to produce to deliver products – many machine shops have fallen into this essential category, machining parts for critical medical devices and other industries. To ensure they meet demand while keeping employees safe, they’ve started adjusting the number of machinists on the floor, or even gone unattended.
With less staff on-site, this presents a higher risk of something happening in the shop that could seriously affect the business. From tools crashing to a full-blown machine fire, the key to peace of mind is to ensure the proper mitigation is in place to address any issues that arise and understand them to correct them for the future. This is where the safety and data overlap come into play.
During the webinar, Eric detailed a call with one of his Machine Metrics clients about an incident during the machining process that caught the oil mist from the coolant on fire while running an unattended operation. Luckily, this customer had fire suppression installed, so they were able to suppress the fire and shut down the machine – saving the machine and shop from extensive fire damage.
However, the shop owner was aware that the machine had caught fire because they had been monitoring the machine. Furthermore, they were able to go back through the data to understand what was going on with spindle speeds, load, power, previous jobs, etc. that all could have played a factor in whatever caused the fire. This allowed the customer to pinpoint the problem to further optimize their processes and correct the issue to prevent the same thing from happening again.
What Does This Mean for Workers?
Not only does this overlap allow for more unattended or lightly attended operations, but it can also give the skilled labor in these jobs more autonomy and allow workers to focus more on their programming and technical skills while introducing flexibility.
By having the ability to understand what is happening in their machines through data monitoring, and knowing there are safety systems in place, if something does go wrong, operators can work with less supervision from site managers while ensuring proper safety measures are met. Not only does it give site managers confidence that the jobs are getting done, but it allows people on the floor to understand more about the processes they are working on and how to improve them.
Another benefit that we’ve learned from all this is that by having the data and safety measures in place, skilled machinists can focus on their expertise with regards to programming, designing technical parts, and solving complex problems – while moving towards a more flexible work environment. Introducing the fusion of safety and data is starting the evolution within machining to ensure shops can be safe, efficient, and productive, and allowing their talent and expertise to focus on their strengths – regardless of whether they are on-site at all times.