Machine Shop Excellence in Day-to-Day Operations


Written by Brian Soble on 12/11/2014


Running a CNC shop is hard. As a machine shop manager, there are always many moving parts (no pun intended) to manage throughout day-to-day operations. At the bare minimum, the shop owner will need to decide:

  • Where and how are our CAM files, post-processors and NC programs to be managed?
  • Where and how should our stock, tools and fixtures be managed?
  • How will we transfer NC programs to the CNC machines?

But these only cover the shop’s most basic needs. Most shop managers will also need to consider:

  • How will our CAM models be linked to their CAD parent models? How can design changes be easily passed to Manufacturing?
  • How can the machinists access the most current and detailed work instructions? Can we make these work instructions paperless and automatically export documents from our CAM software?
  • How will parts be inspected and verified for quality?

Finally, the most advanced stages of Machine Shop Excellence:

  • How can our production order management seamlessly integrate with the other technology of the machine shop?
  • How can we collect data from machines to identify downtime causes, support preventative maintenance, and calculate Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)?
  • How can we optimize production execution and support continuous process improvement?

Every shop is different, so the importance of each of these questions will vary on a case-by-case basis. For example, manufacturers in certain industries (Life Sciences, Aerospace, and others) may have special regulatory requirements making traceability of NC programs a high priority.  For a small “Mom and Pop” shop, traceability may be a low priority compared with controlling quality costs.


The journey to Machine Shop Excellence starts by identifying the highest priorities of the shop. Oftentimes, this step isn’t so difficult – if no one can find the right tools for their job, everyone in the shop will have a good idea that Tool Management might be an important need!

Once a need has been identified, it’s time to take action to address it. Once again, the method to address high-priority needs will vary across each situation and each shop. Machine shop employees tend to be pretty creative – after all, their task is to produce whatever design is handed to them using whatever equipment they have! As a result, Hyla Soft consultants have seen all sorts of “homegrown” solutions developed in-house for DNC, Resource Management, and more.

However, there are many situations when professional systems may be a better fit than a homegrown solution. Some of the most common are:

  • Companies whose business or IT policies require proven, professional Manufacturing systems supported by a dedicated vendor
  • Companies seeking to standardize their Manufacturing processes across sites and departments
  • Large shops that need tight control over their processes to ensure consistency

Machine Shop Excellence

For companies whose needs call for proven and scalable solutions, Hyla Soft is an expert partner for achieving Machine Shop Excellence. We draw on deep experience in Manufacturing to provide expert consulting to our clients; as a leading partner of top Manufacturing IT vendors, we deliver the world’s leading software and hardware for the next generation of shop floors.

CAM Data Management

The work of a CAM engineer should center on creating NC programs, not administering data management requirements like revision control or naming conventions.

Hyla Soft is a recognized industry expert in Manufacturing Data Management with a focus on CAM. Our consulting capabilities on Manufacturing Data Management include best practices related to Change Management, Revision Control, and Shop Floor Integration. Hyla Soft is also a leading partner of Siemens PLM with expertise in Teamcenter, the world’s leading PLM system.

Source: Teamcenter Manufacturing Resource Library (MRL)

Teamcenter is especially innovative in the PLM market for its Manufacturing Data Management capabilities. Features such as the Manufacturing Resource Library (MRL) allow engineers to manage tool specifications in Teamcenter. Hyla Soft can help clients manage Manufacturing BOM, Bill of Process, and other Manufacturing data in Teamcenter, then make the data available to the shop floor.

Direct Numerical Control

When Hyla Soft visits a machine shop, NC Program Management is almost always a point of pain. The most common situation looks like this: hundreds of NC programs are stored on each CNC machine controller. These programs are not revision controlled, and a shop manager will have to open the program to tell what part and operation the program is for. When a new part program is created, or an existing program is revised, the owning CAM engineer loads the program onto a USB stick or serial device and manually transfers the program to the machine controller.

Hyla Soft’s approach to Direct Numerical Control (DNC) is to connect all CNC machines to the company’s network. For older, serial machines, this is accomplished with a serial-to-Ethernet device. Our DNC systems maintain organization and revision control of NC programs, and directly engage the CNC machines in transferring the latest, approved NC programs to each machine. Shop floor edited programs may be uploaded back to the DNC system for traceability and CAM engineer approval.

Order Management

At many shops, production Order Management is no different today than it was 15 years ago: paper routings at the CNC machine instruct machine operators which parts and operations are to be run. Order Management typically requires significant time and attention from the shop manager and is rarely integrated with other shop floor systems.

Hyla Soft has pioneered a holistic approach to machine shop Order Management, where all the systems needed for running the shop are available from one single application. The needs and requests of our customers were the driving force behind Siemens Order Management software designed especially for machine shops.

Source: Siemens Order Management

Siemens Order Management offers the following features:

  • Seamless integration with DNC – machine operators can transfer NC programs to their machines and access Work Instructions from within the Order Management portal.
  • Seamless integration with MDA – allows shop supervisors to access real-time machine status information from within the Order Management portal.
  • Order and operation execution for real-time process transparency.

Machine Data Acquisition

Gathering useful information from equipment can be a hugely rewarding effort for the shop leaders. Some of the many reasons for collecting data on equipment utilization include:

  • Easily spot trends causing machine failures and downtimes.
  • Understand real time production capabilities.
  • Support process improvement programs such as Lean or Six Sigma.

All process improvement programs depend on quantifiable data to express improvement opportunities and progress. Collecting useful information from CNC equipment can be a daunting task. A shop may have any number of different machine makes and models on the floor, each with unique data acquisition capabilities.

The following high-level workflow illustrates Hyla Soft’s typical MDA engagement process:

Any project starts with understanding the objectives and expectations of the machine shop manager: are we aiming to track the cause of machine downtimes, or to adjust machining parameters in real-time during part cutting? In the first use case, the emphasis will lie on reporting and analytics capabilities; in the second, the emphasis lies on the system’s time resolution and data processing capabilities. The requirements of the MDA system will be different for each set of objectives.

Then, Hyla Soft consultants will validate the data available from the shop’s equipment. This consists of hands on testing to verify that machine states and actions trigger the correct signals with accuracy and consistency.

Based on the machine shop’s objectives and the data available from its equipment, Hyla Soft will assist our customer in selecting the appropriate MDA software and hardware. Hyla Soft works with 3 different industry-leading MDA systems to leverage the most appropriate solution for each situation.

A Proof of Concept (PoC) can be implemented on a few machines in the shop. The purpose of the PoC is to construct a rough solution and validate that the MDA system meets customer expectations and requirements.

The final implementation step is to roll out the complete solution to the remaining equipment. With the entire shop providing data to meet the objectives of the shop managers, Hyla Soft can help identify and drive process improvements based on MDA.

Tool & Resource Management

Ineffective Resource Management can cause major headaches for a machine shop. Shop managers should know the tooling and resources available for production at all times; machinists should have correct tool and resource information available to optimize setup times.

Hyla Soft can support shops to improve their Tool & Resource Management strategies. Our best practices knowledge includes Physical Tool & Resource Management, Tool Pre-setting, and Tool Offset Management.

Source: Siemens SINUMERIK Manage MyTools (MMT)

Lean & Six Sigma

Lean & Six Sigma are proven frameworks for eliminating waste and variation from Manufacturing processes. In machine shops, Hyla Soft commonly sees applications for these frameworks including:

  • Organized work area and cell setup for productivity – “5S”
  • Creating a culture of Kaizen and Continuous Improvement
  • Material flow redesign and implementation of “pull” systems for production planning
  • Setup time reduction – “SMED” framework

Hyla Soft’s process improvement consulting practice brings deep experience with the realities seen on the shop floor. Our expert consultants OK can support any existing process improvement programs or support new initiatives.

Quality & Inspection

Although part inspection is a part of nearly every machine shop’s production process, recording inspection results on paper is an all too common method in today’s shops. Paper-based Quality & Inspection tracking presents a host of problems for shop managers. Data entry requires time and effort on the part of shop floor personnel, and that effort is duplicated to transfer the inspection data to an external system. Paper-based quality data is unlikely to drive quality improvement or innovation.
Hyla Soft is a close partner and expert system integrator of the industry-leading Statistical Process Control (SPC) software company, and developer of industry-leading CAx software including First Article Inspection. Our consultants offer years of Manufacturing experience and best practices, along with expertise in the world’s finest Quality & Inspection software packages.

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