Interview with a Shop Manager

Senasys is manufacturing company with production facilities in Altoona and Eau Claire, WI. They run several production lines, including snap disc and capillary style temperature switches, Pres-Air brand safety switches and ISO-Tip cordless soldering irons.

Nestled in the back half of Senasys’ Altoona production facility, they have a workshop which was a driving force in our development of Nanospark: CNC Machine Monitor.

We spoke with Trevor Peterson, the Shop Manager, about their monitoring needs and how they’re using the Nanospark: CNC Machine Monitor.

NS: Trevor, first please tell us a little but about Senasys’ workshop.

TP: We are a small production machine shop that supports our product lines by making some component parts. We make things like terminals, contacts, adjusting stems, screws, sleeves, caps, etc. Some of the machines we use are metal stamping presses, mills, lathes and a Swiss style CNC machine.

NS: As I understand it, not long after purchasing the Swiss machine is when monitoring became an issue. What concerns made monitoring a need?

TP: Mostly we wanted to get more out of the Swiss machine. There were so many times when we’d load up the bar feeder at 4:00 and go home and in the morning we’d see that the Swiss machine went down at like 4:15. If we’d known it was down that early, someone could have come back in to fix it.

NS: Did that hold true on the weekends also?

TP: Oh absolutely.

NS: OK, so what did you start doing to extend production hours?

TP: First thing we did was put a wireless camera in the shop and pointed it at the Swiss machine. It streamed a live feed to a web address where we could log in to see the feed.

NS: How did that work out for you?

TP: It helped some. But it was a complicated login, it ate up data minutes on guys phones and . . . we’d forget to check it. Sometimes it would crash, so you’d log in and get nothing, then you’d have to reset the whole thing- that seemed to happen a lot. Oh, and it didn’t have group alerts.

NS: Group alerts?

TP: Yeah, typically if the Swiss machine goes down, we want a couple guys know. But with the camera, it’s just not available.

NS: Gotcha. So it was only a partial solution. Did you try anything else in terms of monitoring?

TP: Not for alerts, but we did keep track of production hours each day for the Swiss machine.

NS: How did you do that?

TP: We had a spreadsheet on a clipboard attached to the Swiss machine. Each morning, we’d check the console and write down the number of hours the Swiss machine ran on the previous day.

Nanospark: A Little History

   Development in 2008 with the idea to use tablet+hardware to drive solutions for manufacturers. A big advantage of a tablet is the built in components which may be brought to bear on a solution without increasing hardware costs; things like the WiFi, GPS, accelerometer, camera and microphone.

   We first developed an Apple version that used proprietary hardware and an iPod touch or iPhone to run the app. The app had prototyping features such as controlling i/o manually or through SMS, scheduling when i/o would be on/off, and SMS alerts based on input state. Since then we’ve expanded to use Android and developed the alerts function into it’s own product- the CNC Machine Monitor.

NS: Makes sense. How did that go?

TP: It went pretty well. Every now and then we’d forget to write it down, so it wasn’t the most accurate.

NS: Sure. And that brings us to Nanospark. You helped us test some of the early versions- thanks for working with us to get the bugs out.

TP: Yeah, we’ve liked the idea from the beginning.

NS: You’ve been using the full Nanospark: CNC Machine Monitor since February 2015. How are you using it?

TP: We started with just notifications. We setup several ‘machine down’ alerts. Some for during the day in case we’re too busy with other machines to notice the Swiss went down, others for after hours; mid-week and on the weekend.

NS: So then what’s your process when a down alert is triggered?

TP: We have someone assigned to come in. But I also get the not[ification] and so does Steve [Dye, the owner of Seansys], so it doesn’t usually take long to get the Swiss machine back up and running. Then we just make a note on our time card that we came in and how long it took to fix.

NS: Has that worked to increase production?

TP: Oh yeah. We’ll often get 100 hours out of the Swiss machine each week, which is our goal

NS: Good to hear. You mentioned to me that notifications have helped with tool use, can you explain that?

TP: Sure. We look for trends with the machine down alerts and sometimes it will identify a problem that we can jump in and correct before it causes the Swiss to go down. We did this a little with the clipboard, but it’s more consistent now with automated alerts.

NS: Can you give me an example?

TP: Yeah, we had a stainless steel job a little while ago and the drill bits kept breaking at about 3:45 in the afternoon. Since we got the text messages we could see that the bits broke at about the same time each day. So we started changing them about at 3:15 and saved loads of time.

(Editor’s note: Daily line graph reports would also show that trend.)

NS: Nice! What about reports, how are you using them?

TP: Mainly we use them to compare weeks. Like I said, we have a goal of running the Swiss 100 hours each week. So if a week is far off average, we’ll go back and look at why. Was there something we did well that we need to retain or some bad process that needs changing?

NS: Does that benefit you outside of just process evaluation?

TP: Oh definitely. Two things come to mind. With the improvements we’ve made [to our processes] and pretty consistently hitting our 100 hours, we knew when it was time to take on outside work; in addition to our Senasys work orders.

NS: So you’re taking on contract work now too?

TP: Yeah. And it helped justify purchasing an EDM machine.

NS: How’s that?

TP: It helps manage the investment risk. We’ll run the EDM for a year and then look back to see how much it was used, how effectively it’s used- basically we’ll see if it’s worth keeping or if we should sell it before the value drops.

NS: Wow, so machine investment protection and potentially- hopefully- more growth.

TP: Exactly!

NS: Do you have the EDM setup?

TP: Mostly, it’s in house, we got it leveled off- just have to bring 240 and 380/3-Phase to it.

NS: Is Nanospark: CNC Machine Monitor already installed?

TP: That’s next week.

NS: Well thank you, Trevor, for taking the time to share your perspective with us. I hope you’ll also let us document the EDM addition to your Nanospark Monitor.

TP: Sure thing! Take care.

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