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February 18, 2024

What is CNC Machine Monitoring Software And Why Is It Useful?

Within the manufacturing industry, being efficient, precise, and reliable isn't just ideal—it's essential. CNC machinery is at the core of modern manufacturing, helping businesses automate processes and improve efficiency.

What is CNC machinery?

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. They are advanced pieces of manufacturing equipment that automate the control of machine tools through the use of computer programming. These machines can control tools such as lathes, mills, routers, and grinders, allowing for high precision and automation in the manufacturing process.

The process begins with a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) drawing or a 3D model of the part to be manufactured. This design is then converted into a numerical code (G-code) that the CNC machine can understand. The G-code instructs the machine on how to move its tools in order to produce the part exactly as it was designed.

CNC machines are highly valued in the manufacturing industry for their precision, efficiency, and ability to produce complex shapes that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with manual machining. They are used in various industries, including aerospace, automotive, and electronics, to produce a wide range of parts, from simple components to intricate pieces with complex geometries.

What is CNC Machine Monitoring Software?

As you can imagine with such a complex piece of machinery, there are bound to be issues that arise. With so many different components and code going on in the background, it would take a long time for operators to be able to identify where the issue arose. This is where CNC machine monitoring software comes in. It bridges the gap between the fast, precise work of CNC machines and the need for smart management of these operations.

The software essentially keeps an eye on everything the machines do—from their every move to every command they follow. If a machine goes down, it picks this up immediately, and a workflow can be set up to notify the decision maker straight away. This speeds up the fixing process, and reduces downtime. More than just monitoring, it can offer clear insights on how to make processes better, cut down on waste, and boost productivity. By providing a real-time overview of machine performance, it enables manufacturers to quickly make well-informed decisions, ensuring their operations run smoothly without any hitches.

Features of CNC Machine Monitoring Software

CNC machine monitoring software has an array of features designed to elevate manufacturing operations and improve efficiency and productivity. The below are some of the key features of all good CNC machine monitoring software.

Real-Time Data Collection and Analysis

The backbone of any effective monitoring system is its ability to collect and analyse data in real time. This feature enables the continuous observation of all aspects of machine performance, from operational speeds and feed rates to temperature fluctuations and tool integrity. By capturing a comprehensive dataset, the software allows for a deep dive into the machine's functionality, identifying areas for improvement and enabling proactive adjustments.

You don't want a software that only gives you information on downtime at the end of the day, as you would always be falling behind and catching up on issues that have already made their impact. This real-time feedback loop is therefore critical for maintaining optimal machine performance.

OEE Tracking

OEE is an absolutely essential metric for manufacturers, and every good data analytics platform should provide OEE calculations. Automating the OEE calclation process saves a significant amount of time, and helps operators to identify key areas for improvement. OEE is broken down into 3 aspects, availability, performance and quality, so having this feature allows you to pinpoint bottlenecks in your production and fix key recurring issues.

Machine Downtime Tracking

One of the most costly aspects of manufacturing is unplanned machine downtime. Effective downtime tracking not only quantifies these interruptions but also categorises them by cause, whether it be mechanical failure, software issues, or operator errors. This insight is invaluable for identifying patterns or recurring problems in CNC machinery. This can then facilitate targeted interventions that can significantly reduce downtime. Similarly, by understanding the root causes of interruptions, manufacturers can implement strategic changes to their processes, further enhancing productivity and efficiency.

Customisable Alerts and Notifications

Customisable alerts and notifications are another key feature, as they alert the right people of any issue that has occurred. Not only that, but they can provide an early warning system for potential issues. Whether it's a machine approaching critical temperature levels or a deviation from prescribed production parameters, these alerts ensure that the relevant personnel can take immediate action.

You can set up customised workflows so that each specific issue gets sent to the right person, and they can resolve it as quickly as possible. This not only prevents minor issues from becoming major problems, but also supports a culture of preventative maintenance, reducing the need for emergency repairs and associated costs.

Integration Capabilities with CNC Machines and Systems

The ability to seamlessly integrate with existing CNC machines and broader manufacturing systems is what makes monitoring software truly powerful. This compatibility ensures that the implementation of monitoring software doesn’t disrupt production processes. Instead, it enhances existing operations by providing a layer of intelligence that can adapt to various machines and software environments.

Integration capabilities mean that manufacturers can leverage their current technological investments while still benefiting from the latest in monitoring advancements. If your CNC monitoring software requires days of set up and hours of additional training, it probably isn't going to be beneficial to you in the long run.

Key Benefits of Implementing Monitoring Software

The implementation of CNC machine monitoring software brings a multitude of benefits that extend well beyond the factory floor.

  • Increased Productivity: By providing real-time data on machine performance, CNC monitoring software enables manufacturers to maximise machine utilisation and throughput. It helps identify bottlenecks and downtime causes, allowing for immediate corrective actions to keep production lines running smoothly.
  • Reduced Downtime: The software can predict potential machine failures and maintenance needs through continuous monitoring and analysis of machine data. This predictive maintenance approach helps prevent unexpected machine stoppages, reducing downtime and maintaining consistent production levels.
  • Improved Quality Control: With detailed tracking of production processes, the software aids in identifying quality issues early in the manufacturing cycle. This early detection allows for quick adjustments, reducing waste and ensuring that the final products meet the required quality standards.
  • Enhanced Operational Efficiency: By analysing performance data, CNC monitoring software provides insights into how machines and processes can be optimised. This can lead to more efficient use of resources, energy savings, and reduced production costs, thereby improving overall operational efficiency.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: The comprehensive data collected and analysed by the software supports informed decision-making. Manufacturers can use this data to make strategic decisions about equipment investments, process improvements, and workforce management, based on actual performance metrics rather than estimates.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: CNC monitoring software can be scaled to fit the needs of any size operation, from small workshops to large manufacturing plants. Its flexibility allows for integration with existing systems and adaptation to new technologies or processes as the business evolves.
  • Increased Competitive Advantage: By optimising production processes, reducing costs, and improving product quality, manufacturers can gain a significant competitive edge in the market. The insights provided by CNC monitoring software can also help in faster product development cycles and better customer satisfaction.

Best Practise for Implementing CNC Machine Monitoring Software

The journey to fully integrated CNC machine monitoring is usually fairly simple, but involves careful planning to minimise any disruptions. Following the below best practise will ensure a smooth implementation.

Define Clear Objectives

Start with a clear understanding of what you aim to achieve with the CNC monitoring software. Define specific, measurable goals such as reducing machine downtime, increasing production efficiency, or improving product quality. If reducing downtime tracking is your goal, then you may decide to go for a product that has slightly more features within this area. This clarity will guide the selection, configuration, and utilisation of the software.

Involve Key Stakeholders

The key to any successful software implementation is buy-in from all stakeholders, from managers to shareholders to employees. Make sure that you engage with all relevant stakeholders, including machine operators, production managers, maintenance teams, and IT personnel, early in the process. Their input is crucial for understanding the practical needs of your manufacturing operations and ensuring the software meets these needs.

Choose the Right Software

Select a CNC monitoring software that is compatible with your existing machinery and IT infrastructure. It should be scalable, user-friendly, and capable of integrating with other systems (such as ERP or MES) for seamless data flow across the organisation.

Comprehensive Training

Ensure that all users receive thorough training on how to use the CNC monitoring software effectively. This includes understanding how to interpret data, generate reports, and take corrective actions based on the insights provided. Adequate training enhances user adoption and maximises the value of the software.

Data Integration and Management

Establish a robust data management strategy to handle the large volumes of data generated by the CNC machines. This includes ensuring data accuracy, security, and effective integration with other business intelligence tools for comprehensive analysis.

Continuous Monitoring and Analysis

Once the software is implemented, continuously monitor its performance and the data it generates. Regular analysis of this data will help identify trends, potential issues, and opportunities for further optimisation.

Iterative Improvement

Use the insights gained from the monitoring software to make iterative improvements to your manufacturing processes. There's no point having all this valuable data in your hands if you aren't going to do anything with it. Implementing phased improvements fosters a culture of continuous improvement, where data-driven decisions lead to ongoing efficiency gains and ultimately, increased revenue.

Support and Maintenance

Ensure that you have access to reliable support and maintenance services for the CNC monitoring software. This includes regular updates, troubleshooting, and technical assistance to address any issues that may arise. If your software provider doesn't offer any support plans, then view this as a red flag. You should be able to go back to them for any and all questions, so this is vital to look out for when making your selection.

Feedback Loop

Create a feedback loop where users can report their experiences, challenges, and suggestions regarding the software's use. This feedback is invaluable for making adjustments and ensuring the software continues to meet the evolving needs of your operations.

It is clear that in order to make the most out of your CNC machinery, you must also invest in CNC monitoring software. Monitoring software is not just a tool for problem identification; it's a comprehensive solution offering real-time data analysis, OEE tracking, machine downtime tracking, and customisable alerts, all designed to optimise manufacturing operations.

Output.Industries have developed a CNC machine monitoring software that will be the key to maximising your growth. Busroot uses IoT devices to connect your CNC machines to the cloud, and provides you with immediate tracking of OEE, downtime, cycle time, asset utilisation and more.

Busroot sends immediate alerts when any machine goes down, enabling operators to make swift decisions and reduce the impact of machine downtime. Not only does it provide real-time production monitoring, it uses historical data to create proactive maintenance schedules, in order to reduce unplanned breakdowns and stoppages.

Want to find out more about how Busroot can accelerate growth in your organisation? Contact us today for a demo and we will show you the power of Busroot!