Memex’s MERLIN Translates Operational Machine Data Into Real-time Success

Proactive Investors – November 24, 2014

Memex Automation (CVE:OEE) is taking the manufacturing world by storm with its M2M solution, MERLIN, which drives manufacturing efficiencies and enables shop floors to communicate with management in real-time.

MERLIN is a full suite of hardware and software.  The hardware adapters turn each of a manufacturer’s machines into a web server, while the software measures plant capacity and its utilization.  The hardware adapters connect machines to management via MTConnect, an open-source, royalty-free XML standard that convert the manufacturing asset into a web server.

The MERLIN software tracks a large number of MTConnect data inputs that measure overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in real time, as well as other operational machine information.  Customers can address production bottlenecks as they happen, convert idle time back into production and ultimately improve throughput.  Short for Manufacturing Execution Real-Time Lean Information Network, MERLIN is designed to boost shop floor productivity, increase income from operations and reduce operating costs.

The system also does away with the traditional labor intensive method of operators recording data on a time card, a second person entering the data and a third person massaging the data into reports,  reducing employee costs and eliminating roles that require people to manually collect, enter and work on the data.  Using the MERLIN system, the data is collected in real-time, analyzed immediately into actionable information, defining how to make more revenue and margin per asset for production teams.

“MERLIN has certainly proven its worth,” says CEO, David McPhail.  “The average IRR rates of invested capital are 400 percent based on 70 client installations.  The average breakeven is less than a three months.”

The company just recently signed an order from GE Power & Water in South Carolina, for the installation of 34 MTConnect-based universal machine hardware adapters.

“[GE Power & Water] have 400 machines in one plant. They ordered 34 MTConnect hardware adapters to start, and they’re phasing it in,” says McPhail.

The hardware adapters will connect to GE’s own dashboard software, allowing the company to better measure and manage production. Memex’s system is flexible enough so that it can be sold either together with its MERLIN software or as a standalone universal machine interface.  In GE’s case, the hardware adapters were sold independently of MERLIN’s software, as a method to obtain data from manufacturing machines.

“Our adapters are not limited. They speak MTConnect, giving companies the latitude to develop their own applications or use ours,” says McPhail.

The company’s clients also include Mazak, the world’s largest machine tool manufacturer, which said that MERLIN-related efforts to reduce downtime yielded a 42 percent improvement in utilization of the monitored machines. Mazak also reduced operator downtime by 100 hours per month, and enabled the production team to return in-house 400 hours per month of previously outsourced work.

Customers like Edmonton, Alberta-based Innovative Mechanical Solutions have also raved about MERLIN in industry press, pointing out how the system became an employee motivator, as it encouraged operator performance.

The word is spreading about MERLIN’s power.  At the IMTS conference, the largest manufacturing technology trades show in North America, Memex generated 738 unique new company leads. Interestingly at this year’s IMTS, Mazak demonstrated MERLIN running live throughout its 800,000 square foot plant.

“We’re now busy following up on all of these leads and converting as much to revenue as we can,” says the chief executive officer. “We’re in one of the true greenfield opportunities that exist in manufacturing,” McPhail says.

Given the market consists of 16 million computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines and three other machines for each CNC on the average factory floor, the market for MERLIN is huge, with some 64  million manufacturing machines globally.  Memex is targeting its massive addressable market directly and through its significant distribution channels, which include Microsoft, Mazak’s CNC and Optonics divisions, and a dealer network that includes coverage in the USA, Mexico, and Europe.

The company recently released a new MTConnect fully configurable hardware adapter that can be installed in less than one hour, and can be used with older FANUC-controlled machines.  Fanuc controls comprise approximately 50 percent of the market, according to Memex.

The company is also working on MERLIN 3.0, an HTML 5-based release of its platform.  The new release will add three additional modules, creating additional significant business intelligence to its current offering, says Memex.

“We will streamline the process and allow companies to make improvements not only on percentage of efficiency, but also in dollars of margin per machine per hour in the new release,” affirms McPhail.

About 95% of the company’s clients are based in North America, while the remainder is located in Europe and the Middle East. Currently focused in the US and Canada, the company has plans to start marketing and selling in Europe next year.

Memex is cashed up, having raised $2 million in August. The company is deploying capital to increase market awareness of its product and to convert opportunity into money.

The MERLIN system also has the advantage of widespread appeal.  Practically, the product applies to any discrete manufacturer.  For example, in April, Memex announced it sold $106,000 of MERLIN  to Toronto-based Club Coffee, a custom coffee roaster.  “While many of our clients are focused in aerospace and defense, MERLIN is “genre-agnostic” and applies to any process on any equipment,” says McPhail.

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Manufacturing Talk Radio – David McPhail Interviewed at FABTECH

FABTECH 2014 brings together an anticipated 37,000 attendees and 1,400 exhibiting companies all under one roof. The show provides a backdrop for visitors to experience live equipment demonstration, find cost savings solutions, and network with industry peers throughout the 500,000+ square feet of show floor throughout the A, B, and C buildings at the Georgia World Congress Center.  The event also provides learning opportunities beyond the exhibits with over 100 educational sessions and expert-led presentations on the latest industry trends and technology in the metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing industries.

Hosts Lew Weiss and Tim Grady broadcasted live from the show floor with breaking news, insights and very special guests on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, November 11th – 13th.

David McPhail, President and CEO of Memex Automation, was a guest on Manufacturing Talk Radio on Wednesday November 12.

Click here to listen to David’s interview.  S2-E21FabTech Day 2.

Click here to visit the Manufacturing Talk Radio homepage.

Memex Automation’s MERLIN Being Demonstrated by Mazak Optonics as a Value-Added MTConnect-Based Solution

ATLANTA, GA and BURLINGTON, ON–(Marketwired – Nov 11, 2014) FABTECH 2014   “The implementation of MTConnect is one of the simplest and fastest ways to improve productivity and increase machine utilization. Mazak’s MTConnect implementation provided the highest ROI for any capital investment because of the significant increase in utilization of equipment for a very moderate expenditure,” said Mazak President Brian Papke.

Papke personally drove the project to implement the MTConnect protocol to determine machine availability with maximum accuracy at his company’s Kentucky-based North American headquarters — an 800,000 sq. ft. complex that produces a variety of multi-axis turning and milling machines at a rate of 200 units per month. An article recently published in a manufacturing productivity magazine reported that Mazak achieved a 42% increase in equipment utilization in its Kentucky plant.

Astrix Networks Inc., operating as Memex Automation (TSX VENTURE: OEE) (“Memex” or the “Company”), is the global leader of manufacturing M2M productivity solutions. Memex was invited by Mazak Optonics to jointly demonstrate MERLIN (Manufacturing Enterprise Real-time Lean Information Network) with Mazak’s laser cutting systems at FABTECH 2014, Booth 3525. The joint demonstration will showcase MERLIN’s ability to connect all manufacturing machines to management, report plant-wide capacity utilization, and increase production and income from operations in real-time.

Mazak Optonics is the laser-cutting systems division of Yamazaki Mazak Corporation and the third division to demonstrate MERLIN as a value-add MTConnect-based solution. MERLIN was demonstrated by Mazak at IMTS in Sept. of this year, and at Germany’s EMO Hannover metalworking technology tradeshow in Sept. 2013.

“The availability of key data is crucial to managing operational performance. The combination of MTConnect and MERLIN will deliver performance details including dashboards that open up tremendous real-time visibility for both individual machines and the entire shop floor,” stresses Marc Lobit, General Manager Sales Support of Mazak Optonics.

MTConnect is an open, royalty-free machine communications standard intended to foster greater interoperability between manufacturing devices and software applications. Introduced at IMTS 2008, Mazak executives recognized its potential to facilitate plant-wide integration and enhance automation.

Memex Automation’s Chief Technology Officer Dave Edstrom was instrumental in creating the MTConnect vision in 2006, and was the President and Chairman of the MTConnect Institute for three-and-a-half years prior to joining Memex in Jan. 2014.

“We are very pleased to continue our collaboration with Mazak through our joint demonstration with Mazak Optonics at FABTECH,” said David McPhail, CEO of Memex Automation. “MERLIN is an MTConnect-based solution that universally connects all machines to management and shows manufacturers how to make more production, generating IRRs of up to 400%.”

About Mazak Optonics

Mazak Optonics Corporation is a major supplier of laser-cutting systems, offering 50 laser models and leading the industry in the implementation of emerging laser technologies. The company’s 50,000 sq. ft. North American Headquarters are located in Elgin, Illinois, and feature a 30,000 sq. ft. laser technology center housing up to 18 machines for demonstrations and training. Mazak Optonics is part of Yamazaki Mazak Corporation (Oguchi, Japan), the global leader for the manufacture of machine tools and systems for the precision machining of metal parts, including CNC turning centers, horizontal and vertical machining centers, Multi-Tasking machining centers, turnkey cells and software solutions. The North American Headquarters for Yamazaki Mazak are located in Florence, Kentucky. For more information on Mazak Optonics’ products and solutions, visit www.mazakoptonics.com, emailsales@mazaklaser.com or call 847-252-4500.

About Memex Automation Inc.

Memex Automation (TSX VENTURE: OEE) is the leader of manufacturing Machine to Machine (M2M) productivity solutions and the measurement of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (“OEE”) in real-time. OEE is the measurement of plant-wide capacity utilization. MERLIN (Manufacturing Enterprise Real-time Lean Information Network) generates OEE enterprise-wide, machine by machine. On April 15, 2014, PEM awarded the Company the 2013 Plant Engineering & Maintenance Award for Best Company Under 50 Employees. Frost & Sullivan awarded MERLIN its 2013 Technology Innovation Leadership Award for Machine Monitoring. Microsoft picked MERLIN to be its mid-market ERP machine connectivity solution. Okuma America Corporation, a world leader in CNC machine tools, announced in April 2014 that Memex Automation became a Partner in THINC. For more information, please visit: www.memex.ca.

 

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation services provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Contact Information
Sales:
Memex Automation Inc.

John Rattray
VP Sales and Marketing
Phone: 905-635-0590
Email: jrattray@memex.ca

Press:
market2world communications inc.

Paul Brent
Senior Communications Strategist
Phone: 613-256-3939
Email: paul@market2world.com

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Memex Automation’s MERLIN to be showcased by Mazak as “value-added” solution at FABTECH

Finanzen, Germany – November 11, 2014

Memex Automation (CVE:OEE) says it has been invited by Mazak Optonics to jointly demonstrate its MERLIN manufacturing productivity product on Mazak’s laser cutting systems at FABTECH this year in Atlanta, Georgia. Mazak Optonics is the laser cutting systems division of Yamazaki Mazak Corp, and the third unit to demonstrate MERLIN as a “value-added MTConnect-based solution”, said Memex.

Memex’s MERLIN is a hardware and software tool that tracks a large number of data inputs that measure OEE [overall equipment effectiveness] in real-time, machine by machine, as well as other operational machine information. It enables customers to address production bottlenecks as they happen, converting idle time back into production and ultimately improving throughput and increasing income from plant operations.

MTConnect is the open, royalty-free standard that is used with Memex’s new CNC hardware adapters, bringing OEE network connectivity from the shop floor to management, no matter the make, model or vintage of machine.

“The implementation of MTConnect is one of the simplest and fastest ways to improve productivity and increase machine utilization,” said Mazak president Brian Papke.  “Mazak’s MTConnect implementation provided the highest ROI for any capital investment because of the significant increase in utilization of equipment for a very moderate expenditure.”

Papke personally drove the project to implement the MTConnect protocol to determine machine availability with maximum accuracy at his company’s Kentucky-based North American headquarters – an 800,000 sq.ft. complex that produces a variety of multi-axis turning and milling machines at a rate of 200 units per month. The company achieved a 42 percent increase in equipment utilization in its Kentucky plant as a result.

“The combination of MTConnect and MERLIN will deliver performance details including dashboards that open up tremendous real-time visibility for both individual machines and the entire shop floor,” added Mazak’s GM of sales support, Marc Lobit.

The FABTECH demonstration will take place at booth 3525 from November 11-13, the companies said, and will showcase MERLIN’s ability to connect all manufacturing machines to management, as well as report plant-wide capacity utilization and increase production and income from operations in real time.

FABTECH is North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event, and is expected to draw some 27,000 attendees this year. MERLIN was also showcased by Mazak at IMTS in September and at Germany’s EMO Hannover metalworking technology tradeshow last year.

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Your Data: Use It or Lose It

Canadian Industrial Machinery – November 11, 2014 – By Joe Thompson

Machine monitoring creates data that can be tracked and used to improve efficiency.

Data matters.

Whether it’s a production manufacturing operation or a job shop, measuring the effectiveness of each piece of shop floor equipment using overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) software and data collection tools enables companies to collect data in real time.

But it’s not enough just to collect data; it must be used to make positive change to operational activity.

By examining both real-time and historical data, manufacturers can make changes to the manufacturing process to optimize efficiency. This leads to a reduction in overall costs.

In many shops, machinists track machine usage using a paper form. At the end of each job, or at the end of the day, they write down how long the machine was running and how much time was spent on setup. This enables management to bill the correct amount of hours for a certain job.

While this can produce the information necessary to create an invoice, the results – when compared to the actual, measured data – can vary tremendously.

“I think shops would be very surprised by how much variance there is between their recorded uptime, for example, and the actual data,” explained David McPhail, president and CEO of Memex Automation, Burlington, Ont.

Memex Automation has developed technology that collects real-time OEE information no matter the make, model, or vintage of the machine tool and creates reports, also in real time, that companies can use to optimize manufacturing processes.

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MES Increases Machine Availability for Mazak

American Machinist – November 5, 2014

Mazak USA’s CNC machine assembly plant in Florence, KY, recently the site of an extensive expansion and process improvement program.

The American manufacturing renaissance is in motion at Mazak’s plant in Florence, Ky., with the help of MERLIN (Manufacturing Execution Real-time Lean Information Network), a manufacturing execution system (MES) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications platform developed by Memex Automation that quickly and cost-effectively isolates productivity issues so everyone from the shop floor to the top floor is able to understand what must be done to maximize efficiency.

Mazak’s North American headquarters is an 800,000-sq.ft. complex producing a variety of multi-axis turning and milling machines at a rate of 200 units per month. The machine builder’s drive for productivity recently extended to a search to improve manufacturing efficiency, particularly regarding machine availability and associated downtime.

Mazak’s IT department started the efficiency drive by implementing the MTConnect protocol to determine machine availability with maximum accuracy, using Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) as a standard measurement. “This total embrace of MTConnect is intended to make a statement,” stated Mazak president Brian Papke, who personally drove the project. “We want to be a leader in both promoting and implementing MTConnect. We want our example to show the importance of moving toward data-driven manufacturing.  MTConnect is an essential part of what makes data-driven manufacturing possible.”

MTConnect is an open, royalty-free standard intended to foster greater interoperability between manufacturing devices and software applications. Introduced at IMTS 2008, Mazak executives recognized its potential to facilitate plant-wide integration and enhance automation.

Memex Automation’s Dave Edstrom, who was instrumental in creating the MTConnect vision in 2006, as well as was being the president and chairman of the MTConnect Institute for three-and-a-half years, joined Memex in January 2014 as its first chief technology officer and has worked with Mazak for years on MTConnect.

Ben Schawe, Mazak’s vice president of Manufacturing, began the hunt for a commercially available software package that could produce meaningful reports that would be actionable for both production and management teams.

Then, company formed a task force to evaluate commercially available software solutions. After an exhaustive search, Mazak selected MERLIN.   A 10-person evaluation committee of senior executives, including Brian Papke, unanimously chose the Memex Automation platform best capable of implementing the MTConnect vision.

“We ended up choosing MERLIN for its ability to collect data using MTConnect adapters and through their Universal Machine Interface circuit board for legacy machines,” Schawe explained.

“This advanced technology board can capture direct signals from the machine and translates it into MTConnect standard code,” he continued. “This combination meant that every machine on the shop floor could be MTConnect-compatible for a common technology analysis platform.

“In particular we liked MERLIN’s ability to display and report on information related to downtime and answer questions such as ‘Why is the machine not running and what can we do to get it running?’” Schawe said.

With MERLIN collecting and reporting Mazak’s production data in real-time, Mazak’s cross-functional task-force team had what they needed. Following the “you are what you measure” axiom, MERLIN made an almost instant impact at Mazak. A series of 60-in. display monitors presented real-time utilization data in a test section of the Florence plant. The test section contained a cross-section of equipment and helped establish a performance benchmark and related training protocols that could expand easily across the massive manufacturing plant.

Mazak’s large displays cycle through a series of reports that are viewable for short periods of time, using MERLIN. The majority of these reports focus on a specific machine as well as performance-based gauges and readouts, which resemble a car’s speedometer. Other reports present graphs that compare all of the machines connected to MERLIN according to a variety of critical metrics, such as uptime and stoppages by category.

For the first time, senior managers as well as everyone on Mazak’s shop floor have access to the same, actionable MERLIN reports. “Almost as soon as we had the reports out on the plant floor we saw a 6% increase in utilization,” Schawe said. “This was true low-hanging fruit. Not doing anything else – just having our operators aware of how their time management affected machine utilization – we got dramatic payback.”

MERLIN’s easily interpreted, visual report format provides operators at-a-glance information on how machine tool conditions are influencing efficiency. Bar graphs that summarize activity across a number of machines simultaneously inform supervisors and managers of trends useful for decision-making and long-term planning, such as when to schedule refresher training.

Also, MERLIN can show program stops, feed holds, spindle overrides, tool changes and other reasons why a machine is not running. Analyzing this data provides opportunities to reduce or eliminate many of these stoppages, which improves overall utilization.

A Mazak Slant Turn Nexus 600 big-bore turning center machine, with the MERLIN display screen at left.

At team production meetings Mazak personnel are able to identify and fix several downtime-related inefficiencies easily. One specific example indicated that some tools were wearing out frequently, and the simple solution was to have duplicates ready at tool magazines. This quick fix saved time because operators were no longer wandering the plant, enabling the machines to keep operating at peak capacity.

Some of Mazak’s analysis of MERLIN data was surprising, according to Schawe. In one instance, a number of part programs included optional stops, originally added so that operators could check tool-wear periodically, or measure a critical part feature during the prove-out phase.

When the part went into production, however, these optional stops were never removed from the part program, or operators simply got in the habit of restarting the machine at these points in the program. The high occurrence of stoppages linked to these programmed stops showed up in MERLIN reports, and were identified easily. Systematically editing the part programs to remove these unnecessary optional stops was an easy way to recover lost production time.

A similar pattern was detected in stoppages for tool changes. Some operators were stopping the machine every time the access to the tool magazine was opened to replace or check a cutting tool. Instead of using the feed-hold button, which stops the machine, they should have been using the magazine manual interrupt switch, which enables the machine to continue running safely while they perform tool maintenance. Training that addressed this issue took care of the problem.

Analyzing stoppages also revealed more subtle situations. For example, an unusual number of machine stops were reported with a certain run-of-part castings. Checking with the operators revealed that castings of the same part sourced from two different foundries were not identical. Dissimilarities in the foundry patterns created excess stock conditions that required the operator to interrupt the part program to manually add a second tool pass on the affected castings.

“Rather than offering an expensive, custom-built MES to go after specific issues, we’ve produced an affordable M2M toolkit that easily adapts to machines from all manufacturers and also produces a myriad of data reports our global customers find useful,” according to a Memex senior executive. “The technological breakthrough here is that MERLIN’s hardware and software module requires no programming or PLC set-up. MERLIN leverages every customer’s existing investment in plant, equipment and enterprise software, and lets them get on with the job of maximizing OEE.”

At Mazak, Schawe stated that MERLIN-related efforts to reduce downtime have so far yielded a 42% improvement in utilization for the monitored machines. In addition, his company reduced operator overtime by 100 hours per month and 400 hours per month of previously outsourced work was returned to Mazak.

He also praised the advantage of MERLIN’s ability to take the guesswork out of tracking machine utilization. “We can tell at a glance how we are doing, and the basis is in real-time and historical data,” he explained. “There is so much information, accurate and detailed, all easily accessed whereas before we were it was difficult to find information if it was even available,” he added.

Mazak’s HMI monitors present a series of reports for short periods, using MERLIN. Most of these reports focus on a specific machine as well as performance-based gauges and readouts, portrayed like speedometers. Other reports present graphs that compare all of the machines connected to MERLIN according to critical metrics, such as uptime and stoppages by category.

Rocky Rowland, production manager, uses the system to understand exact status of production. “I am a stickler for accurate information and we use it to make ongoing pro-active decisions in a real time basis.  As a bridge between management in the office administration and the actual shop floor, this tool helps me get things done and delivered on time,” he said.

Schawe’s management team also likes automatically receiving some 50 standard MERLIN reports that are sent out automatically to a variety of departments, cells, and managers on a daily, weekly and monthly basis through an email alert engine – including daily production, quality, constraints, throughput, operator and utilization metrics. “The data just flows,” he said. “We have full visibility of production both electronically and posted on production boards. The office staff can see statuses and we can relay direct information to customers. Utilizing the web services capability of MERLIN even enhances information dissemination as various devices can access data within their browsers and dashboards.”

In remarks at IMTS 2014, Brian Papke once again emphasized the importance of data availability to the success of the enterprise: “The implementation of MTConnect is one of the simplest and fastest ways to improve productivity and increase machine utilization,” he said. “Mazak’s MTConnect implementation provided the highest ROI for any capital investment because of the significant increase in utilization of equipment for a very moderate expenditure.”

“Creating a comprehensive machine monitoring system is a big step forward, but universal connectivity and reporting for shop floor and plant-wide communication is truly powerful,” Schawe continued. He also pointed out that MERLIN is showcased in Mazak technology centers across North America, so customers can see it in action. “We think we’ve only scratched the surface with MERLIN’s transformative possibilities. We’re working closely with Memex Automation to bring more and more equipment online with MERLIN. There’s more productivity for us to discover, and that’s what we intend to do.”

David McPhail is the president and CEO of Memex Automation Inc., the developers of the MERLIN MES.

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Memex Automation storms the world’s largest industrial machinery trade show – with the help of market2world

October 22, 2014 – By Paul Brent (market2world)

Imagine your firm finished a trade show with 800+ sales leads, gained more than two dozen media interviews that included video segments from the show floor and a six minute video profile that played on every big screen TV at the show plus on TV screens inside hotels and shuttle buses used by delegates. Just a marketing dream? No, it was reality for Memex Automation (TSX-V: OEE) at the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago.

With 114,000 delegates, IMTS is the world’s largest trade show for manufacturing technology and Memex Automation is the global leader of Machine2Machine (M2M) manufacturing productivity solutions. Its connectivity technologies bridge the shop floor to the top floor and provide major machine efficiencies, maintenance savings, and eradicate productivity gaps. Its flagship product is the machine monitoring communications platform called MERLIN.

David McPhail, Memex Automation, CEO interviewed by IMTS TV

The company invested a huge effort at the show, an email blast to thousands of contacts, 10 people on location, real-time video displays at the Memex Automation booth as MERLIN monitored machine tools on the show floor as well as at the Mazak manufacturing plant in Florence KY, 492 kilometres away. The company also scheduled a press release for day one of the show announcing new products.

As the PR agency for Memex Automation the market2world communications team drafted the company’s IMTS press release, distributed it and performed the outreach. In the days leading up to the show we contacted nearly 100 registered editorial people as well as our own list of contacts. Before the show even opened its doors we had confirmed 14 on-site interviews with reporters, editors and publishers of key media.

With 1,900 exhibitors at IMTS, competition for media attention is fierce. We secured an interview for Dave McPhail, CEO and Dave Edstrom, CTO of Memex with IMTS TV. Each day IMTS TV, which is operated by the show organizers, profiles a few select companies that have breakthrough technologies. The six-minute profile ran on every IMTS TV screen and monitor on the show floor and is now part of the IMTS TV Web archive.

If you doubt the power of well placed media coverage examine the chart from Marketwired. It tracks the number of views of the Memex press release. Such a graph normally shows a declining number of views as the days go by, yet this one shows views climbing as we garnered attention for Memex including the video report by IMTS TV as well as MetalWorking Production and Processing, Industry Sourcing and Industry Week Magazine.

market2world memex media graph

Tracking of number of views of Memex Automation press releases.

We had 21 media reports that came out the IMTS event and we still have another 9 stories from the show in our pipeline. As of October 23, six weeks after the IMTS show, the company has closed five new contracts arising from contacts made at IMTS. John Rattray, VP of Sales and Marketing for Memex Automation, expressed his delight with the media attention market2world generated at the show that helped to fill the booth and generate 800+ sales leads. We were happy to hear that prospective customers told John, “Memex is everywhere!”

market2world memex imts

Memex Automation booth at IMTS show.

And another PR win: As a result of one of the editorial meetings we arranged at IMTS, CEO Dave McPhail was invited to join the editorial board of Manufacturing Automation magazine.

Paul Brent is Senior Communications Strategist with market2world communications inc. the public relations and product marketing agency for global innovators.

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Tool Monitoring for Multitasking Machines

Practical Machinist – Largest manufacturing technology forum on the web – October 22, 2014

Article From: 9/26/2014 Modern Machine Shop, Mark Albert, Editor-in-Chief.

Machine tools designed to combine milling, turning and other metalworking processes have remarkable potential for efficiency and productivity. Completing parts in one pass across a multitasking machine streamlines production by eliminating multiple setups, avoiding errors when parts are refixtured and performing several operations simultaneously. Multitasking machines also are well-suited for running unattended or having one operator oversee multiple units.

By their nature, multitasking machines tend to be complex and sometimes difficult to understand, however. They follow a variety of configurations—mills with turning, lathes with milling, twin-spindle machining centers and three-turret lathes are a few examples. Additional axis motions such as a rotating milling head (B axis) and turrets on a cross-slide (Y axis) compound this complexity.

And multitasking machines impose distinct challenges to cutting tool usage and management. For example, multitasking machines may have a limited number of stations for cutting tools on the tool turret or automatic toolchanger. Certain cutting tools may be called upon for both milling and turning operations. A worn or broken tool that interrupts a multitasking machine may have the same effect on productivity as unplanned downtime on two or more single-purpose machines.

Systems designed to monitor a tool’s condition, adjust automatically for wear and capture information about the tool’s performance can be especially valuable on multitasking machines. One of the biggest challenges to tool monitoring on a multitasking machine is coping with simultaneous cutting operations. One system designed specifically to meet this challenge is TMAC-MP from Caron Engineering (Wells, Maine) which stands for Tool Monitoring Adaptive Control for Multi-Process machines.

This system, which includes sensors installed on the machine tool and software installed on the CNC unit, monitors tool performance to detect wear or breakage, automatically adjusts feed rates to compensate for wear (adaptive control), and captures data about tool life. Several tools cutting at the same time can be monitored and controlled equally well, with all data recorded and displayed in a centralized interface. Data from a TMAC-MP system on an individual machine can be transmitted to a shop-wide machine monitoring system, enabling managers to incorporate critical tool data into calculations of overall equipment efficiency.

A Multi-Processing Extension

TMAC-MP is an extension of Caron Engineering’s pioneering TMAC tool monitoring system. It is based on the principle that a machine tool has to work harder to maintain a set feed rate as the edges of a cutting tool grow dull. In other words, spindle horsepower gradually increases as wear occurs. By sensing spindle horsepower output, the system can detect if a cutting tool is worn or broken.

More importantly, the system can be set to react to changes in the horsepower readings. If the power monitor detects evidence of excessive wear, it can signal the machine control to issue an alarm, initiate a tool change to retrieve a fresh spare tool or stop the machining process altogether.

The adaptive control option enables the control to automatically adjust the feed rate to maintain a constant horsepower rating as the tool undergoes normal wear patterns. As a result, the cutting tool performs at its optimum power level, thus extending its life, reducing cycle time, and avoiding stress on the spindle bearings and other machine components. Under this protocol, feed-rate adjustments are made constantly in small increments (typically 1 percent of the programmed feed rate) for a smooth transition that further protects the tool and workpiece surface.

For both monitoring and automatic adjustment, the system’s software can “learn” the normal horsepower draw for a given tool and operation while the tool is cutting. Using this baseline, the user can set limits and establish the preferred response.

The multi-processing enhancement of the system is designed to perform these functions even when multiple tools are cutting at the same time. Essentially, the software was reformatted to be multitasking in its own right. For example, this development enables the system to monitor and control two turning tools cutting simultaneously in an upper and lower turret while a milling tool is doing end work on a part in the subspindle.

Originally developed for a Tsugami Swiss-type lathe and introduced at IMTS 2012, TMAC-MP also includes significant hardware innovations. Most important is the ability to monitor very small tools such 0.004-inch- (0.1-mm-) diameter drills. To this end, Caron Engineering had to develop new strain sensors that can be fully embedded in static toolholders sized for tools this small. The company also developed three-axis and single-axis accelerometers for measuring vibration. Mounted on the spindle or tooling slide, these sensors record vibration in spindle bearings, servodrives and other machine components that can adversely affect cutting conditions.

The system’s user interface was also changed so that machine and cutting tool data can be viewed in a bar graph that shows tool condition and remaining tool life for all tools being monitored. This information can be archived in any structured query language (SQL) database. The software can also be set up to send alarms by email or transmit them as text messages.

The Larger Connection

As valuable as tool monitoring and adaptive control may be for the individual multitasking machine, Rob Caron, president and founder of Caron Engineering, believes that the ability to port data across a network is the most substantial pay off awaiting shops and plants that implement the TMAC-MP system.

“Making tool data available to third-party software applications such as shopfloor machine monitoring opens doors to many possibilities such as plant-wide, data-driven decision-making and integrated automation,” Mr. Caron says. As a first step in this direction, his company is partnering with Memex Automation (Burlington, Ontario).

Memex’s manufacturing execution system, Manufacturing Execution Real-time Lean Information Network (MERLIN) supplies OEE metrics to support performance, productivity and profitability initiatives. The system tracks manufacturing operations bi-directionally from the ERP work order to each machine’s operations. MERLIN connects to all machines on the shop floor using various protocols, MTConnect adapters and/or network conductivity devices.

According to Mr. Caron, TMAC-MP users can use MERLIN’s interface and connectivity to deliver in-machine metrics from the shop floor to the operations and corporate executives, even to mobile devices or other web-enabled systems.

This connection also has the benefit of validating the productivity and efficiency gains delivered by multitasking machine tools, as well as making those machining resources more secure by detecting and preventing cutting-tool-based constraints to their full potential. “Multitasking machines and tool monitoring are more than complementary technologies. They are mutually empowering,” Mr. Caron concludes.

A Swiss-style lathe with a subspindle was the test bed for t…spindle (next photo) are capable of simultaneous operation.

A Swiss-style lathe with a subspindle was the test bed for the TMAC-MP tool monitoring system for multi-processing applications. A tooling block working on the main spindle (shown here) and static tools doing end work on the subspindle (next photo) are capable of simultaneous operation.

Here is a photo of the static tools doing end work on the subspindle (mentioned in the photo above.)

Here is a photo of the static tools doing end work on the subspindle (mentioned in the photo above.)

A specially designed strain gage enables small tools to be m…echnologies, in tools of this size.

A specially designed strain gage enables small tools to be monitored effectively. Wear or breakage can be difficult to spot visually, or monitor with other technologies, in tools of this size.

A bar graph displayed on the control unit shows the performance characteristics of all tools being monitored.

A bar graph displayed on the control unit shows the performance characteristics of all tools being monitored.

Rob Caron, president of Caron Engineering, stands firmly on …n machine productivity and a shop’s overall effectiveness.

Rob Caron, president of Caron Engineering, stands firmly on his belief that tool monitoring bridges a gap between machine productivity and a shop’s overall effectiveness.

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To see the Modern Machine Shop article, please click here.

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Memex’s Merlin praised by i-Mech in Manufacturing Automation article

Proactive Investors – Oct 20, 2014 – Memex Automation’s MERLIN system that works to improve manufacturing operations in real time has proven beneficial to more ways than one, according to client Innovative Mechanical Solutions (i-Mech), which is based in Edmonton, Alberta.

i-Mech’s president, Wayne Horley, was cited in an article in the October issue of Manufacturing Automation magazine (page 20) saying that the company has realized a number of benefits from implementing MERLIN.

While there’s no hard data in terms of improved productivity yet, Horley said that implementing any sort of accountability system improved productivity by a minimum of five percent.

The i-Mech president said that because the system tracks productivity, it is an employee motivator. “The operators know that we’re keeping track of things,” he was quoted in the article as saying. “And the people who are self-driven and want to contiuously improve? They love this system.”

The article also noted the MERLIN system’s ability to help with OEE [overall equipment effectiveness] and lean manufacturing because it not only collects data from machines, but helps teams analyze that data easily, offering both standard reports and the flexibility to write your own reports.

The system also reduces employee costs, cutting down on roles that require people to work on data collection and analysis, as with MERLIN, it is now automated.

i-Mech has plans to set up another manufacturing facility in the US, where it also wants to use MERLIN, with Horley also saying he is encouraging the company’s third-party partners to come on board.

Memex’s MERLIN is a hardware and software tool that tracks a large number of data inputs that measure OEE [overall equipment effectiveness] in real-time, machine by machine, as well as other operational machine information.

It enables customers to address production bottlenecks as they happen, converting idle time back into production and ultimately improving throughput and increasing income from plant operations.

MTConnect is the open, royalty-free standard that is used with Memex’s new CNC hardware adapters, bringing OEE network connectivity from the shop floor to management, no matter the make, model or vintage of machine.

To see the full article, please click here.