Randy Glover, project manager at Fredon Corp., is a bit of a technology enthusiast, which helps him find solutions for challenges encountered at work.
Fredon has been in business since 1969, machining difficult-to-make parts for the medical, aerospace, transportation, and electronics industries. The company’s objective, “one step beyond,” means constantly striving for the goals of lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, precision, and operational excellence.
The company started in Euclid, Ohio, with a two-man team in a 1,800ft2 facility and today operates out of a 70,000ft2, climate-controlled facility in Mentor, Ohio.
“A consistent goal of ours is to remain at the front of the manufacturing world,” Glover states, “to be able to provide our customers with high-quality parts manufactured in innovative ways. Fredon is small enough to keep a one-on-one relationship with our customers and skilled enough to surpass the expectations of a facility many times larger [than ours].”
Machinists at Fredon use turning, milling, grinding, 4-axis, and 5-axis equipment, and with so many capabilities and a commitment to customers, downtime is not an option.
Quick, easy solution
“The process of having to load and unload our CNC programs was inefficient,” Glover says. “It varied from machine to machine, and most times, it was a nightmare. I had to find a quick and easy solution that could be used by all team members, regardless of technical ability.”
There are close to 100 employees at Fredon and a big percentage of them have been working there for more than 25 years, when technology was not as frequently used at the machines. Floppy disks were still around, paper tape was still in use, and CNCs – such as the Haas VF-1 vertical machining center (VMC) – were still a new concept. Glover wanted to make sure everyone on the shop floor could easily use any solution he chose for the machines.
Glover began looking for an USB interface for his old RS232-based machines. He was considering upgrading systems to USB through proprietary hardware, installed directly by the machine manufacturer, but the price was too high. That’s when he came across Shop Floor Automations’ Portable USB Connect unit, and going that route was a “no-brainer,” Glover says, because of the affordability compared to the alternative.
The Portable USB Connect communication device can load and save programs from CNC memory and drip-feed to most CNC machines. It contains its own DNC firmware, doesn’t require other devices or components to work, and is a standalone DNC transfer box solution.
“It definitely saved us a lot of time, a lot of money, from having to run around and do it with a laptop, especially on a lot of the older units that have the floppy drives in them, or the PCMCIA cards. They kind of died out, so it was definitely a big help for us,” Glover says.
The device can also back up a DNC Network if it goes down or is used as the primary input device in a CNC shop. It supports high-speed data transfer and works on most CNC controls that support standard serial protocols.
To drip-feed large files from the USB Connect, users connect the unit, select DNC, and press cycle start on the CNC.
A few years later
Glover still finds several uses for the Portable USB Connect that he bought in 2016, and he’s invested in two Floppy Drive Emulators and a Pendant USB Connect.
The USB Floppy Drive Emulator replaces the machine’s existing floppy drive with an independently operated USB flash drive reader. Besides removing the existing drive and replacing it with the Emulator, no additional system configuration or debugging is required. The drive replaces most existing 720k/1.44MB capacity 28- or 34-pin ribbon-cable systems and will connect to the machine’s existing power and data cables.
The USB Connect Pendant Mount includes a 2GB USB flash drive stick, panel-mount USB connector/waterproof cap, display, USB cable, and a power cable. It becomes part of the CNC control without cabling or power.
“The Shop Floor Automations Floppy Drive Emulator and USB upgrades have saved us an uncalculatable amount of time in transferring programs to and from CNC machines,” Glover says. “It really helped with some of the older machines that were crabby when it came to using the RS232 with a dated DNC system.”
Glover adds that setting up the hardware was “very intuitive for some of our more seasoned machinists who are not super tech-savvy.”
Bridging the gap between old and new technology in Fredon’s shop mirrors Fredon’s need to bridge the skills gap as manufacturing technology evolves.
Referring to a picture of him and his father, Glover says, “He was working here [Fredon] my entire life. If it wasn’t for him working here, I never would have worked here, and never would have been in the position to purchase anything from Shop Floor Automations.”
When a company comes out of a leading brand, transferring and integrating huge amounts of data can be challenging. However, the task can also provide an opportunity to upgrade information management systems for more effective product and business decisions.
Such was the experience of Ascensia Diabetes Care, created in 2016 when Bayer AG sold its 70-year-old diabetes care business to PHC Holdings (formerly known as Panasonic Healthcare Holdings). Ascensia, now a stand-alone company, makes products including Contour blood-glucose monitoring systems.
With many former Bayer employees, “We knew the product, it was just handling the transition we needed help with,” says Ascensia Manager of Engineering systems Chris Pasternak. “Bayer is a great company with a lot of irons in the fire. Now, for us as Ascensia, to be able to focus solely on the diabetes industry and develop more and better products is very exciting.”
Yet that excitement was tempered by the need to come completely off Bayer’s existing SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system within 18 months. New ERP and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems needed to be configured and integrated, and everything required rebranding from Bayer to Ascensia, affecting multiple products sold globally with customized packaging in many different languages.
Consider a single Ascensia blood-glucose monitor: the hand-held device comes individually packaged, shipped in large lots, and accompanying supplies include lancets for the finger-stick and test strips that go into the meter. Ascensia employees had to replace all existing blood-glucose monitors and associated hardware that included the Bayer name and branding with versions bearing the new company logo, and redesign artwork, labeling, and packaging. Designs, marketing plans, manufacturing guidelines – all needed to be created, approved, executed, and completed by the end of the transition period.
“Every component that went into every country had to be touched,” Pasternak says. “Even the needles on our lancets had to be redesigned because they all had the Bayer cross emblem on them.”
To manage everything from a product and a financial-system standpoint, Ascensia had to process numerous change orders to track all the redesign work, produce and distribute all the new product versions to proper destinations, and keep the overall task flow of the business running smoothly throughout. As a medical device manufacturer, Ascensia also had to ensure continual compliance with FDA and ISO requirements as every transformation unfolded during the transition period.
To manage the project, Ascensia turned to global consulting, technology services and digital transformation firm Capgemini. Its experts recommended NetSuite, a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) ERP system with a focus on the business applications of supply-chain management and procurement. Capgemini also provided customer relationship management (CRM) software.
PLM software, something the Ascensia team didn’t use at Bayer, serves as the system of record for everything involved in managing product development, manufacture, and assembly. Ascensia considered four different PLM tools and decided on Autodesk’s cloud-based Fusion Lifecycle.
After one Fusion Lifecycle provider stepped away from the project several months in, due to the size and complexity of the challenge, Capgemini and Autodesk recommended Razorleaf for implementation services and to support configuration and integration of the PLM system.
“Despite the late start and the size of the project, Razorleaf and Capgemini helped us handle it all, within regulatory obligations, and we were done ahead of schedule,” Pasternak notes.
An in-depth look at the many steps taken to ensure the project’s success provides a more realistic view of the massive scope of the task.
“The biggest thing we had to tackle was that we had a lot of data, and it wasn’t going into the same box,” Pasternak begins. “We weren’t going from SAP to SAP, so A didn’t equal A. We were trying to manipulate our data into a completely different system, and at the same time do system upgrades to change certain things we wanted to do in other ways. But we also wanted to keep some familiarity in our process so we didn’t totally lose our people; we still wanted to find all the previous information that we brought in.”
“A key piece was that legacy information,” notes Capgemini Work Stream Project Manager Janie Gurley. “We needed to take decades of information out of SAP at Bayer, and it was a huge win to be able to migrate all that information over into Ascensia’s current environment instead of setting it aside.”
“Ascensia had done an excellent job collecting their requirements,” says Rodney Coffey, Razorleaf’s project manager and solution architect. “There were few gaps, so we were for the most part able to jump right in. However, it was clear from the beginning that there would be hurdles to creating all the necessary documentation for FDA compliance.”
Razorleaf gave a global-design presentation to Ascensia to provide everyone with an understanding of the PLM solution being put in place and all the steps toward integration and full implementation.
“We used our iterative design approach that keeps the customer in front of the solution as it is being developed,” Coffey says. “This helps control scope and ensures they are getting exactly what they want.”
Razorleaf started the PLM configuration, knocking out each application one-by-one while maintaining full functionality.
“We had team members working in parallel to create the needed FDA compliant specifications and test protocols for each of the business applications,” Coffey says. “Ascensia also had the responsibility of creating their own new standard operating procedures for the system’s end users.”
The PLM portion of the project came back on schedule relative to the ERP and CRM implementations, ready for integration with NetSuite and the data migration from Bayer’s legacy SAP system.
For the integration, Razorleaf developed the specification that laid out the necessary field mappings and business processes. An integration software, Mulesoft (since acquired by Salesforce), transferred data between the PLM and ERP systems.
“Seamless integration between the two optimizes communication between the engineering and the purchasing groups,” Coffey says.
After extracting the Ascensia data from SAP, Razorleaf transformed the raw data for loading into Fusion Lifecycle, something Coffey calls “a large, cumbersome effort but one that was necessary to create the new PLM environment.”
It took about four months to migrate all revisions of Items and BoMs, legacy change orders, specifications with attachments – and then generate the needed relationships between these records in the Fusion Lifecycle system.
“We created two different engineering change order (ECO) types – one’s legacy, one’s the new one in Fusion Lifecycle,” says Pasternak. “We can look up anything that was legacy and still see all the text. We have governing requirements that data has to be there for seven to 10 years, and we’ll probably hang onto it forever. But going forward, we have a different workspace for all our future ECOs.”
With the migration completed, the PLM environment reached a production-ready point, and Ascensia was able to begin end-user training (Razorleaf trained three Ascensia staff to be trainers) and start coordinating new change orders in the system.
“In the first two months of the new system we were able to put out about 20% more ECOs and our cycle times were reduced by close to 20% as well,” Pasternak notes. “By processing ECOs faster, we can get to market quicker. We’ve now wrapped up our rebranding efforts and are moving onto our next project.”
Things are running more smoothly on many other levels as well.
“The learning curve for staff is much less steep, and a lot of that is due to the way Fusion Lifecycle works. Things are more on the surface, so you don’t have to dig through ten different areas to find what you need,” Pasternak says.
Reporting is also improved with the new PLM system.
“Before, we’d spend a day building an Excel spreadsheet that was nearly out of date by the time we published it the next day,” Pasternak says. “Now we can build and publish an intricate report quickly, and whoever needs the information can grab all the real-time data immediately.”
The FDA is never far from any medical-device manufacturer’s mind and Ascensia is no exception.
“We are very well regulated, whether it be the FDA here in the U.S. or other regulatory governing bodies in different countries,” Pasternak says. “The new system allows us to prove we’re adhering to all of our process requirements and maintaining the tight compliance we need.”
Cleveland Clinic Innovations, the commercialization arm of Cleveland Clinic, turns medical inventions into patient-benefiting technologies ranging from medical devices and health information technology (IT) to therapeutics and diagnostic solutions. Because innovation is key in advancing medical care, for the past 16 years Cleveland Clinic Innovations has hosted the annual Medical Innovation Summit, an event that explores the latest in healthcare innovations, challenges, and opportunities. Past Summit topics have ranged from obesity, diabetes, genomics, and personalized medicine to cardiovascular and orthopedic advancements. This year’s topic – To Good Health: The Future of Prevention and Population Health – looked beyond hospital-based care, focusing on illness prevention.
While it may seem odd that a medical center is approaching healthcare with the goal of keeping patients out of its facility, it’s happening because of data. Technology enables the collection of vast amounts of data from sensors and biomarkers in healthy populations, resulting in new technologies and approaches to patient care. Embedding biosensors within medical devices transforms them from passive, static instruments into devices with dynamic, adaptive features that collect data in real-time, offering the potential to improve device performance and healthcare outcomes; similar to how manufacturing is using data to improve production.
In manufacturing, advanced analytics enables a deep dive into historical process data to identify trends – even among the most discrete processes – to optimize those factors having the greatest effect on production. With this wealth of real-time shop floor data, and the ability to run sophisticated statistical assessments, previously isolated data sets now reveal important insights and opportunities to improve manufacturing efficiencies and product precision.
The value of data collected from a medical device or the shop floor is insignificant until there’s action, which leads back to the theme of this year’s Medical Innovation Summit that examined the prevention of illness by using data.
At the end of the Summit, the Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2019 list was released revealing that data plays a role in some technologies predicted to enter the market:
AI in healthcare – Process unlimited amounts of unstructured data, artificial intelligence (AI) programs turn images and words into intelligible information and the analysis and organization of this raw data is helping healthcare professionals better interpret patient data to deliver better care.
3D-printed patient-specific products – Data from various compassionate use-cases of 3D-printed implants support customization for improving patient outcomes, paving the path for tailor-made implants from patient data.
A one-piece, 2m heavy-duty, ductile cast-iron machine base ensures accuracy and repeatability for the electric servo and quill-type tool spindles.
The bar-fed collet version of the Eclipse 12-100 has a maximum workpiece diameter of 65mm (2.5") and features a maximum workpiece length of 180mm (7") with 127mm (5") of material outside the collet.
Its cut-off saw features bar and workpiece spacing prior to saw blade retraction after the cut, moving the saw blade away from the workpiece in the collet and the bar stock away from the blade – eliminating blade dragging during the saw’s return to home position. A two-speed drive motor with belt reduction yields a highly accurate cut, and the saw uses 360mm diameter carbide-brazed saw blades.
The units use HSK 50 toolholders, are direct-drive powered by Fanuc ailT6/12000HV motors with KTR GS38 couplers. The motor continuous rating is 5.5kW at 7.4hp with a 30-minute rating of 7.5kW at 10hp. It has dual windings and pumps out 35.0Nm at low speeds and 13.2Nm at high speeds.
Designed to introduce automation to small- and medium-sized businesses, delta robot is a simple solution for assembly tasks. The low-maintenance, lightweight robotic assembly uses igus components and includes a maintenance-free, toothed-belt drive; lubrication-free linkage; encoders and stepper motors; and optional drive controllers. The unit can be delivered pre-assembled or assembled on-site in about 30 minutes.
The robot is based on three maintenance- free drylin ZLW toothed-belt actuators, lubrication-free igubal spherical bearings, and other lightweight components. NEMA stepper motors and encoders ensure quick handling of up to ±0.5mm.
The WRSP60 high-accuracy scanning probe checks part profiles directly on machining centers and milling machines in real-time – without being transferred to a measurement lab – eliminating reloading and repositioning of parts for reworking, improving processes and optimizing cycle times.
WRSP60 probes can:
Check part profile quality
Compensate for part misalignment
Check for surface deformation
Input compensation information to cutting programs
Compare to the master
Enable touch for part positioning
The system transmits data via radio to a WRI receiver, using a communication protocol that is immune to interference and reduces power consumption. Its multi-channel system enables the receiver to manage up to 12 systems sequentially, including Marposs WRS part contact probes. Software collects, analyzes, and displays data.