Written for the Manufacturing & Export Enhancement Cluster by Alberto Silva, Hexagon
Digital transformation is definitely a journey, and smart manufacturing is not necessarily a single digital revolution in your factory. It can be a step-by-step process using cost-effective upgrades to produce incremental efficiencies in your quality process and, in turn, savings for your business.
The truth is smart manufacturing is not a destination that you reach then sit back and enjoy the view. There are objectives manufacturers want to reach, whether it is increased throughput, improving time-to-market, or driving right-first-time manufacturing. As these goals are realized, the journey does not end there. You have to maintain the intelligence that has been achieved.
In many ways, the smart factory is like the human brain. A multitude of different processes are connected and communicating across different regions. They are optimized for analyzing data efficiently, making informed decisions based on that data, and using intelligence to adapt accordingly. Factories and brains are primed to be smart, but without the right care…they can go the other way. Making manufacturing smarter, and keeping it smarter, involves keeping a steady eye on the process improvements in your factory. Your coordinate measuring machine or CMM is a prime example.
Data gathered from the CMM can be fed into a Quality management systems (QMS) to help define a process to manage and improve quality throughout a manufacturing or industrial system. The purpose of a QMS is not only to help organize and optimize business practices, but to create a system that enables continuous improvement and makes manufacturing smarter. Hexagon’s QMS solution is a workflow-based software that provides a centralized means of managing and tracking quality. These systems provide document control, audit management, non-conformance tracking, corrective action and employee training. More comprehensive QMS solutions encompass critical processes like supplier quality, life sciences compliance and risk management. Another powerful option is ETQ Reliance , a cloud-native quality management system (QMS), powered by an agile platform that drives 40 best-in-class applications adaptable to unique environments.
How to monitor your CMM’s performance for continuous improvement
To get started toward your smart manufacturing goals, it is important to start with some fundamentals. Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is an important measure of machine performance and an important indicator of a factory’s smartness. It can be calculated either for a single CMM or for a set of CMMs, over various periods of time. An understanding of a CMM’s OEE can help reduce spending on maintenance while achieving better overall machine performance and efficiency.
But to effectively track OEE, it is important that your asset management system and metrology software can deliver the answers you need in an easy-to-use format. OEE is expressed as a percentage and is calculated using the formula:
OEE = Availability x Performance x Quality
Asset management software should simplify this task for operators and managers by drawing important data about the CMM’s availability, performance and quality from the system’s metrology software. But there are still a number of factors operators need to consider when establishing an accurate OEE.
Getting availability right
It is important to calculate availability on the basis of scheduled time and operating time. Scheduled time is when a machine’s use is anticipated during a shift and excludes planned holidays and scheduled shutdowns. Operating time is the amount of scheduled time that the equipment spends executing measurements and includes manual program execution time, such as one-off measurements or the creation of “manual alignments,” as well as automated program execution time. It does not include anything outside scheduled time, even if the machine is productive. These figures then feed into the standard equation:
Availability = Operating time / Scheduled time
Performance measures the capacity or speed at which the equipment is operating during scheduled time and compares the actual output of a system to a theoretical “ideal”, which is the shortest time required to complete a measurement program under ideal circumstances. The ideal execution time is a fixed value that should be set for each CMM separately as it may vary based on an individual CMM’s performance characteristics for separate programs.
For this reason, we recommend creating separate program documents within your metrology software for assets with different performance characteristics. The ideal execution time and the actual number of programs are used to calculate performance in the following equation:
Performance = (Programs Executed x Ideal Execution Time) / Operating Time Quality
Quality measures the CMM’s success in completing measurement processes during the scheduled time and is calculated using the equation:
Quality = Programs Successfully Executed / Total Programs Executed
“Programs successfully executed” is the number of program executions that completed all the intended measurements of the features belonging to the program, whereas total programs executed includes both programs successfully completed and cancelled programs.
OEE is an important health indicator of any smart factory. It is also a valuable key performance indicator or KPI for understanding the impact of the upgrades you are making during your digital transformation. Ultimately, measuring machine performance is a crucial step to continuously smarter manufacturing.
Increasing CMM utilization and decreasing measurement turn time
MAX Aerostructures is an industry leader in machine components and complex assemblies, specializing in developing products from conception to reality. Based in Wichita, Kansas, and founded in 2016, they have quickly grown into a leading aerospace manufacturer, and subsequently expanded their capabilities to support semiconductor manufacturers. The business is now an experienced producer of all types of parts, coming in all shapes and sizes and typically composed of hard metals like aluminum, steel, and titanium. The company works with their customers from the earliest stages to manage the supply base and take care of every ensuing step of part production.
Their primary expertise lies in large and complex 5-axis parts, with large ribs, windows and structural components all produced on multiple CNC machining centers and holding to tolerances as fine as 127 microns over a distance of 3.5 meters. Their precision machining is automation driven, allowing them to fully control the process and ensure expectations and specifications are satisfied.
The business has two main goals to support their further growth and development: reducing long run times, especially on larger components, and replacing tactile measurement with non-contact measurement. Part of this initiative can be achieved by optimizing existing production and inspection programs. But to completely achieve these objectives, Max turned to new CMM inspection technology from Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division.
“When a new project comes in, we always try to predetermine how long the CMM runtime will be, how many positions and special fixtures are needed,” explains Matt Price, Quality Supervisor and lead CMM programmer for the Max Aerostructures Quality Assurance department. “Usually the bigger the part, the longer the machine will be tied up, and that is a problem across the industry. If the part takes up most of the table, a CMM program with the tactile probe can take all day to run, if there are a couple of thousand points. This is why we were looking for a way to improve our inspection time while still making sure we inspect the entire part.”
Max tries to hold to a turn time of less than two hours for every product that needs CMM inspection in the quality lab, no matter the size of the part. This sort of aggressive targeting is challenging to face, but the business has consistently reaped the rewards of living up to such ambitious goals.
“One of the things we knew, is that was going to be difficult to achieve with the tactile probe,” says Price. “For the sheer number of points and features that we want to measure, we had to look for something a little bit different.”
The team had some previous experience with laser scanning technology, both with CMMs and portable measuring arms, but had ultimately found these solutions unable to meet their requirements, particularly with regard to speed of measurement and data noise. But with ambitious targets to be met to drive the business forward, Price looked to Hexagon’s latest generation of CMM laser scanner systems.
“Non-contact inspection is something we have had our eyes on for a few years,” says Price. “When you can capture millions of points in just a matter of minutes you have to find a way to implement that technology into your inspection process. It’s just too much of a leap forward in metrology to ignore and it is clearly the next big thing in measurement strategy.”
In 2020, Max added Hexagon’s HP-L-10.6 laser scanning sensor to their toolkit, and immediately saw the benefits with a significant 70 percent reduction in total inspection time. The next step came only a year later, with the addition of the ground-breaking HP-L-10.10 laser scanning sensor introduced in 2021. The results were just as dramatic, with inspection times recorded with the HP-L-10.6 at 45 minutes reduced to just 7 minutes with the HP-L-10.10.
The HP-L-10.10 integrates Hexagon’s innovative SHINE technology (Systematic High-Intelligence Noise Elimination), which enables the blue-light laser to move extremely quickly over surfaces and features of varying colors and finishes while collecting clean, high-density point-cloud data. The scanner’s versatile default measurement profile uses automatic exposure adjustment on a point-by-point basis, which makes it ideal for integration within an automated inspection system.
“I figured we were taking the next baby-step forward and it would be a little better than the products I had seen previously, just with better performance”, says Price. “But the 10.10 was fast – I cannot understate how fast that laser can scan. Hexagon engineers showed a few different people a sample scan as they walked into the room and everyone said the same thing: ‘it’s scanning right now?’ It literally scans at the upper limits of the machine move speed.”
With the speed and performance of the HP-L-10.10, the CMM becomes an option for in-process checks because the bottleneck of first-part inspection is gone. This allows for in-process reduced program checks, where a part is simply loaded, a few sections are scanned, the color map is checked, and the production machines can just keep running without the need to wait on QA feedback.
“That is where the laser scanning comes in and does its best work and makes its biggest gains. It is able to capture so much data at once, you don’t have that downtime on the shop floor where production is waiting on feedback – there’s only so much programming you can do to accelerate the process with only a tactile probe.”
“Customers are often keen to know details about our CMM capacity, because in some businesses inspection can be a really big bottleneck to production. Whenever we talk to customers or take them around the shop, instead of trying to hide the inspection group, we take them right in, and show them the technology we are using. With the 10.10, we can openly say, ‘this is the way most people are doing it; this is how we are doing it. We don’t have capacity restraints, downtime. Here is our wait time; everything is done in less than two hours.’ We are very proud of that side of the business.”
Download the full case study here.
Hexagon solutions empower better decision making
Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence has the most comprehensive offering of precision measurement solutions from coordinate measuring machines to automated metrology solutions including state-of-the-art measuring arms, laser trackers and optical scanners. Manufacturers can build efficient workflows and share information effectively with Hexagon’s digital manufacturing project management software.
Hexagon is the largest software developer in the metrology space, and offers a broad range of customizable software programs that deliver intelligent and effective data acquisition, analysis and evaluation as well as powerful data management and reporting tools. Their enterprise IT solutions are created to structure and manage 3D measurement data to improve manufacturing quality. Not only can users drive collaboration to use 3D date more effectively, but manufacturers gain visibility throughout the quality process and deliver consistency from single parts to final assembled products.