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The Emerging Use of Tablets, The Cloud, and Mobility Specific Applications on the Machine Shop Floor

[December 18, 2014] With the holiday season soon upon us thoughts naturally turn to new toys, and adults at this time of year often think like little kids. At APM's Longmont CNC machining center, the good news associated with today's robust economic conditions has us making out our own holiday wish list as this year has been a particularly productive one in terms of increased business, growth, and investment in new technology. We strive to bring our customers and frequent readers of this machine shop blog the latest industry news surrounding new technology use and its application in a precision machining environment. So, what better time to talk about the burgeoning use of tablets such as iPads and other personal computing mobility devices on the floor of CNC machine shops. Coupled with industry-specific applications and the rise in cloud-based support services, mobile and interactive access to a wide variety of software control functions is now at the fingertips of CNC machinists, shop owners, planners and schedulers.

So, with such a massive market penetration of tablets in recent years, are they finding acceptability in milling and machining facilities? The short answer is yes, precision manufacturing has increasingly adopted tablets and related software in an effort to save time, improve efficiency, and supply critical information across all segments of a CNC machine shops operation. In fact, tablets have the ability to change entire operational strategies. The mobility of tablet computing allows for managers to walk the shop floor and view real-time information on CNC milling activities for example, and allows for more intelligent decision making when it comes to production. Operational data such as equipment effectiveness, cycle time efficiency, part production counts, CNC machine downtime, and maintenance data is now available at one's fingertips and can be further maximized to increase efficiency and productivity. For smaller machine shops, cutting costs is a big part of business. Cloud-based software applications designed for tablet use helps both owners and CNC machinists obtain better inventory control, schedule jobs and personnel more efficiently, and improve the handling of materials. As a result, machine capabilities are maximized across the full range of machine shop services, and business thrives. Real-time access is the key, and since data is delivered to a handheld device, the need to go back and forth to different terminals/offices is eliminated.

The integration and benefits of tablet use doesn't end with the highly technical nature of CNC milling machines and their operational environment. Whole new levels of interaction and communication can be brought to a company. A reduction in rework and lead times can be realized, while simultaneously increasing quality and on-time delivery of precision machine parts. The power of tablets can be harnessed in even softer roles. Skype for example, allows for sight and sound communications between supervisors and operators, and between equipment manufacturers to troubleshoot when problems arise. Photos, emails, and texts can be taken and sent, further streamlining processes. Operating "lights out"? You have the ability to receive alerts on your tablet notifying you of any machine malfunctions while running unattended. CNC machinists can access instructional videos, technical bulletins, take notes, and access important data via file sharing apps all without leaving their workstation.

The benefits currently being realized are numerous, and this article simply scratches the surface. Tablets and other mobile computing devices have found their place on the machine shop floor to be sure, and their use is rapidly evolving. Here's hoping that tablets are on your precision machining facilities' holiday wish list, and that you soon upgrade to this revolution if you haven't already.

Want to learn more, or have a question about your next project? Contact the expert CNC machinists at APM's Colorado machine shop for all of your milling and machining needs.

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About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised on the emerald isle of Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he partnered with his friend and colleague, Kirk Tuesburg, currently APM’s machine shop manager, together launching what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. 

 

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