Advanced Precision Machining

CNC Machine Shop Automation – How Your Milling and Machining Facility Can Benefit

[7/13/2015] At APM’s Colorado CNC machining center, we strive to bring our customers and frequent readers of this blog the latest information on industry trends, technological innovation and news from our machine job shop. In an effort to satisfy our ongoing growth efforts while maintaining a steady base of satisfied repeat clients, we are always adapting to change and open to methods of improving efficiency, boosting our bottom line and adding to our growing list of services. One such consideration always on our short list involves transitioning from more traditional approaches to precision machining by implementing some form of automation on the machine shop floor. Automating CNC milling and machining operations is a big decision for many small to mid-sized operations and questions abound. Business owners have to concern themselves with true costs and return on investment, overall impacts to their daily operations, staffing needs and the promises of delivered results. With this in mind, why consider automating high speed machining processes and what are the benefits?

For high-volume machine shops, automating certain tasks makes obvious sense. For smaller facilities with many part numbers and small batch runs, serious consideration should also be given. The present skills gap and difficulty in finding qualified CNC machinists lends credence to automation and can help close that gap. For example, part processing operations that range from basic bar feeders to automated pallet handling systems and gantry-style robots to load and unload parts can help reduce labor costs. Today, some shops have even turned to “light-out” operations” utilizing automated milling and machining tools to manufacture parts with little or no human intervention. Furthermore, automated tool management systems and integrated shop management computer systems can help with cost-effectiveness. On the economic front, automation can help regain lost revenue due to “offshoring” of work, and because of this pressure from low-cost regions, it can reduce direct labor costs and make US machine shops more competitive. From a quality perspective, some see automating operations as the answer to producing better parts; the inherent repeatability of robotics is attractive and reduces the human error factor.

No matter the size of a precision manufacturing facility, automation can provide a competitive advantage as long as production runs can justify the capital expenditure and provide a positive return on investment (ROI). The advantages/benefits to automating your CNC machining operations are numerous and include: Reduced time on production runs and higher volumes, increased part accuracy, less human error/intervention, reduced direct labor costs, improved safety and better organization including time management for CNC machinists. Today, automation cannot be overlooked and is a determining factor if a machine shop wants to remain competitive. It’s not a catchall solution to the current staffing level problems, instead it simply augments it. Automation works best when the parts fit the process and this should be your shop’s indicator on whether to move forward with implementation.

“APM is dedicated to manufacturing the highest quality precision parts while providing the best customer service experience in the machine shop business”. For additional information or to request a quote, please call us at 303-776-1910 or send us a message.

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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