As the Engineering Employers Federation convenes for their annual conference, productivity pioneers will be joining for the first time. Technology leaders in shop floor networking, the company has over 60,000 machine tools and processes connected by its Factory Framework software. The message for UK manufacturers is that this can increase productivity by up to 30 per cent. In many cases the end user can achieve pay back in less than one year.

The case for networking shop-floor operations, especially in capital intensive plants, is compelling. Higher productivity, less waste, lean manufacturing and transparency are the goals of these manufacturing execution systems (MES), but these can be frustrated by incomplete machine connections. Forcam, a world leader in this field, with over 60,000 machine tools and plant items successfully connected using its Factory Framework MES, has produced a paper that explores how to overcome these problems.

Difficulties connecting machines arise for many reasons. Different machine makers may use varied systems to gather and transmit operation data. Leading manufacturers, such as Heidenheim, Siemens and Fanuc, incorporate communication software with standardised protocols to facilitate machine interconnection. However, legacy machines often use obsolete or obscure data collection and data streaming software. Data also needs to be aggregated and processed so that it is streamed into the MES in a consistent format.

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