15 Jun 2024

How Industry 4.0 can improve manufacturers’ shop floor working culture, and the bottom line


Big data and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) grant employees easier, and more centralised, control and access to data. But do these technologies improve the working culture on the shop floor? That question was put to the test by OSI Precision when it installed software by Sandvik Coromant, the leading machine tooling specialist, to help with its Industry 4.0 roll-out.

OSI Precision, a general engineering manufacturer of complex parts based in Quebec, Canada, has a long-running relationship with Sandvik Coromant and uses the latter’s hard-wearing machining tools in several CNC machining lathes, and a milling machine, on its shop floor.

This time, OSI wanted to take this partnership in a new direction – machine monitoring. The company wanted to better connect nine CNC machines on the shop floor, but in practice, Sandvik Coromant needed to help OSI consolidate the control and performance analysis for all of these machines, quickly and securely, and in a way that would benefit the organisation’s cultural shift towards Industry 4.0.

The machines came from different manufacturers — DMG, Mazak, Correa and Parpas — and were both old and new which presented additional connectivity challenges. Furthermore, each machine was very costly to run, so the control solution that OSI decided upon would have a real impact on financial gains.

The customer began research into software in early-2019, before signing a final agreement with Sandvik Coromant in May. Sandvik Coromant started gathering data on most machines that summer, and an initial pilot project was fully up-and-running by the fall of that year.

“Before choosing Sandvik Coromant, we took a few months to properly research all the tools available, and to select the right partner for this project,” explains Hubert Breton, operational efficiency and digital technology manager at OSI Precision.

“In fact, we had up to 15 criteria. They included that the control and monitoring system had to be versatile, configurable, and easily adapt to all our different types of machine. We also needed it to integrate with our other digital systems — databases and so on — and also required an easy-to-use interface for our operators.”

In the end, OSI opted for Sandvik Coromant’s CoroPlus MachiningInsights platform, a modern cloud-based machine monitoring solution. The main reason was for its trusted partnership and support.

“We have worked with Sandvik Coromant for our cutting tools for many years,” he explains. “The support from the company and from our contact person there has been very good over the years,” says Breton

Bijal Patel worked closely with OSI Precision on the project as Senior Digital Machining Specialist at Sandvik Coromant. “Having data is really the first step in deriving the best performance and profitability from these machines, and to be able to measure this ourselves,” says Patel. “That is where Sandvik Coromant comes in.”

OSI Precision was also won over by Sandvik Coromant’s plans to develop the CoroPlus Machining Insights platform further into the future. “We really liked what we saw there, including the ability to integrate with the machine tools themselves. This was also a big factor in our decision.”

Pilot project

OSI Precision agreed to become an early adopter of CoroPlus® MachiningInsights. Not only does the platform give manufacturers greater visibility of their CNC machine tools and machining processes, but it also provides the tools needed to analyze, identify and eliminate common sources of downtime and inefficiency.

Patel. commented: MachiningInsights automates the processes of data collection and analysis,” explains Patel. “The software’s end goal, to provide machine shops with complete transparency about how their machine tools are be utilised, seemed to perfectly suit OSI Precision’s Industry 4.0 digital shift — and to offer a solution that could be easily adopted by their workforce.”

The parameters and data managed by the operators relate to tool and part changes, breakages, and machine failures. The data yielded by the machine monitoring solution can prove especially helpful in drilling down to the causes of machine stoppages. Sandvik Coromant was also fully aware of the importance of a working culture within OSI Precision.

Patel added: “I think it all boils down to how people treat one another, and that includes through the use of data, data management and sharing and better reporting — and, therefore, better communication — within the plant.”

OSI Precision first implemented CoroPlus MachiningInsights as a pilot project: three machine operators ran the equipment following internal training, which Breton supervised internally. At the same time, he explained the pilot project. The second part of training was a lot more hands-on, covering how the system can be controlled from an iPad.

“The implementation was very important to ensure that everyone got on board and worked towards the same goal,” adds Breton. “It was vital to involve people directly in the project, rather than develop it in a silo away from everyone.”

Highly customisable

For the pilot project, OSI’s workers had to get accustomed to using all-new software. Fortunately, the CoroPlus® MachiningInsights platform is easy to get up and running and to use, with a simple login and menu interface. The platform is also highly customisable, whether it is accessed from operator channels on iPads, or from dashboards. “In fact, OSI has customized dashboards with all the information that we thought was pertinent, as a modified version of the interface supplied by Sandvik Coromant,” says Hubert.

Patel adds: “Through remote iPad access, operators can not only see the current state of machines, but also how they have performed since the day they were connected. The operators can access empirical data about every part ever produced, every tool used, every shift they ever worked and even how operators impact operations.”

Nevertheless, there as some trepidation from OSI’s operators at the beginning of the project — not least because the data from CoroPlus Machining Insights would measure performance and activities.“It was really important that people realized that it is not a surveillance system. Instead, MachiningInsights fuels our continuous improvements, to be more competitive, so that everyone can be better at their job, and use data to drive those improvement efforts.

“We’re very careful in how we share our data internally, so everyone is on board with the fact that this is to fuel continuous improvement efforts. Customised reporting was crucial for this,” argues Breton.

With Sandvik Coromant’s support, the company was soon able to demonstrate the advantages of the new, digitalized approach in a way that made sense — specifically, being able to demonstrate the advantages of the system through data. Before long, OSI’s operators were fully onboard with the new project.

One challenge arose when OSI Precision had to work with vendors of different machines to install adaptors that would translate each machine’s data to make it compatible with the CoroPlus Machining Insights platform. All signals and data form the machines are translated into one machine language, and then put together for analysis by OPS.

“For the first adaptors, Sandvik Coromant was present at the plant, which was very helpful for the hands-on installation by the machine manufacturers. There was also a compatibility issue with one of the adaptors, but Sandvik Coromant was able to quickly solve the problem online, by connecting us with the right people,” says Hubert.

In fact, 95% of Sandvik Coromant’s support for the project was offered remotely. OSI and Sandvik Coromant communicated regularly through Zoom and TeamViewer meetings, and the installation and configuration of the machine monitoring solution was also remote. OSI Precision plans to use data from the pilot project for future improvements, and to roll the system out to the rest of its 15 to 20 operators.

Better working culture

The pilot project has been a success, says Hubert: “We have worked well together so far, and the system has been really easy to use. We have also been able to integrate this data with other software, using the Sandvik Coromant Application Programming Interface (API), with which we had excellent support from Germany.

Hubert concluded: “The system has never broken down and nothing has ever been offline. It has been super reliable so far and our operators have been using it 90% of the time, as expected. Going forward, OSI Precision predicts that the system will prove how competitive it can be and how fast the company delivers complex and bespoke machined components to customers.”

“Moreover, the new technology has made OSI’s operators more efficient. We are on the right track to changing our working culture for the better.”