Published On: August 9th, 2023Categories: Machine Shop

Unlocking Maximum Efficiency

With the increasing demand for high-quality machining, more and more CNC machine shops are excited to use unattended machine running to meet these demands. Unattended machine running allows shops to keep machine jobs running with minimal intervention from the operator. Meaning that shops dedicate more hours to production and can also reduce labor costs. While there are several benefits to automatization of machine running, it can be optimized even further with accurate tracking of unattended time.

What Is Unattended Machine Running?

Unattended machine running is the practice of running jobs on CNC machines without an operator present. This practice allows shops to achieve a high production rate and lower production costs by cutting labor hours required per job. This practice can also be implemented during the evening or over weekends, which is commonly referred to as “Lights Out Machining.” Unattended machining and “Lights Out Machining” has become more common with automation becoming the more economical option in this rapidly growing field.

How Are Shops Tracking Unattended Time Today?

Today CNC machine shops are primarily relying on ERPs for tracking and estimating time. However, these tools are limited in their ability to accurately track unattended time. Traditional ERPs are dependent on the operator accurately recording the time in the ERP. Which can quickly become problematic when running unattended machining.

For example, an operator could simultaneously be running an unattended job and a separate job, while working on the separate job the unattended machine stops. When the operator returns to the unattended machine the operator will have limited insight into how long the machine has been stopped and why it stopped. This causes a ripple effect into the actual job costing for an unattended job.

The Risks of Inaccurate Tracking

One of the biggest concerns of CNC shops that utilize unattended operations is that they are not accurately tracking unattended time. Inaccurate tracking can result in a number of issues such as inefficient production schedules, inaccurate job bidding, and disproportionate labor costs. The biggest risk is that without proper tracking the quality of the production will diminish and create waste. All of these problems with inaccurate tracking can quickly pile up resulting in lost profits and wasted time.

The Benefits of Accurate Unattended Time Tracking

There are several benefits to accurate unattended time tracking for CNC machine shops that are seeking to increase production and lower costs. Accurate unattended time tracking can:

  • Reduce labor costs
  • Minimize machine downtime
  • Accelerate production timelines
  • Prevent machine damage
  • Increase revenue and profitability

All of which can greatly improve the productivity and profitability of a competitive machine shop.

Improving Tracking with CNC Machine Monitoring

While accurate time tracking is clearly beneficial to any shop it can be difficult to achieve without machine monitoring. Machine monitoring allows shops to carefully track and monitor unattended time as well as record other performance metrics.

With machine monitoring, operators and managers will know the second an unattended job stops running and will receive real-time data in their ERP, keeping all job costs true and accurate. These devices provide shops with the ability to determine ways to improve production schedules and cut down on idle time. CNC shops can use this information to completely optimize their production rate.

The Significance of Tracking Unattended Time

With the rapid growth of CNC machining, it is vital that machine shops prioritize detailed time tracking. It provides the foundation for the successful utilization of unattended machine running allowing shops to rapidly expand production. With the new standard of production turning to “Lights Out Machining” shops need to maintain production quality while pushing for that competitive edge and with time tracking every second counts.

About the Author: Katie Ruffing