Athena to the Rescue: 5 Ways the Digital Assistant Helps in the Machine Shop

March 16, 2021

Every machine shop has its own set of daily snags and hitches that can sabotage production levels. Beleaguered shop managers will do anything to try and minimize the damage and speed up throughput. Imagine if they had the opportunity to purchase machine tools with a built-in resource that minimizes these disruptions or even keeps them from happening in the first place. It would be a major selling point, to say the least.

In this two-part article, we review real-life situations that plague machine shops today. Then we’ll show how machine tools equipped with Athena, the first voice-operated digital assistant specifically designed for manufacturing, provide the value-added solution.

Bridging the Skilled Labor Gap

Problem: “I lost some people with the pandemic, and they’ve been hard to replace. I’ve had to hire some unskilled labor to try and pick up the slack, but my seasoned guys are too busy to help out and train the new guys. The new hires are good people, but they’re just not up to par on the knowledge and details on how we do things. If they only had a simple assistant to point them in the right direction, it would be a big help.”

Solution: With Athena providing guidance, even novice operators can turn out high-quality parts. There’s no guesswork involved when Athena’s voice is in your ear, providing just the right information at the right time. She can provide nervous rookies with constant reinforcement and confirmation that they can do the job without constantly looking for a supervisor to answer their questions. With Athena, shops can increase productivity quickly without the steep learning curve.

Efficiency Despite Life’s Setbacks

Problem: “I’ve got every brand of equipment under the sun here in the shop, with a wide variety of controls. And it’s not just metal cutting machines. We’ve got press brakes and laser cutters for the fabrication end of our business. If an operator’s out, and I have to put someone else on their machine who’s not familiar with the menu structure on the control, they might as well go home too. Without that specific experience, they’re just not much help.”

Solution: Since Athena can be incorporated into any machine tool with a CNC control, you’re able to have a common platform for all operators. A command for Athena on a Brand A control will also work on a Brand B control. Thanks to Athena, any operator could be operating at full speed on an unfamiliar control as soon as they hit the on-switch.

Timely Information Protects Bottom Line

Problem: “We had a disaster on our hands when a customer made a last-minute change on the specs for a part. Unfortunately, the revision never made its way to the machine. The operator completed the job based on the older prints. The discrepancy was caught by Quality Control, and the whole run had to be scrapped.”

Solution: Best practices, settings, instructions and up-to-date job information are stored in Athena’s memory. No more drawings secured to the front of the machine with magnets. She makes this knowledge immediately accessible digitally to a broad range of people who need it (management, supervisors, set-up personnel, operators of all skill levels). With input from Athena, the part would have been run with the right specs the first time, and the job would have been shipped, not scrapped.

Constant Quality Control Reminders

Problem: “In our shop, the first level of quality control is the operator who is running the job. They are fully aware of this responsibility, but sometimes in the middle of a long repetitive production run they just zone out. All it takes is a bit of runout on the tool or a part not seated correctly in the fixture, and a portion of the parts are out of spec and have to be re-done, using up precious time and raw materials.”

Solution: In today’s working environment, operators are often multitasking or working late-night shifts. They can be distracted and forget to make critical checks on the parts as they’re coming out of the machine. Athena will give them a reminder to gauge parts after a certain batch run. In this example, an operator would have discovered the tool runout and corrected the problem before any harm was done.

Shielding Workers Against Injury

Problem: “I don’t want to go into the unpleasant details, but one of our worker’s workdays suddenly ended with an unexpected trip to the emergency room. He is currently out on leave and faces hours of painful rehab. One of my most experienced operators is off the line, and production is down since replacements are almost impossible to find.”

Solution: Athena can provide procedural safety information so that operators are doing their tasks correctly. If there is a particular process that requires more attention than others, Athena can be programmed to highlight that process and provide additional information to keep your operators safe. Checklists can be incorporated so that bypasses are not allowed, minimizing injuries on the floor.

Is it time for your very own manufacturing assistant?

Our next Athena to the Rescue article will provide even more examples of how Athena can impact productivity in your customers’ shops by providing solutions to real-life everyday challenges. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about adding Athena to your equipment line, please contact us.