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Floor equipment maker opts for MES.

Tennant Co, Minneapolis, MN, is installing an M-Ware MES from ASI, St Paul, MN, "to reduce labor costs and give operators access to increasing amounts of information at the click of a button."

The Minneapolis-based manufacturer of floor maintenance equipment, including industrial and commercial floor scrubbers and sweepers, had already installed distributed numerical control (DNC) software in its sheet metal department before selecting an MES in the machine shop, giving the company an early taste of what shop floor software could do. In the sheet metal department, the company simply uses a UNIX program to download long G-code programs off a SPARC server to the laser or punching machine.

Terminals at each of four workstations are used to download the G-code with the help of the DNC software. A microprocessor-controlled ASI command node actually delivers the program from the Sun SPARCstation 10 server to the correct machine. The micoprocessor serves to enhance downloading speed. The end is that Tennant is capable of downloading long, dynamically-nested programs without interruption.

"We didn't have an acute manufacturing problem in the machine shop," explains Steve Burnham, manufacturing engineering supervisor, "but we recognized the potential benefits of putting a system in place." Tennant's machine shop has six NC lathes and six vertical machining centers machining parts in lot sizes ranging from 20 to 300. Part sizes vary from hand-size to about 3 ft by 3 ft by 10 in.

All of the shop's CNC tools have paper tape readers, which can make changes a tedious process. If an error is found in a paper tape during prove outs, the programmer must return to the engineering department to make the correction and then return to the shop. "In general, there's a lot more running back and forth between office and shop floor than we feel is necessary," says Kevin Johnson, production engineer.

Tennant was willing to use Windows-based PCs in the machine shop, enabling engineers to select a more functional, easy-to-use manufacturing execution system. ASI had just introduced its Applied CIM module. "I was impressed by its eye appeal. The module's operation manager does a great job of organizing everything from machine control C-code to photographs accompanying setups with a point-and-click command bar to maximize control," Mr Burnham says.

The Applied CIM module is the most recent addition to the M-Ware software suite of products. When fully utilized, the module provides immediate access to CAD information, access and control of CAM files, DNC capabilities, complete SPC functionality and electronic shop documentation. Shops can even add multimedia work instructions that merge photographs, text, and voice messages. Transferring files through TCP/IP enables the Windows software to communicate with Tennant's UNIX server.

The result is a dramatic change in the way both engineers and operators do their work. "Now, when I make a change up here in the engineering department, it's immediately reflected on the shop floor," says Mr Johnson. "The operators have been very comfortable using the system. It's Windows so it's easy to learn."

Currently, eleven 804486/50 MHz PCs in the machine shop are using Applied CIM to handle G-code, but electronic method layouts were recently added to the shop's two PC pilot programs, greatly expanding the capabilities of the machine shop's M-Ware system. Mr Johnson recently completed entering the method layout information using MS Word 6.0. The data are being placed under the Applied CIM graphics menu as read-only files. MS Write has been installed so operators can make notes and is accessible through the Applied CIM text menu.

Tennant's manufacturing engineering department saves 30 minutes of process time for new or changed parts with the CIM system. This helps to reduce the time it takes to bring new products to market. And importantly, operators really want to use PC's. "The operators picked up on the system really quickly," says Mr Johnson. "In fact, if for some reason we don't have it running, they complain. They're already accustomed to working with M-Ware and it's becoming tough to imagine working any other way."

There are definite expansion possibilities for the system. "M-Ware offers us SPC, tool management, and even scanned photos. In addition, we could expand use of the system into the press brake department or into our welding area," Mr Burnham says.

Tennant recently purchased an HP ScanJet IILX for scanning documents into the system. Because method layouts are read-only documents, the scanner will be used to re-enter information through Word, and scanned documents will be modified through software.

Tennant, which began fabricating wood products for floors, gutters, and buildings 125 years ago, "has evolved into producing non-residential floor equipment using computer-controlled machine tools and techniques," says Mr Burnham. "If a company is going to survive, it had better be willing to embrace change, and I feel MES is one component of this change."
COPYRIGHT 1995 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Tennant Co.; manufacturing executive system
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Apr 1, 1995
Words:801
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