After decades of dominance, many predicted that North American manufacturers would succumb to the wave of competition unleashed by globalization. Titans of industry like Henry Ford were once synonymous with innovations in manufacturing, but times changed, and the complacency that comes from resting on laurels was near fatal.
Suddenly, factories in countries with cheaper labor costs and fewer regulations were a threat, and an immediate, drastic response was required.
Factories here turned to automation to improve quality and reduce expenses, and one of the machines which played a dominant role in automation was the coordinate measuring machine or, as it is often known, a CMM machine.
Machines Foster Evolution
Whereas Ford’s Model-T represented a prior stage in the evolution of industry, North American factories needed to improve the efficiency of production lines while simultaneously maintaining quality and reducing costs.
Enter CMM machines, which ensured quality control on a production line faster and more accurately than a human employee ever could. CMM machines measure the physical geometric characteristics of an object or part, and can be controlled either by a human operator or a computer.
The machines have a third moving axis with a probe attached which defines the measurements. After the scan, the machine compares its results against the blueprint of the part or object that was scanned, which was uploaded prior to in the machine.
The machine knows the part or object is flawed if there’s any difference between the blueprint and the result of the scan.
If there’s one constant in business, it is change. Just like prior evolutions become obsolete if they fail to keep up with the times, so the CMM machine needs to either evolve or lose its place as a driver of industry.
While the next phase of automation is in its early developments, Industry 4.0 is already under way, and it’s impressive. Now, automated equipment is able to more or less communicate with other automated machines with compatible software.
One such software is called PolyWorks. If a machine with PolyWorks inside detects a flaw in a part caused by machine degradation, it will immediately alert other machines on the same assembly line. Whereas early CMM machines detected the flaws in parts, now, they can also diagnose the nature of the flaw, and save time and effort by informing other equipment automatically.
Employees don’t need to manually inspect the equipment, and the company no longer needs to waste time trying to figure out where the problem lies. In addition to performing quality control, modern CMM machines also mitigate the cost of equipment failure.
We live in a highly technological world where people have super computers that fit in their pocket. Still, there’s a major difference between digital technology and the innovations which actually produce physical goods in factories. Contemporary manufacturers should learn from both their own industry’s history and the advances in software happening all the time: future-proof your company by obtaining the technology that helped manufacturers evolve, and one that seems poised to continue developing for years to come.