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Making Mazak’s Factories Smarter

Mazak Corp. President Dan Janka believes industry leaders need both digital aptitude and an open-minded attitude to cope with the rapid acceleration of M4.0 technologies.

“Manufacturing 4.0 and the digitization of the factory floor has enabled us to look deeper into the manufacturing world, down to the asset level, like never before.”

 Daniel Janka, President,
Mazak Corporation USA

Opened in the mid-1970s, machine tool-maker Mazak Corporation’s flagship U.S. plant in Florence, Kentucky, was one of the early pioneering American factories to adopt a widespread Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) plant floor network in 2014 based on the emerging MTConnect common connectivity platform. Five years on, it won Plant Engineering magazine’s Top Plant award last year for its continuing efforts to streamline its operations and reimagine its production processes with the help of Manufacturing 4.0 digital technologies.
A subsidiary of Japan’s 100-year old Yamazaki Mazak Corporation, the U.S. plant’s pioneering IIoT initiative, which has now evolved and expanded into its iSMART Factory concept, set a new standard for digital connectivity and data-sharing across the company’s 10-site production network worldwide.
In our latest Dialogue with a manufacturing industry leader, Mazak USA’s President, Daniel Janka, talks to Manufacturing Leadership Executive Editor Paul Tate about the increasing productivity impact of connected IoT and sensor networks on the plant floor, the promise of next-generation hybrid machine tools combining subtractive and additive techniques, and how today’s skills gap is accelerating the demand for greater automation and digitization across the industry.
Q: What excites you most about your role at Mazak?
When you think about everything we take for granted in life around us today, whether it’s our automobile, whether it’s the aircraft we board to travel, whether it’s the home we live in and the construction equipment required to build it, I have the opportunity to be involved in the engineering and production of the stuff that makes that stuff.
Take an aircraft, for example. Basically, you’ve got thousands of high-precise structural components all flying in formation and you don’t want any of them to fail. When you break everything down to its component level, we design and produce the systems that machine and form those key components. Or take medical implants as another example, where you can you see an artificial hip being produced to the precise, three-dimensional shape of that particular individual’s original hip.
It’s very cool. You can’t get bored. A day doesn’t go by where I can’t wait to get out of bed and go to work.
Q: What challenges keep you awake at night?
Often, it’s the external forces that we don’t necessarily control that can have a direct impact on the business or strategic decisions we make. As a global company, we rely on a global supply chain. Not everything is produced in North America, and like many companies, we are dependent upon certain high-precision components, castings, and so forth coming from other regions of the world. So the economic and political trends taking place worldwide are important to us, especially in the current environment of ongoing trade negotiations and the threat of tariffs. That can have a big impact on our global supply chain and the strategic decisions that we’ll have to make, so we have to stay nimble, and be quick to respond and react to the changing political environment.
Q: There’s a lot of talk today about manufacturing becoming increasingly more digital, often called Manufacturing 4.0. What’s your view of this trend?
For decades, production control-related information, programming, planning, and data would flow in one direction – from the back office, down to the factory floor. If you wanted to know what was really going on, you had people with clipboards and stopwatches walking the plant floor, trying to figure out where the waste was, or why your output was different between the first shift and the second shift, or from operator to operator? Clearly, that left tremendous opportunity for greater productivity.
Manufacturing 4.0 and the digitization of the factory floor has enabled us to look deeper into the manufacturing world, down to the asset level, like never before. As a result, we’re now able to collect meaningful information and data on every single process that resides on every individual asset. When you think of process optimization – how to take raw material and produce a finished part faster, cheaper, and with higher quality – tremendous gains are being made. We’ve been able to take manufacturing to a whole new level of productivity.
The other issue is asset utilization. Why is it, when you walk a factory floor, maybe only 50 or 60 percent of all those really expensive machines have the green flashing light on, meaning they’re in cycle, while the rest of the equipment does not? In years past, you didn’t know why. Were they waiting on material? Were they waiting on a cutting tool? Were they waiting on the operator who was on a break? A lot of assets were simply not producing a large percentage of the time. Today’s ability to stream data from those assets has given us opportunity to really evaluate and analyze what’s going on, and come up with ideas for implementing continuous improvement far more effectively.
It’s an exciting time. And when you couple digitization with new emerging manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing, it opens up a whole new world of opportunity for the engineering community that’s only limited by their imagination.

“We became believers immediately. In the first year, we realized a 17 to 18 percent improvement in asset
utilization and productivity gain.”

Q: What motivated the launch of Mazak’s iSMART Factory initiative in 2014?
Historically, everything in the machine tool industry was proprietary. If you were a large customer, such as a Caterpillar or a Boeing, and you had machine tool assets from 25 different companies, you had to go out and buy 25 different types of monitoring software and none of them could communicate with one another. The industry had a desperate need for an industry-wide, common protocol or glossary of definitions of a machine tool. So a group of US machine tool builder executives, including Mazak, came together as part of the Association of Manufacturing Technology (AMT) and said, “You know, every other industry out there has developed common protocols for communication, except machine tools.”
The AMT and its Board led the charge, and working with some really sharp engineers, began the definition and development of the MTConnect protocol. By 2014 it had achieved a level of maturity, so Mazak made a commitment to implement the new standard protocol and a third-party software monitoring system that allowed us to connect to every one of our manufacturing assets, from machining centers, to grinding equipment, even to a fully-automated paint booth.
Suddenly, we started collecting utilization data off every machine. We could see how many hours in a day the machine was in cycle, when it wasn’t in cycle, and why not. It became a valuable tool for machine operators too because they could now gather and capture valuable information from the cell or machine they were operating. We became believers immediately. In the first year, we realized a 17 to 18 percent improvement in asset utilization and productivity gain. In fact, one of our challenges was that there were so many really good ideas for improvement that we could only digest so many at a time. Since then we’ve matured into more of a controlled continuous improvement mode.
Q: How have you enhanced the iSMART deployment since then?
The factory floor has been equipped with what we call the Mazak SmartBox, an edge device developed in collaboration with Cisco. At its heart is a Cisco Industrial Ethernet 4000 switch. It is now integrated throughout our entire iSMART factory and it essentially cuts off the outside world from being able to hack into any one of our computer-controlled machines down on the floor and, at the same time, we can stream big data, real-time, from every one of the machines and be able to monitor its activities.
That data allows us to identify degradation in key elements of the machine such as bearings or coolant, so we can plan and perform maintenance activities in advance of any catastrophic failure, or we can look for process anomalies that could have an impact on the quality of the part. This is where you start to get some of those productivity gains, by eliminating waste and catastrophic failures and unplanned downtime.
One of our biggest challenges is the sheer volume of data we now have. What do you do with all the digital exhaust? In the end, you’ve got to be able to sort through what data has value, and what does not.
Q: What’s involved in Mazak’s latest $8.5 million investment in the Kentucky plant?
The investment is an expansion of our Palletech Machining Center cell we implemented several years ago connecting multiple machining centers via rail-guided vehicles and computerized cell controllers. You may have 40 or 60 or 100 pallets, fully-fixtured with raw material already set up on the fixtures, and stored in racks. The rail-guided vehicle, loads and unloads these pallets in and out of machines, allowing you to run lights-out for entire shifts. This new investment, called the Mazatec Smart Manufacturing System, takes it one step further. We will now be palletizing the raw material and the stock inventory before it is actually moved to the individual load-unload stations and mounted to fixtures. In the past, the raw material was stored offline. Now, the raw material will be stored within the fully-integrated palletized system so the material movement is also automated. It’s really taking automation and lights-out manufacturing to another level.

Q: Has this ISMART factory approach now been scaled across Mazak globally?
Out of the 10 Mazak plants around the world, the factory in northern Kentucky was the first to become an iSMART factory. Now, the same approach has been implemented and replicated throughout other Mazak factories, and the iSMART factory concept continues to expand in functionality and capability.
Q: What’s your latest iSMART initiative at Mazak?
We’ve recently introduced a family of hybrid machine tool technologies. Hybrid not only includes our traditional subtractive or metal-cutting type of platforms, but also integrates friction stir welding, gear skiving, or additive technologies, such as metal powder laser deposition, and hot-wire laser deposition. Think of the opportunities for design and / or repair of very expensive components – for example, stamping dies used in the automotive industry. A die can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce. When a die wears out, it’s usually the impact surface that wears out. If you had the ability to take that die and remove the bad material, then automatically switch over to an additive process to add new material that may be better than the original material you removed, and then finish-machine it and put that component right back into production, you just dramatically reduced the cost and the time to replace that worn out die. We see tremendous opportunities for hybrid machines in the future.
Q: What other advanced new technologies excite you?
Where I see the next evolution, which is already underway, is to take advantage of cloud-based applications that process data in real time, utilizing digital footprints and pattern recognition, and predict what’s going to happen. When we can get to that next level, I think, ultimately, you start to attain what I like to refer to as “worry-free manufacturing.”
For example, we’re now in the early stages of development of industrial AI with a system called “Predictive Spindle Health Monitoring”. This is a feature we introduced on a new horizontal machining center at the 2018 IMTS show in Chicago. By monitoring key attributes of the spindle, like thermals, lubrication, vibration, audio/sound, etc., we can detect patterns, or distinct changes, that allow you to predict the life left on that spindle so you can plan a controlled preventive maintenance activity before a catastrophic failure occurs. Over the next five years, there is going to be a lot of development in this area in machine tools.
Augmented reality is also an exciting new technology where I see tremendous opportunity for manufacturing, especially in the area of service to support assets on a factory floor. When we send a service technician to some remote location to fix a machine, augmented reality goggles can allow our tech support engineers back at headquarters to view the machine and a subassembly or component through the eyes of the service technician on site. In the future, it may also allow the customers themselves, without having to pay the expense of flying a serviceman, to connect to our central tech support engineering group and solve the problem. I think the meantime to repair in our industry can be improved dramatically with this technology.

  “If you look at the trending increase in the consumption of robots in manufacturing today, I think that’s a direct by-product of the skills gap and the need to automate.”


Q: How much of an impact do you think the skills gap is having on manufacturing sites today?
I think we’re seeing the impact of the skills gap through the requirement for more automation, whether it’s in large corporations, in tier one suppliers, right down to small job shops. If you look at the trending increase in the consumption of robots in manufacturing today, I think that’s a direct by-product of the skills gap and the need to automate. Of course, that also drives the need for a higher level set of skills, especially digital skills, and those skills are not always accessible. I think this skills shortage exists across all industries and technical disciplines.
The other key factor is to make manufacturing exciting and sexy again. This is where automation and digitized factory floors play a big role in the ability to attract young talent into a new and exciting environment. We’ve got to get past the stigma of the old smokestack industries and coming home all oily and greasy and dirty. If you walk through our factory today, you can eat off the floor, literally, and what we’re manufacturing are not just machine tools, but highly sophisticated, high-precision, computerized systems.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for the manufacturing industry over the next few years?
In tomorrow’s manufacturing world, we’re still going to need good fundamental engineering disciplines. There’s no question of that. What is emerging now is another dimension of data analytics to help take manufacturing to the next level. A lot of those enabling technologies are in place today. The question is: what do we do with all the data? As we grow into this new world of industrial artificial intelligence, we will need the ability to capture, organize, and process that data in a very meaningful way. I see that as a huge opportunity, but also a big challenge for the future of manufacturing.
Q: What new skills will leaders need to succeed in this fast-changing, digitally-driven future?
Future leadership will need to be about both aptitude and attitude. One thing that drives me nuts is when I hear the phrase, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” I think future leaders have to have the open-mindedness to explore new technologies that are evolving and maturing more rapidly than ever before in our history.
Q: Finally, if you had to focus on one thing as a watchword for the future of manufacturing, what would that be?
I have two. Hybrid machines that have the ability to automatically multitask, to start a part and finish a part, without multiple human interventions. The second is digitization – the continued digitization of today’s manufacturing factories at multiple levels. I think they’re still both in their early stages right now. But we’re going to continue to see new software disciplines and manufacturing processes rapidly evolve. There’s so much more opportunity ahead of us.  M

Mazak Headquarters, Florence, Kentucky

FACT FILE: Mazak Corporation USA
-Location: Florence, Kentucky, USA
-Business Sector: Machine Tools
-Revenues: N/A (Privately-Held Company)
-Net Income: N/A (Privately-Held Company)
-People: 8,330 Employees (Global – July 2018)
-Market Presence: Global – Parent Company, Yamazaki Mazak
-Production: 10 Production Sites Worldwide

Title: President, Mazak Corporation USA
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and technology, Southern Illinois University; Associate’s degree in mechanical technology, Illinois Valley Community College; Post-graduate studies at American Management Association’s (AMA) Curriculum for Presidents, and Advanced Management Experience (AME), University of Cincinnati.
Languages: English
Previous Roles Include:

  • President, Fives Machining Systems
  • President, MAG Industrial Automation Systems (IAS)
  • Executive Vice President, Cincinnati Lamb (UNOVA)
  • President, Cincinnati Machine (UNOVA)
  • Vice President & General Manager, Cincinnati Milacron

Industry Roles and Awards:

  • Board Member, MTConnect Institute Board of Trustees
  • Member, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
  • Member, National Tooling and Manufacturing Association (NTMA)
  • Board Member (2005 – 2013) & former Chairman (2009-2010), Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT)
  • Member (1995 – 2005), Technical Advisory Committee on Export Control and Government Relations, AMT
  • Member (2000), Manufacturing Engineering & Technology Advisory Committee, University of Cincinnati
  • Member (2002 – 2005), Manufacturing Enterprise Council, Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)
  • Member (2010), U.S. President’s Manufacturing Revitalization Task Force Board

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