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Kaba Ilco Corp.: Maximizing Operational Efficiency Through Data Collection

By Wintriss Controls Group
The ShopFloorConnect Machine Interface (SMI 2) can connect virtually any machine to the ShopFloorConnect Machine Monitoring Software with a few simple connections. (All images provided by Kaba Ilco Corp.)

Manufacturers aren’t born with the omniscient vision required to keep a modern factory running profitably at peak performance. Looking to gain deeper insights into its operations and with the goal of eventually becoming a paperless facility, Kaba Ilco Corp., Rocky Mount, N.C., the largest key blank manufacturer in North America, went looking for an Industry 4.0 solution for production management.

“We’re a vertically integrated operation, from taking scrap brass and converting it into coil stock, to stamping and milling around 1.5 million key blanks a day,” said Gary Morehart, manager, engineering at Kaba Ilco. “We needed a reliable, cost-effective solution to replace the manual paper reporting process being used on the production floor.”

Kaba Ilco found that solution in ShopFloorConnect from Wintriss Controls Group, the Acton, Mass.-based developer of press automation, die protection, safety controls, and data collection software. Wintriss got its start in the 1950s manufacturing controls for metal stamping presses before adding data collection software to the mix in 1985.

It was that experience and the company’s trustworthy reputation that set Wintriss apart. “Wintriss Controls is well-known in the industry; it has reliability built into the name,” stated Morehart. He added that Wintriss is not new to Kaba Ilco, which has other Wintriss products deployed within its stamping operations.

Wintriss’ ShopFloorConnect software is focused on overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)—collecting and reporting downtime and production efficiency data in real time. The system collects uptime, downtime, reasons for downtime, production counts, and calculates OEE for any machine in a manufacturer’s facility. All of this is designed to be done with a minimum amount of operator involvement and manual data entry. Automating the collection of this data helps Kaba Ilco avoid the common problems that all manufacturers face in manually collecting shop floor data—it can be untimely, inaccurate and biased.

ShopFloorConnect from Wintriss Controls Group provides manufacturers with the ability to see real-time status and performance for the entire shop floor.

While the Wintriss control units used on some of Kaba Ilco’s stamping presses can run ShopFloorConnect natively, the company ultimately decided to disable that feature and install a ShopFloorConnect Machine Interface (SMI 2) on each machine. The move standardized the user interface across all machines, simplifying training for operators.

Connected to the machine controller and communicating with the ShopFloorConnect server via Ethernet, the SMI 2 features a touch-screen display, can detect when the machine is running, count cycles or parts, and enable the machine operator to select a downtime reason and enter data.

It can be programmed to inhibit machine operation after a stoppage until the operator specifies a downtime reason—which can be custom programmed specific to each machine. Machine time is logged
into one of five categories: running, idle, unplanned downtime, planned downtime, and changeover. This information is then included in the OEE calculation assessment for that machine.

“We started about two years ago with ShopFloorConnect in our key milling department, where we run around 30 custom milling machines for making keys,” stated Morehart. “The use of ShopFloorConnect has now expanded beyond that department and it is currently being utilized on about 80 machines, including our blanking presses, molding presses and one of our brass press machines.”

The first step Kaba Ilco took after deploying ShopFloorConnect was eliminating the manual, paper-based production reporting process traditionally used. Since then, the company has expanded its use of the system to provide managers a fast way to see the real-time status of the plant and compare actual production to standard rates. Reports enable the company to see downtime reasons and utilize pareto analysis to prioritize problem-solving. Key performance indicators are pulled from the system for review in daily management meetings and communications.

For Morehart, all this boils down to one simple fact—the old paper reporting process severely limited the amount of insights available into company operations. Utilizing ShopFloorConnect, management can see downtime rates and run productivity reports on a specific machine for an eight-hour shift or 24-hour day. That wasn’t possible before with the paper production report packets that Kaba Ilco was using, which were limited to reporting only production numbers.

Access to this information is allowing Kaba Ilco to make better-informed decisions on its manufacturing process and schedule. “Most recently, we’ve begun a reliability improvement program for one of our machines,” said Morehart. “We’re using the downtime data to prioritize activity and reduce the amount of time the machine is sitting idle due to issues such as maintenance and holdups in the production process.”

In manufacturing operations with more than one step, the flow of materials, parts and machine availability is a delicate balancing act. Taken independently, each step is a cog in the wheel of the greater organization, but when one of those cogs breaks or stops running, the whole wheel can slow down or even grind to a halt.

Visual reporting gives management the information needed to make business decisions by focusing on the most critical information and eliminating data overload.

Traditionally, manufacturers have built-in redundancies to minimize the impact caused by these disruptions. These backups could be in the form of extra machines, more workers or stocking greater quantities of raw materials and intermediate parts—expensive safety nets for any manufacturer.

“The OEE insights provided by ShopFloorConnect enable manufacturers to find the bottlenecks in their process,” said Morehart. “Since we’re able to program any number of downtime reasons into the system, we not only gain visibility into the amount of time a machine isn’t running but also into why it isn’t running.” With this information, solutions can be developed to optimize the production process and reduce or eliminate the need for expensive redundancies.

“Since integrating ShopFloorConnect into our factory, we have been able to maximize production for a line that involved a number of different processes,” Morehart continued. “Being able to see the machine rates and runtime allowed us to redeploy equipment to optimize production. This has ultimately helped us realize production gains of up to 33 percent through increased uptime, reduced scrap, and significant overall efficiency improvements.”

Looking to the future, Kaba Ilco plans to further embrace paperless production and eliminate the paper production packet that is printed and sent to the production floor for each order. The company is working with its ERP system and production planning system providers to route orders directly to a machine’s SMI 2 unit, providing operators access to production information and plans through the ShopFloorConnect interface.

“At the end of the day, we went looking for a productivity increase,” Morehart said. “The changes we’ve made based on information provided by ShopFloorConnect have enabled us to improve our overall equipment effectiveness and maximize operations in a way that was not possible through legacy paper-based reporting.”

For more information from Wintriss Controls Group, go to, or phone 800-586-8324.

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