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How A CNC Machine Shop Can Benefit From IoT

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Amidst an era where COVID-19 has prevailed for more than 2 years now, making things remoter and smarter is becoming inevitable. This is exactly why IoT is entering the field of production engineering too. CNC machining services providers have already advanced massively in both precision and material handling aspects. However, machine to machine interaction in CNC machine shop is the next big step to capitalize on the available potential. Let us dive deeper into the concept of IoT and its particulars in the context of the production industry.

What is IoT?

You might have heard about terms like smart homes, smart farming, self-healing machines and smart security etc. All these terms are related to the Internet of Things i.e. interlinking of any device with wireless connectivity to multiply the potential of each one of them for greater purposes and outputs. With limitations of social distancing and repetitive lockdowns being put all around the world, IoT has come into further limelight for remote handling of equipment in tougher times. Furthermore, the profit motive approach of every business has led to a competitive environment where reduction of costs, lead times and material optimization is the key to a business gaining advantage in the market. Let us now discuss the role of IoT in the CNC manufacturing industry followed by the CNC machine shop in particular.

IoT in the Ever-Growing CNC Manufacturing Industry

The role of IoT in the CNC manufacturing industry is wonderfully summarized pictorially in the figure below.

Lean and Six Sigma Approach

Nowadays, the manufacturing industry is constantly striving for lean and six sigma application in their work environments for minimization of waste, cost and time incurred to achieve the maximization of profits. Machine downtimes are considered lethal for their growth and thus, the concept of preventive maintenance is prevalent globally. IoT plays a major role by linking sensors and actuators to a central control system that can identify maintenance issues prematurely using predefined algorithms in AI-based production systems.

Quality Control

Moreover, with an ever-increasing volume of production comes along the challenge of handling strict quality control. This is where IoT’s data management and statistics come into play for accurate identification and timely rectification of parameters linking to the quality of the consumer product. A good example in this regard is the casting industry during COVID times. Casting defects are a recurring nuisance that always needs engineers to identify and rectify possible root causes during the post-casting stages. However, with machine learning and AI algorithms, several industries were able to keep their workflow running due to IoT as the systems pre-identified several causes of possible defects leading to reduction of waste in terms of material, cost and time. This concept is also referred to as self-healing automated machines.

Supply Chain Monitoring

With regard to supply chain monitoring, cross-channel visibility with stakeholders and managers is the key to optimize inventory and transportation costs. This is where Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags and GPS positioning comes in handy. Incorporation of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software’s like SAP centralize stock handling and movement of material for optimization of costs. Moreover, it also monitors key information regarding ongoing orders, due delivery dates and informs about forecasted demand for materials. The need for tedious manual documentation is also eliminated by the virtue of IoT.

Thus, the horizons of IoT are really broad with regard to the manufacturing industry. Let us now focus on what IoT can offer in particular to the CNC machine shop’s floor.

Top Benefits of IoT in the CNC Machine Shop

The basic algorithm of CNC is already dependent on computer numeric control. However, several computers performing in a stand-alone environment might do wonders in achieving accuracy of individual parts and intricate features. However, what happens when the systems have to work in conjunction for the development of an assembly or several singular parts?

This is where IoT comes into play in the CNC machine shop. The parameters involved at a shop’s floor are so diverse and interlinked that human identification of errors or inefficiencies in the process becomes a daunting task.

Amongst the top benefits that IoT offers include:

  • Scheduling intervals for maintenance – Rise in temperatures, vibrations, unexpected tool damage etc. are various types of conditions where maintenance schedules need to be altered. IoT by the virtue of retrofitted sensors and centralization of data acquired from them allow the person-in-charge of the machines to effectively analyze when it is critical enough to put a halt to the machine’s operation for rectification of errors.
  • Monitoring of CNC machine’s uptimes and downtimes – Graphical representations of machine’s uptimes and downtimes allow for long-term analysis of production capabilities. The production potential is matched with the current output and engineers can then accordingly work towards achieving the maximum possible output. Identification of bottlenecks is the key to the future growth of a CNC machine shop.
  • Ensuring worker safety – It is quite clear that machines have the greater advantage of less deviation from programmed instructions than a human. Tasks, where worker safety is put into danger, should be replaced by machine aided automated procedures. Standard operations in CNC machine shops e.g. tool changing or chuck setting, often pose the greatest danger to the workforce since workers tend to ease out the most on routine tasks. It is a quote in the engineering world that Complacency is Safety’s Worst Enemy. Thus, robots aid automated tasks like tool changing when sharpness decreases or handle the tightening and loosening of chuck for better machining accuracy.
  • Realization of average times in MTTR (Mean Time To Repair), MTTF (Mean Time To Failure) and MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) – The interlinking of these three parameters is of monumental importance with regard to the lifespan of repairable assets in a CNC machine shop. AI-based algorithms fed into a closed-loop feedback system provide insight into the ideal time for repairs and maintenance of machinery so that the lifespan can be extended as much as possible resulting in less capital investment on machinery.
  • Determination of tolerance limitations in assembly preparations – One of the key challenges in machining is the criteria of tolerances. When producing a stand-alone part, the challenge might be considerably easier to handle. However, when it comes to entire assemblies, measurement of the stacked-up tolerances of each part or member of the assembly becomes critical. For instance, if a vertical pump’s assembly is in progress and the tolerance at the top of the stub shaft where the coupling will be installed comes out to be greater than the limit, it will be hard to manually determine which part of the assembly needs further machining accuracy. However, with IoT, this process is simplified as it provides real-time data of machining accuracies in graphical representations for on-spot rectification. This helps in reducing lead time for the preparation of complete assemblies with tolerances within limits.


This article accurately summarized the value addition that the introduction of IoT brings about in the field of manufacturing engineering and CNC machining in particular. Moreover, we presented real-time examples where IoT can bring about wonderful inclusions to reduce lead times, cost and save material consumption in the long run. CNC technology has already enabled manufacturers to achieve stunning growth. Coupled with the Industrial Internet of Things, we think that the potential of CNC machine shops and the manufacturing industry can exponentially rise.

About the author



Candy is a project manager and loves discussing or exploring some prototyping technologies in the rapid manufacturing industry. She has a curiosity for studying new things.