Where to program: in office or on floor.

Author:Rose, Steve
Position:Shop talk

Programming a machine tool takes patience, skill, and experience. A recent debate in the industry asks an interesting question. Where should programming take place? Many businesses are moving programming from the production floor into the office. Is this the most efficient way? In a perfect world, everyone possesses the ability and the time to program at the machine. In reality, not every machinist is a programmer and not every engineer has the ability to program on a machine.

In this debate, there are many different sides and variables. We are not trying to state the best place to program but instead highlight some factors of each side.

On the floor

On-the-floor programming requires the machine to be equipped with the conversational control option. Programming at the machine itself is often the quickest way to program. You must take into account the limitations of the machine, material, and tooling. Programming on the production floor allows you to adjust and modify a program efficiently. If a program contains a problem, you can immediately troubleshoot it. Programming at the machine is the perfect combination of plan and process. Many machinists may not have the advanced programming skills required to complete these operations. It takes years of experience and training to be able to perform these tasks. Another drawback that occurs on the floor is when a machinist with programming knowledge decides to change a programmed part because he or she may want to do it a different way. This person spends half their time rewriting a program that causes a great deal of inefficiency.

In the office

Programming in the office often takes advantage of new technology to streamline production time. A CAM system, when used efficiently, speeds up the actual program writing. Using one individual to write all the programs brings a sense of consistency to the process.

The major downside of programming in the office is that engineers are often removed from process considerations. Taken off the production floor and placed in a controlled environment does not take into account the many variables that may occur day to day. An engineer may not have the practical machining experience to anticipate problems that may arise at the machine.

If programmers do all the programming, they remove some of the challenge for machinists. This may...

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