Last updateTue, 11 Dec 2018 8pm


VMA Manufacturers Workshop: Touring Mazak, Learning Lean

vma workshop 1VMA members learn about Mazak machinery during a tour of the company’s newly expanded Advanced Manufacturing Technology facility in Lexington, KY.Nearly 60 attendees at VMA’s Manufacturers Workshop in Cincinnati, April 30-May 2, had in-depth learning experiences that revolved around the LEAN system, machine manufacturer Mazak and the MT Connect program.


VMA members enjoyed a half-day tour of Mazak’s newly expanded Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Florence, KY, where Mazak has been engineering and manufacturing its machines since 1974. Mazak is a machine tool and automation system supplier that manufactures multi-tasking, five-axis, turning and milling machines, lathes and machining centers. Many of these machines are currently being used in valve manufacturing throughout the world. 

A tour of the facility revealed how multi-tasking machines, which can combine numerous manufacturing operations with fewer set ups and work handlings, are important to increasing efficiencies for valve manufacturers. Before the tour began, Brian Papke, president of Mazak, explained that the more than 100 different Mazak machine models produced in the Florence facility are designed for commonality and modular assembly to save factory floor-space and streamline production. By reducing production costs and increasing flexibility, this kind of technology has made it possible for some valve manufacturers to reshore more production to the United States. Papke said, “Reshoring is real! Fifty percent of companies recently surveyed by MIT were considering bringing something back to the United States.”

During his presentation on the first day of the workshop, Ben Schawe, vice president of manufacturing at Mazak, revealed how his plant was able to increase its own production efficiency with the use of machine monitoring software. Describing a system that could be used in any manufacturing facility, Schawe shared how they were able to discover the real utilization of machines in the plant. Mazak chose one of six comparable machine monitoring software packages that use the machine’s existing signals to allow personnel to see what’s happening with the machine, in real time. Using the MT Connect protocol, which was discussed in greater detail in a subsequent session by Neil Desrosiers, they were able to collect and analyze data that would reveal why machines would have down time. By learning how often and why machines would stop operating, Mazak could improve its own efficiency, information that could be used in any manufacturing facility with heavily automated equipment.

Schawe said that there is a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S. “We can be competitive,” he said. “Old factories are being replaced with more productive plants. The biggest problem is a critical shortage of skilled labor; 150 employees of Mazak will retire in the next 10 years, and we’re doing everything we can to fill the gap.”

Mazek currently has over 40 apprenticeships. The company holds welding boot camps and works with local colleges. “But all companies need to step up,” said Schawe. “More needs to be done to recruit qualified students to good-paying jobs in manufacturing.”

Enhancing Interoperability

vma workshop 2 Mazak’s Neil Derosiers discusses MTC Connect.Neil Desrosiers, developer of application engineering at Mazak, demonstrated the various ways that MTConnect can be used to monitor machine status, maintenance, tool management, robots, parts and more.

The company describes MTConnect as “an open, royalty-free standard that is intended to foster greater interoperability between devices and software applications. By establishing an open and extensible channel of communication for plug-and-play interconnectivity between devices, equipment and systems, MTConnect allows sources to exchange and understand each other’s data. This common communication is facilitated by XML and HTTP technology to provide real-time data from throughout a factory and empowers software developers to implement applications aimed at providing more efficient operations, improved production optimization and increased productivity.”

Desrosiers described the process of getting started with MT Connect, which includes a plant review, targeting initial machines, networking, choosing a vendor for software and determining the expectations for the system. By following the protocols recommended by Desrosiers, attendees could implement MT Connect at their facility, making it possible for valve manufacturing plants to achieve more efficient and profitable production.

Mazak is just finishing the last phases of its $30M expansion, which will allow them to produce up to 200 machines a month. A number of members already use Mazak machinery, and an article about how this equipment can improve operations and productivity will appear in the summer issue of VALVE Magazine.

The Importance of being Lean

vma workshop 3Rich Alloo of the University of Kentucky’s Lean Systems Program, explains Toyota’s 8-Step Problem Solving Process. Attendees also heard from former Toyota executives who are involved with UK's Lean Systems Program. Rich Alloo is an "Executive in Residence" and a retired general manager of the operations and management development division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA). He led a workshop on Toyota's 8-Step Problem Solving Process, a system developed by Toyota but which has been shared by the company to benefit society and give back to the economy through understanding and communicating the fundamentals. The company has engaged a teaching organization (the University of Kentucky) to create a Lean Systems Program. At its core is the need to: "Find the problem, fix the problem, and keep the problem from coming back."

vma workshop 4VMA members listen to speakers at the 2014 Manufacturers Workshop.In the second workshop dealing with the Lean concept, Peter Gritton, adjunct professor, and a former vice president of human resources at TEMA, addressed "The People Side of True Lean." His real-world experiences and entertaining anecdotes helped drive home the importance of treating people with respect. He said that without the buy-in of your employees, without their trust, your Lean process is not going to be successful. Also essential to the success of the Lean program—everybody must learn it, even and perhaps especially the “guys at the top,” because you can’t coach people if you don’t know it yourself. The leader does not get a pass.

VALVE Magazine will be running additional Web features on this topic. Be sure to check back to see when they will be posted at VALVEMagazine.com.


Judy Tibbs is editor-in-chief of VALVE Magazine. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Kate Kunkel is senior editor of VALVE Magazine. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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