By Chuck Bates, Public Relations Director

Recently, I visited a machine shop that specializes in manufacturing tools and devices used in orthopedic surgeries. I interviewed the president of the company for a client case study that would be placed in a metalworking trade publication. During that interview, and as I do when conducting all such interviews, I wrapped up the meeting asking what the future held for the company.

The president of the company predicted that business would continue to grow at a significant pace and that there would be a need to purchase additional manufacturing equipment. While this has been the common response with all shops in today’s booming manufacturing industry segment, what really caught my attention was that he said the company would be automating the shop floor to a whole new level using iPads.

The company’s plan is to purchase maybe five or six iPads and designate them to strategic areas within the shop. Once that’s done, the company will remove many of the computers currently being used on the shop floor. The iPads will serve the same functions as the computers, but the iPads will provide much more, mainly because of their mobility. They will store information on jobs and how the shop’s specific medical components are to be manufactured, but most importantly, they will eliminate redundancy and reduce even more paperwork than the computers did when installed.

For all the shop’s jobs, the iPads will house job schedules, current job status and the documentation required when manufacturing medical components. All shipping and receiving will be tracked in the iPads, and the company will have a portal on the backside of its system that will allow customers to check, in real time, on the status of their particular jobs.

During the manufacture of medical components, the company’s machinists will use the iPads to bring up stored photos and videos of how certain workpieces should be set up in machine tools, as well as view a list of needed tools for that particular job and the required machine settings.

While the president of this medical manufacturing company was relaying to me how the iPads would be used, I couldn’t help but envision the shop’s machinists walking around with iPads dangling from tool belts or of a machinist’s tool box that featured a built-in iPad station so the device could be mounted on the inside of the toolbox lid and would automatically switch on when the tool box was opened. But according to the president of the company, the machinists would carry the iPads around with them to specific machines as needed then return them to designated stations. The idea of tool belts or iPad-friendly toolboxes was never mentioned.

On a last note, I did conduct an Internet search and found websites offering iPad mounts in various colors for refrigerators, cars and airplanes – nothing specifically for machinist toolboxes.

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