Manage your cutting tools; cut your costs
By Ed Robertson
Many choices exist for manufacturing companies interested in improved tool management. Cutting tool OEMs and their suppliers/distributors have a wide range of options for improving customer tool inventory efficiency. Other companies offer specific solutions such as embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) chips and tracking software to reduce the frequency of lost tools.
Yet, many tool management discussions do not focus on the tools. Instead, these discussions center around value and answering questions such as, how can you improve your manufacturing processes, lower your costs, improve your delivery times, and create and maintain a sharper competitive edge?
Tooling OEMs recognize tool management as growing opportunity to offer additional services to customers. For example, Iscar (Tefen, Israel, with Canadian offices in Oakville, Ontario, and Anjou, Quebec) has the independent CMTS (Commodity and Tool Management Services), a division dedicated to delivering tool management services to help customers reduce production costs. The CTMS team includes tool management professionals in the key areas of logistics, engineering, and IT, all critical to cost reduction in the supply chain and manufacturing processes affected by cutting tools.
Since 1996, Kennametal, Latrobe, PA, has had an Enterprise Services mission of providing supply chain and project management expertise, equipment, and software, as well as access to and efficient use of the latest in tools, tooling technology, and materials science developments.
Small Cost, Significant Impact
Cutting tools play a pivotal role in the total cost equation. In a typical production environment, the tool price represents only 3 per cent of total manufacturing costs. However the cutting tool can significantly reduce machining cycle time, which means more machine tool capacity and less manpower. For example, a 25 per cent optimization of the machining process can deliver total cost reduction of 15 per cent. This is much more significant than lowering tool prices 5 per cent.
Cost-per-part (CPP) programs are another way to establish new thinking in cost reduction. Such programs entail establishing partnerships with companies based on the tooling provider’s ability to deliver both cost and process savings. The tooling company places people and resources on site for total tool management, and actually owns and manages the tooling inventory. A cost-per-part billing amount is established and the inventory is delivered to the partner company on a consignment basis. “Not only does Kennametal manage the tool crib and tool usage, the partner has access to all of the resources of our organization to immediately begin increasing tool efficiency,” says Tim Marshall, Kennametal’s global manager for CPP programs. “Customers can concentrate on production while looking to Kennametal for improving their tooling function.”
Risk and responsibility for total tool management is transferred from the manufacturing company to the tooling organization. The resulting improvement in tooling efficiency directly leads to greater production efficiencies and overall bottom-line improvement. In fact, guaranteed annual cost reductions and regularly delivered tooling efficiency reports are written into the life of the contract. Not only are customers guaranteed productivity improvement, they are protected against inflation. Funds formerly tied up in tooling inventory or in expediting emergency tool deliveries are freed up, allowing the partner to focus on their core competencies.
Not Just for Large Companies
While not a traditional business model, it is not just for large, high volume customers. Small to medium-sized enterprises (SME) in such programs are slashing time to market in the range of 30 per cent to 50 per cent by taking advantage of more frequent opportunities to test and qualify new tooling and processes. And the traditional model of relating to a tooling technology supplier only through the purchasing department is replaced by a much broader relationship between company R&D, engineering, service and other resources.
Large and SME companies experience the same set of industry trends. Production cost remains critical, while quality demands and time-to-market constraints are unrelenting. Add a shortage of metalworking expertise and a general migration to advanced workpiece materials, and you can see why a cost-per-part relationship with an established tooling partner isn’t all about the tools but more about mutual success.
Enhanced tool management can also fit into a company’s ongoing lean processes. For example, Cribmaster (Marietta, GA) announced in November 2011 a custom tool-kitting service called KitMaster. “Time spent searching for tools has many associated costs,” says a company spokesperson. “When it comes to tool kitting, a well-defined kit supporting a process within your organization eliminates a great deal of waste. Such a concept flows directly into Total Quality Lean philosophies that minimize defects and quickly identify process flaws.”
KitMaster also offers laser etching onto tools with any identifying information, such as model numbers, employee, company names, logos, and images. Additionally, kits can be upgraded with RFID tags for even more tool identification and security.
Tool vending systems offer an array of updated features. The latest vending system hardware from CTMS allows total control of all items. Each compartment within each drawer is individually controlled by powerful tool management software. This allows access to tooling to be strictly controlled, with usage statistics to provide full accountability for all consumable usage. This system, called Matrix, is running on shop floors all over the world, and the Iscar software is continually improved and updated by a dedicated team. Automatic ordering based on minimum/maximum levels, and automated report-generation with user-defined detail are standard features.
The recent update to version 4.7 in 2011 improves and enhances many existing features, allowing full control of serial items, “shopping basket” for multiple issues from touch interface, and a fully customizable “Analyzer” on the user home screen, showing popular reports, valuations and KPI.
ToolBoss is Kennametal’s secure inventory management solution. The new 28 level version occupies the same footprint as the former 20-level version and can be easily and quickly reconfigured to meet the changing requirements of the user. Single trays or the entire frame can be easily changed in minutes without the use of tools.
In the event that a manual override is needed, the new cabinet ensures 24/7 availability with a unique manual override capability, which is simple and easy to use and requires no disassembly.
Ed Robertson is a contributing editor and manufacturing journalist based in the Detroit, MI, area.