American Machinist

Getting control over tools is a trend. (includes related articles) (Computerized Tool Management)

Getting control over tools is a trend

MANAGEMENT OF TOOLING resources may be characterized as bordering on criminal neglect in many companies. If raw materials or work-in-process were handled the way tools and tooling routinely are, the managers would be considered unprofessional and/or incompetent.

The US metalworking industry spends about $1.5-billion a year on cutting tools alone. Additional billions are spent on such tool-crib-dispensed items as die and mold components, wear parts, jigs and fixtures, hand power tools, and non-tool shop consumables of all varieties.

In recent years, the management of these tooling resources has been improving somewhat in specific sectors, such as the aerospace/defense and nuclear industries. But by and large, tool management is still in need of much greater attention from company managements.

This article is an update of the AM Special Report of five years ago (AM--May'86pp105-120), "Computerized Cutting-Tool Management."

Costs: apparent and hidden

How bad is the mismanagement of the tooling resources? First, the anecdotal evidence. As one marketer of tool-management systems said, "The shops I see are over-invested in obsolete tooling--but still don't have the tools they need. They always are coming up short." Another has said, "most companies have not changed the way they run their tool cribs since they opened shop."

Next, some numbers, which should be frightening. Although tooling may represent the third-most-costly function in the typical US metalworking company, perhaps 16% of scheduled production is not met because the tooling isn't available, perhaps 50% of the inventory of perishable tools is obsolete, and perhaps 30% to 60% of the tooling inventory is "lost", out of the toolcrib, on the shop floor.

These hidden costs may be even larger than the somewhat more visible labor costs. Machine operators may spend from a half-hour to an hour or more per day searching for tools and materials. Foreman and supervisors may spend 40% to 80% of their time expediting tools and materials rather than applying their knowledge to production.

The hidden costs--in machines down for tooling, missed shipping dates, dissatisfied customers, excess tool inventory, and needless tool duplication, are generally kept from plant and general management by shop-floor people.

Despite a quarter-century of attention in American manufacturing to the broad issues of inventory reduction and materials management and even just-in-time concepts to streamline production, tool management is just starting to be given its due. The community of materials-management professionals, led by the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS), has largely ignored tooling issues. Only a single conference on tool management was ever organized, the October 1988 Conference on Tool Management & Control, by the Grand Rapids Chapter of APICS. Approximately 100 people attended. This neglect continues in spite of the fact that software for managing tool cribs is not new at all but has been available since 1980.

Dedicated application software is the most commonly used approach to achieving control over tooling resources. The other two approaches are writing your own tool-management system in-house, and employing one of the few MRP-type systems with built-in modules for tools or enhancing such a system to handle tools. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.