Anyone pursuing effective tool management on the shop floor or within line-item accounting columns is really like a good detective in a crime novel - following the trail of money that leads directly to catching the criminal. Inferior or nonexistent control of tooling is criminal behavior of sorts, according to Marty Plute, president of ITC Integrated Systems Inc, Cherry Hill, NJ. "If you go down to the average tool crib it probably hasn't been operated or organized much differently since the 1940s. Tool management is knowing where your tools are, what they are being used for, all the time, period. Unfortunately for many, tool management is probably a very new idea."
Call it a new concept or a mature standby, heightened competition is directing more in metalworking to consider and adopt tool management methods - nearly all employing computerization.
"In situations where competition has become tougher and tougher, tool management systems (TMS) are that much more obvious as cures for unrestrained tooling costs," says Bruce Breitenbucher of Remstar International Inc, Westbrook, ME, builders of tooling storage/retrieval systems and control software. "Getting some kind of control over tooling costs can no longer be ignored in a cost-conscious metalworking operation."
What's it all about?
At its simplest level, tool management aims to rein-in unnecessary tooling costs and reduce machine downtime - time spent searching a facility for tooling or waiting for order arrivals. Kennametal Inc, Raleigh, NC, offers "Improving Tool Management" and "Preparing for Pre-gaging", software programs for PCs that alone or in combination combat unnecessary downtime and tooling expense waste. The software provides a basic automation tool to help manage tool crib inventory and automate the pre-gaging process which can remove bottlenecks that occur when tooling is preset and/or kitting of tooling is used. Pre-gaging can be integrated with tool management software to control tool crib inventory, automate replenishment of tools, track tools and gages on the shops floor.
"Many times we find a customer who doesn't have a method in-place to address all aspects of tool management," says Kennametal's Frantz Herko, Metalworking Systems Division product manager. "Occasionally customers will have a program geared for replenishment focusing on the tool crib and managing its operations and getting more tracking and accountability for tool and gages issued from the crib. Other times you find customers focused on reducing machine setup time. They recognize that setup time is a significant problem so maybe they invest in some quick-change tooling or are thinking about investing in it.
"Off-line pre-gaging or pre-setting is a big opportunity to reduce machine setup time so some customers focus strictly at the machine tool and less or no focus at all at the...