Smart Technology Helps Manufacturers Make Intelligent Use of Tools

The promises of Industry 4.0 – enhanced productivity, work capacity and savings – appear enticing, but in many smaller manufacturing firms, everyone from the owner to the shop floor chases a long list of must-do tasks, leaving little time to think about how to improve the status quo. Some of the most-asked questions in these shops center around tools: their location, condition, suitability to individual jobs and more. Digitalized tool identification helps answer these questions before they arise, and enables smaller shops to move forward on the path to full digital connectivity.

Without proper tool identification, shops may not know exactly which tools they have on hand, which need replacement and which will produce the best results on upcoming jobs. In the resulting confusion, these shop owners may simply order more tools to assure the availability of necessary items, only to discover later that the order was a waste of money. Other shops may implement rigid schemes for tool storage and access, complete with sign-out sheets, that prove challenging and time consuming to maintain.

The search for tools can waste five minutes here and 10 minutes there, all of which subtracts from production time. Unable to find the right tool, operators may opt for one that “looks good enough” but may represent the wrong choice, leading to reduced production accuracy and rework or rejected parts. Or operators on one shift may forget to pass on critical information about tool performance to their colleagues on the next shift, which hinders the shop’s ability to approach jobs consistently.

Tool Identification provides a bridge between the analog world of the tools themselves and the digital world of information about them. It transforms confusion into order, makes it easy to identify stock on hand, and facilitates collaboration among operators and shifts at the same time that it cuts down on the use of paper. It provides shared knowledge that helps quantify quality-control problems, which in turn may point to the need to rethink tool selection or use.

Smart, data-driven tool identification reduces setup times with quick access to tool locations, inserts or spare parts, along with cutting data, part drawings and process sequences. Armed with this information, operators can avoid mistakes, reduce machine stoppages and heighten the accuracy of their work. A straightforward tool identification process handles any tool, tool holder or any item in the shop, regardless of type or manufacturer, and yields in-depth insights about workflow that can lead to improved efficiency.

Consumed with the need to be productive, small to medium-sized shops may lack the time to figure out how to create a workable approach to tool identification or how to work around the dilemmas associated with changing manufacturing environments. Even if they know in general terms how to solve their problems, they may lack the onsite capabilities to identify a solution and implement it. Additionally, they may be looking for ways to contain the overall cost of digitalization and take gradual steps toward its overall goals.

Outside expertise can assist these shops in overcoming the bottlenecks that restrict their productivity and limit their growth. With an easy-to-implement system that uses tiny RFID tags keyed to a Bluetooth® reader and a mobile app for easy accessibility, Tool Identification can transform a shop floor with efficiency and heightened profitability. For more information on how tool identification can help your shop, take a look at our Tool Identification solution here.