Versatile Tools Cut Costs and Scrap for HMLV Production

To see the real story of a shop’s manufacturing quality, check its Quality Control (QC) area for levels of rejected parts and rework. Maximum profitability requires diligent attention to eliminate QC flaws, especially with today’s emphasis on high-mix, low-volume (HMLV) production. One of the primary keys to overall efficiency, quality and cost containment lies in selecting the right tool for every job.

Because manufacturing processes include variables that change as they interact, even well-specified machining parameters can produce unexpected results, as heat affects tool hardness and some cutting methods can alter material properties. To minimize the uncertainty these variables can introduce, cost reduction becomes a competitive necessity, and analyses of cycle time, materials and tooling can identify waste that must be eliminated. Selection of the wrong tool, or acquisition of tools that a shop may not know how to use correctly, introduce costs that cannot be recouped.

Tool selection also intersects with production-run length. Some tool designs excel during short runs; others offer lasting performance throughout larger batches of parts. For long runs of low-mix, high-volume production (LMHV), shops can analyze their operations, identify the factors that result in unacceptable parts out of runs of hundreds or thousands, and adjust their tooling selection and machining parameters to achieve repeatable results with predictable QC success.

By contrast, today’s HMLV manufacturing allows little time for course corrections, and its short production runs magnify the impact of an individual reject. When an entire production run can consist of a single part, with a short deadline that limits the ability to learn new workpiece materials or fine-tune tool selection, the wrong tool choice can produce devastating results. If a single-part run fails QC, replacing it increases costs, decreases customer satisfaction and slashes profit margins.

Along with matching tool performance to production run, shops must account for all processes that subtract from profitability. Some QC issues relate to hidden costs, or to costs that shops ignore as normal consequences of a machining process. For example, if shops view burrs as an expected outcome, they may ignore the cost of deburring, which can add as much as 20% to the price of a workpiece. Along with the need to account for everything that affects the bottom line, shops must optimize their tool selection so they can avoid or minimize secondary processes.

In every manufacturing process, the best tooling for each job is the tool that matches the applicable equipment, materials, specifications and production schedules. Some shops agonize over tool specifications to select a specific tool for every part, racking up big expenses for tools they use once or twice at most. Versatile tools make it simple for shops to select the right tool first, then specify grades, geometries, speeds and feeds, rather than amass huge, expensive inventories of tools that they cannot or will not actually use.

Beyond geometries, feeds and speeds, tool performance determines whether to select tools based on maximum metal removal rates or maximum tool life. Instead of choosing a high-performance tool for its output rate alone, shops need to match tools with their intended processes. Especially in HMLV manufacturing, versatile tools offer reliable performance with a variety of workpiece materials, enabling shops to avoid confusion and reduce costs. Used knowledgeably, versatile tools can increase process reliability, improve cost containment and elevate profit margins.

For dependable, easy-to-use performance with a wide range of workpiece materials and part geometries, today’s versatile tools can go from steel to stainless and aluminum to titanium, balancing performance and flexibility for efficient processing of today’s HMLV workflows. Used knowledgeably, versatile tools complement operator skills, and enable individuals on the production line to remain alert for the variables that affect manufacturing quality. With dependable performance, ease of use, and broad applications, versatile tools become a shop’s first choice for profitability and productivity, as well as enhanced product quality through scrap and rework reduction.