What’s Trending in Tool Management Systems?

If you take a closer look at your yearly tooling expenses, you might be surprised at the cost – both in dollars and efficiency. A lack of effective tool management results in missing or lost tools or stock-outs, lost productivity searching for tools, and increased machine downtime to replace or switch out tools. And whether you’re a large OEM or a small shop, tool expenses can quickly add up and negatively impact your bottom line – after all, 20% of wasted operator time is spent searching for tools, and 15% of production delays and stoppage come from incorrect tool use.

Naturally, this means that effective tool inventory management systems can make an equally large impact on a shop’s profitability. A major airline operating out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, for example, instituted a tool management system for the nearly 5,000 pieces of aircraft maintenance equipment used by its ground team. In the year that followed, it nearly halved the rate of tool loss and reduced supplies spending by 30%, including $24,000 per year in grinding disks alone, all while improving overall efficiency.

In the metalworking industry, however, manufacturers are quickly learning how to take traditional inventory management systems and integrate them with IIoT technology and machine connectivity to realize even greater productivity improvement. Consider this scenario: An operator has a machine monitoring system on his CNC machine, and the system detects a degree of spindle vibration that indicates a cutting tool needs to be changed. The control knows the item that needs to be replaced based on the program it’s running, so it generates a QR code or ticket the operator can take to a vending machine and scan for the replacement tool.

Machine monitoring isn’t the only Industry 4.0 technology that is being used alongside conventional tool inventory management solutions – shops are increasingly combining this technology with IIoT tool identification systems for fully streamlined tool usage. RFID tags and readers make it easy to reduce assembly errors and speed up changeovers at the same time it simplifies tool history management thanks to automated scanners.

Both of these digital solutions work well in conjunction with tool management systems when it comes to gaining a full understanding of a shop’s tool ecosystem as well. All three systems can be used to generate effective reports that show exactly how inserts are being consumed and at what rates, all broken down to the level of individual operators and machines up to entire cells or departments.

With automated reporting, further optimization becomes even easier. Manufacturers can use the data to pinpoint exactly where production problems begin, where bottlenecks occur and how tool usage is impacting their bottom lines. Armed with this knowledge, the next steps are much easier to identify, such as partnering with a supplier to create educational opportunities that give operators the ability to add more value and better implement modern production strategies.

The future is bright for inventory management systems. Rather than use them as standalone solutions, inventory management is more integrated with other digital solutions than ever before. This will enable shops to become more data-driven and dive deeper into tool usage patterns to optimize their part-production operations. To learn more about how to partner with Seco to achieve the higher productivity made possible with inventory management, click here.