News | February 8, 2023

Lost Tools, Wasted Time

Good tool inventory management leads to more profitable and sustainable manufacturing

Querétaro /PRNewswire/ - The first example of a vending machine dates back to the first century, when the Greek engineer Heron of Alexandria created a machine that accepted a coin before dispensing holy water. In temples where citizens worshipped, the device prevented people from taking more than their fair share of water. Although vending machines have become more sophisticated, their principle remains the same: to provide quick and instant access to the product the user needs. Here Andreas Nyberg , specialist for CoroPlus® tool supplyfrom Sandvik Coromant, explores how tool vending machine software and hardware can improve a workshop's profitability, productivity and sustainability.

In many manufacturing operations, 60% of inventory is never used and around 15% of jobs are delayed due to missing tools. Additionally, operators can spend up to 20% of their time searching for lost tools. These results, based on Sandvik Coromant 's own research, demonstrate one thing: inadequate analysis of tool logistics drives up business costs.

Even in highly competitive and technically advanced facilities, problems with tool inventory often go unnoticed and the true cost of lost tools goes unnoticed. But could something as simple as a vending machine, created centuries ago, be the answer to better tool management?

Less visibility, less productivity
A machine shop, regardless of its size, must always be prepared to work quickly and profitably. The machining of parts for various sectors, from an increasingly wide catalog of materials, requires a wide range of available tools. Another level of difficulty is mass customization, as more and more manufacturers are producing exclusive products on a large scale. Doing the right thing, at the right time, and getting it where it's needed, adds even more pressure on machinists to work to tighter tolerances and quick tool change and workholding strategies. Having the right tools, at the right time, is essential.

Many things can go wrong as a result of poor inventory management. Poor or no visibility of tools in a shop and their location can lead to a facility having too much stock. Another situation is stocks running out when a certain tool is most needed. Other adverse consequences include difficulties in measuring tool performance and increased costs of stock management and order processing. All of these issues lead to one ultimate consequence: without the correct tools, machines stall, and the facility suffers unexpected but preventable downtime. And that time means money.

Having too much or too little stock is largely the result of human error. If the tools are not stored in their respective pockets and are left scattered around the shop, the operators will not know if their stock of tools is exhausted or not. Sometimes those who work in the shop can create excess stock if they are too frivolous with the use of new tools. If, for example, an upgraded version of their current tooling system becomes available, manufacturers can automatically switch to the new option and put aside their current stock of perfectly working but slightly older tools.

Inventory management in digital format
Having appropriate hardware, such as tool vending machines, can be an important step for some manufacturers who lack adequate physical space to store their tools. However, for fully optimized and digitized tool management, this is only a first step in the right direction. To take vending machines to a much higher level than their first holy water delivery services, machine shops should equip their tool stores with an alternative to manual inventory management.

CoroPlus® Tool Supply from Sandvik Coromant brings together tool storage hardware and software to automate many of the common headaches associated with tool management. The software keeps track of all tools registered in inventory, showing stock availability, high-cost areas, and which tools have been picked on which machine and by whom.

In addition to allowing operators to pick up and return their tools correctly, the software can also manage inventory replenishment and maintenance, as the use of tools in the shop feeds data to the software's management and administration system to support management. cost tracking, job planning and purchasing management.

On a practical level, tool logistics software also controls tool logistics hardware solutions, including open shelves, lidded drawers, or vending machines depending on the level of control required. Shelves and drawers can hold various amounts of tools to choose from, while vending machines can only dispense one tool at a time.

More efficient and ecological
Automation software offers manufacturers an alternative to manual labor, and can prevent downtime from occurring when time is short. Because workers can keep track of tool stocks via a tablet or other smart device and then rely on the software to automatically order and replenish that tool stock when needed, purchasing teams no longer have to worry about unnecessary paperwork created by multiple manual orders.

Since operators never run out of the tool they need, nor have too many tools they don't need, machines never have to stop working because they run out of tools. And, in addition to creating a more profitable and productive work environment, good inventory management has an additional benefit. It can help make the machine shop more sustainable.

Inventory management automation means orders are placed from a central point, rather than based on requests from multiple operators who can create multiple tool orders in a single week. Therefore, tool shipments can also be reduced and optimized into a single shipment and purchase orders bundled so that a new batch of tools arrives once a week, rather than every day.

In addition, the automated supply of tools can also take into account the reconditioning and recycling of used tools. If, as an industry, we continue to consume the planet's limited resources in an unsustainable way, we will run out of the materials we need to produce robust carbide tools. For example, a tungsten reserve of around 7 million tons is estimated, which is equivalent to 100 years of consumption. Having a workflow that automatically sends used tools to be recycled can make it easier for the end user to take steps towards a more sustainable practice.

In addition to facilitating faster recycling, inventory management software can also ensure that customers receive refurbished tools rather than new ones. Not only are they often half the cost of buying a new tool, but refurbished tools can offer up to three uses of the same tool before being recycled. Operators can incorporate reconditioning into their tool management process by sending their used tools in for reconditioning and returning them for reuse.

Like Heron's invention, today's vending machines serve to streamline the inventory management process and get users the items they need more efficiently. However, today they are also capable of much more. Sandvik Coromant has found that users of CoroPlus® Tool Supply software can increase the utilization rate of their machines by up to 95%, compared to 50% without using inventory management software. Having the right hardware and software to manage tools isn't just a matter of keeping your shop clean and tidy. The implementation of inventory management software makes the production environment more agile, ecological and profitable.

Sandvik Coromant
As part of the global Sandvik industrial engineering group, Sandvik Coromant is at the forefront of manufacturing tools, machining solutions and expertise that drive the industry standards and innovations required for the machining industry today and tomorrow. Training, extensive investment in R&D and strong collaboration with our customers ensure the development of machining technologies that change, lead and direct the future of manufacturing. Sandvik Coromant holds more than 3,100 patents worldwide, has more than 7,900 employees and is present in 150 countries.

Source: Sandvik Coromant

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