Why purchasing tools just in case we need it, is not the best strategy.
“Just in case we need it” is not a sound business strategy when justifying the purchase of tools. However, many shops, especially small- to medium-size facilities, often use just that approach. One reason may be that the owners of smaller shops are accustomed to doing everything themselves, including production forecasting, quoting jobs and perhaps even the machining itself. These owners see tool management as another small detail to add to the list. Large manufacturers, on the other hand, generally maintain tool management systems that provide adequate control in extended operations.
Also, as they face supply chain interruptions more often these days, manufacturers tend to accumulate a degree of extra tool inventory to deal with possible interruptions. While that doing so is theoretically good practice in general, it can become an issue when it results in having the same insert style from four different suppliers in different levels of stock. The absence of an inventory management system – relying on pen and paper or an Excel spreadsheet alone – leads to confusion, possible misapplication and added expense.
Undisciplined purchasing methods work to some extent, but they are inefficient at best and at worst can be a source of significant cost. An unorganized approach usually produces excessive inventory of some tools and insufficient supplies of others. A shop loses track of what tools it does have, how many of each there are and where tools are in the facility.
When a shop schedules a job but the tools to produce it can’t be found, manufacturing output stops while staff tracks the tools down or rushes to order replacements. Operators waste time searching for missing tools instead of doing their jobs.
The cost of individual tools is minor compared to the much greater cost of idling a CNC machine tool. At the same time, tool inventory that is not accounted for accumulates quickly and becomes a significant business carrying cost.
The implementation of an inventory management system can assure that a shop has the tools it needs in the amounts required and knows exactly where the tools are located. For example, a point-of-use (POU) management system – a vending machine – will provide that information. A vending machine-type system is essentially an automatic, 24/7 tool crib attendant that keeps track of tool inventory, makes sure supply levels are correct and safeguards tools from the tendency of some operators to put a few of their “favorite” tools aside in their personal tool box. Use of a vending machine facilitates streamlining of tool inventory and clarifies tool stocking status. A vending machine can also be used to organize and consolidate other consumable shop supplies.
Vending machine-type systems are also more than just an automated tool crib. Linked to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, an inventory management system can support integrated supply chain and vendor-managed inventory solutions to:
- optimize inventory,
- reduce costs,
- minimize waste
- ensure process security
Inventory management systems provide user tracking, reporting and reordering information. Web-based monitoring is possible via any web-enabled device; offline installation will ensure privacy and confidentiality. Automated reordering and tracking enable uninterrupted tool supply.
Inevitably, inadequate tool management results in cost and complication that consume significant time and planning resources, as well as generating machine downtime expense and unrecognized carrying cost. Systems that free shop leaders from tool management duties will provide them more time to plan and focus on growing business opportunities.
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