TOOL MANUFACTURER’S NEW INITIATIVE – MAKE OPERATIONS MORE EFFICIENT AND ELIMINATE WASTE
For more than eighty years, Seco has delivered the tools and services needed by the manufacturing industry to ensure maximum productivity and profitability. A new offering is now being launched based on that experience – Seco Consultancy – to help customers maximize their use of tools as well as counteract waste.
The idea of offering customers more than just cutting tools has been growing for several years, and since 2017, Seco Consultancy has grown to form a department of around 30 people. “With our shared experience and expertise in the field of cutting tools and manufacturing generally – for both major and small companies – we are able to set our sights higher and help customers with a comprehensive approach to their use of tools and production,” explains Magnus Skilberg, Product & Marketing Manager at Seco Nordic. “The growth of additive manufacturing and electric-powered vehicles, along with the increasingly long lifespans of modern cutting tools, are all factors contributing to the market for cutting tools barely growing. It is therefore natural that we are looking to provide a wider offering to our customers.”
One example within the offering is Global Tool Deterioration Analysis (GTDA), where Seco picks out some 200 scrap inserts from a customer and conducts an in-depth analysis using a microscope to see what type of wear lead to the replacement of the insert. Seco can also see how the tool has been used and whether the insert was replaced too early or too late. By analyzing customers’ inserts and comparing them to an industry standard, it may be possible to see that a certain machine, group of machines or operator is deviating from the accepted norm and thus propose remedial measures. “Using a tool or insert incorrectly not only means that the tool’s full lifespan is not utilized – it can also lead to components becoming scrap or, in the worst case scenario, the machine becoming damaged,” Magnus explains.
Another part of Seco Consultancy’s offering is Tool Management Analysis (TMA), whereby the customer’s process for purchasing and storing tools is reviewed in order to optimize or minimize tied-up capital. Monitoring of machines is also offered using a system from the US company MachineMetrics – a system based on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) that analyzes and visualizes production data.
One of the companies Seco Consultancy has helped is Fårbo Mekaniska in Fagersta, Sweden, of which Roger Berggren is the owner and CEO. When he took over the company in 2005, it had three employees and was in the red. Since then, things have turned around fantastically. The company is now in the black with sales of around SEK 60 million, and has 40 employees and 44 modern CNC machines, of which 20 are operated by robots. Roger confirms that Seco’s new service truly made all the difference for Fårbo, even if it largely confirmed what they already knew. “It is so much easier to take decisions and set priorities when you have facts in front of you. When it was revealed to us that we spend almost 2,200 hours per year searching for tools, the decision to invest in modern and connected tool cabinets was simple. It also became clear that we have SEK 6.5 million tied up in tools – mostly because we often order a few extra tools thinking ‘we might need it’. And when you don’t know where the tools are, it is obviously simpler to just order new ones. Given most tool suppliers can deliver the following day, we should not need to have tools at home worth more than SEK 2 million,” Roger says.
One lesson Fårbo has learned is to ensure things are in good order – an aspect they will continue to focus on in the future. The company will also put more resources into developing its employees’ skills. “Seco’s analysis is helping us in that regard, too – clearly identifying where we need to enhance our skills,” Roger says, who also wanted to know why the company’s delivery precision varied so wildly. One observation was that the planning department bases its plans on machine utilization of 70%. However, when this was followed up it proved to be as low as 40–60% for some machines. The next step was to examine more closely why this was the case and then introduce measures. “Before we had a clear picture of our machine utilization, we used to add people and new machines without much of a plan, in the belief that we would relieve bottlenecks. We are now tackling those bottlenecks using better analysis.”
Roger concludes by praising Seco’s consultancy service for not obliging customers to purchase tools from Seco alone – in fact, everything is totally open and transparent. “With more order and greater insights into how the working hours are used, I am convinced that we can increase productivity by 15–25%. It is a question of organizing the workplaces in a way that leads to less searching, as well as introducing clearer monitoring of how we use our time and making changes based on facts.”