What are the best methods for tool handling?

The way tools and equipment are handled and stored may be an afterthought to many manufacturers – more so when the real driver of a company’s success relies on the productivity and efficiency of its processes. However, improper tool handling can impact both those key performance indicators. CNC cutting tools, especially PCD and carbide tools, can be fragile and susceptible to damage – which inevitably lead to increased machine downtime, quality defects, and dampened profits. To avoid this, the solution could be as simple as proper tool handling. 

Best practices for tool handling

Something as simple as a well-organised facility could give one manufacturer an advantage over another. Just as special attention must be paid to a plant’s layout to address logistical and efficiency concerns, attention should also be paid to the way tools are stored and organised. With a well-managed and detailed system that tracks tools, manufacturers can become more efficient in their operations. Below are four practices for tool handling and organisation:

1. Maintain cleanliness of the work area

It is crucially important to maintain cleanliness in the work area, especially as a manufacturer. Not only can tools and orders be easily misplaced in a disordered mess, but there is also a risk of injury to anyone working within that area. A workplace organisational method called 5S can easily be implemented into any workplace to solve this but takes the collaboration of every employee for it to work effectively. 

The “5S” refers to five words that each start with the letter “S” that relate to cleanliness and organisation: sort, set in order, shine, standardise, and sustain. With the 5S method, manufacturers will see, not just a clean and organised tool library and workplace, but also reduced costs, higher part quality, and increased productivity as a result.

2. Utilise enterprise resource planning software

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is used by businesses around the world – no matter the industry – to automate processes based on provided data from different departments within a company. This data is generally inputted into a central database that allows authorised users to plan and allocate necessary resources for certain processes. Manufacturers use ERP for a wide variety of things – from managing financials and purchasing to production schedules. But ERP is also a versatile tool for inventory management. 

When it comes to tool handling and organisation, ERP software allows manufacturers to see exactly what types of tools are in-house, the quantity, and where the tools are stored within a facility. The values and descriptions for these things can easily be modified through the software. ERP software is a great resource when it comes to tool handling, but could also benefit a manufacturer’s processes well beyond that.

3. Use a tool vending system

Another way to improve tool handling is to use a tool vending system. With vending systems, manufacturers can keep track of each tool in their shop and allocate the appropriate tools for specific jobs. Manufacturers can prescribe the maximum amount of tools that can be pulled for a job and can immediately address tooling or operator-training issues should an excessive amount of tools be pulled. Additionally, depending on the type of vending system, tools are automatically ordered when inventory runs low – preventing extended machine downtime and next-day air shipping costs.

4. Use specially designed tool storage cabinets

Specially designed tool storage cabinets are a simple solution to handling tools safely and ensuring long tool life. By using such cabinets, there is a place for each tool – essentially protecting tools from chipping and damage should they contact each other in storage. Additionally, these cabinets are ideal for storing tool holders and tool assemblies. Simply using tool cabinets can go a long way towards decreasing machine downtime and increasing overall productivity.

Final thoughts

On the surface, improper handling and organisation of tools can seem insignificant, however, it can cause major problems for any manufacturer. Improper handling leads to damaged tools, which can inevitably lead to excessive downtime, increased costs, and long lead times. Something as simple as keeping the shop clean and organised can go a long way towards preventing disruption. Handling tools and equipment can be taken a step further by using an ERP or a tool vending system. Contact an Exactaform sales representative today to discuss your CNC machine tool needs.

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