The storage and allocation of tools and equipment using a classic tool-issuing method is not only laborious but can also lead to production down-time, if the required C items — those needing the simplest of controls and minimal records — are not available.
This is why an increasing number of companies are introducing tool management systems.
Hoffmann Group, the German supplier of tooling and industrial equipment, says it is not unusual for an average-size manufacturing plant to have an annual consumption of 30,000 indexable inserts, 1,000 milling cutters, 500 drills and 1,800 taps, adding that the outlay required to provide these important C items can account for a significant proportion of the overall cost per component.
Bruno Jentner, head of the department for the Tool24 system at Hoffmann Group, says: “This is why there are now intelligent goods-issuing systems designed to simplify the issuing of tools and personal protective equipment, while optimising requirements planning in the company.
“These systems provide extra transparency and efficiency in the management and provision of consumable materials.
“To ensure the reliable supply of consumable materials, changes in inventory in the dispensing cabinet must be precisely documented.
“This requires employees to log into the system before they can withdraw an item. This allows the dispensing cabinet to precisely record the current inventory level and the purchasing department to better plan repeat orders.
“For companies that want to partially or fully automate the complete repeat ordering process for C items, modern goods-issuing systems also provide an interface to the management software or to the materials management system.
“The issuing system can be configured so that it automatically triggers a message to the purchasing and materials planning departments and sends an order to the supplier, if numbers fall below a defined level.
“The system can also be configured so that employees have to assign each withdrawal to a cost centre, machine or order.”
In 2014, the clamping equipment manufacturer Röhm (located in Sontheim an der Brenz) automated its tool-issuing system for indexable inserts and grinding media with the Garant Tool24 Smartline tool management system from Hoffman Group (www.hoffmann-group.com
Before installing this system, Röhm used a conventional tool-issuing method; but with the two issuing points only open at certain times, there were often delays in supply — particularly during the early shift at the start of the week.
Fabian Baur, product manager at , said: “We wanted a system that could be adapted to our ideas, could be extended as required, would run smoothly 24/7 and had various drawer sizes.
“It also had to have a standard interface to SAP, to ensure that withdrawals, replenishment and correction entries were always recorded properly and that requirements planning was carried out accurately.
“We now store some 750 items from various suppliers in the Garant Tool24 Smartline.
“Once the employees have logged into the system by scanning their identification card, they see the standard designation and the product price, as well as the product image and product name.”
Markus Schneider, a foreman in Röhm’s machine shop, says: “Because they see the prices, employees use the tools with more awareness.
“They have purposefully been using the cheaper tools for certain processes, and the tools are used for longer.
“Even the time spent fetching tools is significantly shorter, as the vending system is at a central point in the workshop and easily accessible for everyone.
“While employees now go to the tool-issuing point more often, efficiency has increased significantly, because tool procurement is around three-times as fast.
“Moreover, since installing the Tool24 Smartline, demand for indexable inserts and grinding media at the workstations has halved.”
The experiences of other Hoffmann Group customers show how consumable materials can be managed in a targeted manner, using a goods-issuing system.
Before the introduction of Garant Tool24 Smartline, employees at one company used freely accessible and open tool cabinets.
The customer noticed that reground tools were not particularly popular, while new indexable inserts, drills, milling cutters and threading tools were in high demand.
The introduction of the tool management system quickly remedied this, as the tool-issuing system now purposefully issues reground tools first.
Hoffmann Group customers’ experiences also show that the introduction of a tool management system with an individual issuing function for item groups such as protective gloves and earplugs can reduce material consumption.
These customers use the Garant Tool24 PickOne individual issuing system. This allows employees to access only one item; and with its loading capacity of up to
1 tonne, it can also issue solid-carbide tools and other heavy items.
Mr Jentner says that in order to comprehensively ensure the reliable supply of consumable materials, many companies now use more than one of these goods-issuing systems.
“This trend can be seen in both large and small companies, where distances — and thus time spent fetching tools — can be made significantly shorter.
“When buying a new tool management system, the option of using multiple systems in parallel and in a networked manner should be considered.
“In the Garant Tool24 family, all systems are operated using the same software and can either be connected to a standardised control unit as a slave or take over the overall control as a master.”