How do Successful CNC Machine Shops Maximize Cut Tools and Minimize Spend?

12/15/2020 | Dave Rupp

Top performing CNC Tool Cribs maximize cut tooling effectiveness while minimizing spending on inventory and overhead. There is a fine line to walk between having the right cut tools ready at all times to keep CNC spindles turning and minimizing spending. 

What is a CNC Toolcrib?

The CNC tool crib manages all cut tools. It's an office, warehouse, and team. The team manages cutting tool inventory from ordering to recycling. They also handle the day to day production supplies from safety glasses to sandpaper.  The tool crib assembles tools for each new job and tears down tools from completed jobs. We help replace tools on running jobs from wear out and failures. We troubleshoot tool failures to help the production team keep running smoothly. 

IMG_4202 (2)The tool crib assembles cutting tools and places them on carts to be taken to CNC machine centers for new jobs. 

Setting Up Tools

Tools are assembled and disassembled for each part and job. A tool list defines a group of tools to be assembled for each job. It defines the assembly details for each tool. Tools are assembled and preset, which means height and or diameters are set, measured, and recorded for entry into the machine control. The completed tool sets are sent out to production factory floor for each job. We put all our tools in a cart, which is wheeled to the CNC machine center. This helps keeps CNC spindles turning, as tool crib team has all the job tools ready to go for the CNC Operator. 

FacemillThis face mill includes a pull stud, holder, standoff, mill body and twelve cutting inserts. 

 

After each job is completed the cutting tools are returned to be stored or disassembled. We work with production scheduling to determine, how soon tools are needed. When parts run frequently, tools are stored assembled. This saves time disassembling and shortly reassembling. Alternatively, when there are weeks between jobs tools are disassembled and returned to inventory. Then the tool components can be re-used and rebuilt for another job. Tearing down and re-using means the tool crib can lower inventory of common items like tool holders, and common, standardized cutting tools can be re-used consumed. 

ToolSet (3)Tools are setup for a job. Each tool assembly is labeled with its tool number. This corresponds to the CNC Machine tool pocket and program. 

Managing Inventory

With thousands of tools, managing inventory can get overwhelming. We use our PLEX Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to help manage inventory. Tools are tracked in the ERP from the tool crib out to the CNC Machines. It keeps track of inventory and usage by part number and job. The ERP helps order tooling by generating Purchase Orders (PO) to maintain a minimum inventory quantity. 

The ERP is a management tool that takes careful configuration. We work with our suppliers and schedulers to understand tooling lead time and stocking relative to our production needs. When a distributor stock tools locally with short lead times, the tool crib can carry minimal inventory. However, long lead time tools need to be stocked in house to cover demand, wear-out, and include safety stock. Each tool has to be configured in the ERP for minimum stock quantities carefully. 

IMG_4212 (2)Cutting Tools and Supplies are tracked, ordered, and fully managed using Plex ERP. 

Advanced tool management is key to minimizing inventory and saving money with tool regrinds. Tools are sent out for re-sharpening to extend their life at a fraction of the cost of a new tool. We rely on two technologies and our partners to capitalize on cutting tool regrinds. Tools are individually serialized and labeled with laser engraving. This allows tracking individual tools out to regrind. For example, consider an endmill running in 6 machines, with 4 at regrind, and two stocked. Without tracking regrinds, our safety stock should be increased to cover the machine usage. However, with tracking and local partners like Advanced Tooling  and Carbide Tools Manufacturing that turn around regrinds within a day, the effective stock covers needs. The 2 stocked plus 4 regrinds meets worst case need to replace all 6 running tools. 

Tooling vending is popular. We use vending to provide CNC Operator quick access to tools and track usage. Tooling usage from our vending machine is manually tracked with our ERP system, but we're working on integrating vending machines and ERP in the long run. 

We find value working with our tool vendors on trade-ins. They'll often work with us on upgrades. They'll take old unused inventory in exchange for future credit. This helps us move to newer technology faster, since we don't have to wait to consume all old tooling before advancing. 

Tool Crib Bottom Line for CNC Machine Shops

An optimized tool crib means keeping spindles turning without excessive inventory and overhead. Stecker Machine Company's tool crib team finds the right balance to keep the company successful. We're always looking for improvements from vending and stocking to finding the best performing, most cost-effective tools for the job. 

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Dave Rupp

About the Author

Dave is in charge of Stecker Machine's cut tools. He handles all procurement: inventory control, ordering, receiving, sending out for resharpening, data entry, and scheduling. Dave sparked an estimated cost savings of approximately $100,000 per year by improving tooling management. Example: Dave noticed Supplier A lead time slipping, so he quoted the same tool at Supplier B, which realized a better lead time and also a savings of $60/tool.

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