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5.23 - Tool Management

Key Factors

The control of tools and tooling in a modern manufacturing system can significantly influence its effectiveness. In some cells, the number of tools used may be much greater than the number of components manufactured.

Where change is taking place it is important to adopt a tool management system which suits the manufacturing systems to be used in each cell and product unit - do not insist on the same for all - analyse.

The need for a scheduling and planning system for tools to ensure JIT supply is as important as that for materials and components. The two schedules maybe combined on the same system for compatibility.

Kanban loops for regularly used tools are just as viable as those for products. Divide tools into natural groups to ease control. For example:-

  • High cost controlled tooling
  • Low cost free issue general purpose tooling at point of use
  • Regularly circulating tooling
  • Cell based tooling










Tool Management System Design










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Automatic re-cycling for setting after fixed number of cycles

Standardisation and tool group categorisation

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Fast retrieval of stored tools

Tool storage technology

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JIT supply with production components

Manufacturing systems used

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Planned consumable re-ordering

Data storage technology

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Fast tool design service

Distributed PC systems with spreadsheets integrated with a database

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Feedback on tool performance

Cell based levelled scheduling procedure

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Tool handing system

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Tool kitting system integrated with product kitting system

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Simple operations at computer terminal

A prerequisite for any tool management system for re-design is that of variety reduction via standardisation, particularly where machine tools are concerned. Variety reduction and standardisation process planning will simplify the tool management problem. Use the same principles as part standardisation (see guide 6.17).

In a cellular environment the benefits of ownership, such as ease of control and JIT availability by the user cell should be balanced against the cost of duplicating facilities.

In some cases a tool supply module acting as a supplier and tool setting services to each product unit via a Kanban pre-set service may be advantageous - a total process under a module leader with relevant performance measures.

The tool management process will be an important element of the ‘Value Chain’ of the particular business and can give competitive advantage.

If both central and cell based systems are in operation an optimum selection can be sought by, for example:-

  • A Pareto Approach to tool group categorisation - base 20% of the tools in the cell which cover 80% of the cell requirement.
  • Products and their supporting components and sub-assemblies are split into runners, repeaters and strangers and tool control integrated into three types of control system used for products of this type, i.e.:
    • All runner tooling cell based with supply by pull Kanban
    • All repeater tooling except very expensive or large tools cell based and supplied by fixed cycle Kanban
    • No stranger tooling in the cell with its tool kits for strangers made up using a push type of control system.

As in all database control systems data accuracy is a vital factor in the control of tooling. The features of cell based and centralised control are shown below:-

Cell Ownership

Centralised Ownership

  • Inherent product knowledge
  • Requires simple control systems
  • Reduced indirect costs
  • Reduced queuing
  • Data accuracy easier to achieve
  • Fast feedback and ease of monitoring
  • Specialised resource allocated
  • Design skills pooled
  • Rationalisation
  • Economies of scale
  • Vary large numbers of tools
  • Complex tool flow monitoring systems and poor visibility
  • Very large database to manage

Partly Duplicated Facilities

Complex Systems

Further Reading