Tool management: A cockpit for networked machining
Tool management: A cockpit for networked machining
The Tool Management Cockpit acts as a hub for Walter tool management
Concentrating on core areas of expertise and value creation processes is a sign of a successful modern business, which is why successful companies consistently outsource non-value creation processes to competent partners. Walter, the Tübingen -based specialist in precision tools, supports these efforts with its range of tool management services. The newly developed Tool Management Cockpit represents a milestone in this technology. Upon request, Walter can take on full responsibility for complete tool availability.
By Marcus Schur
Tool management systems are an integral part of Walter Multiply’s range of services. The importance of this area for many companies can be seen in the strong growth in this sector over the past two years. Companies focus primarily on data transparency and process efficiency. They want to find out where exactly costs arise, so that they can reduce them in the long term. After observing various tool management systems available on the market and seeing where their individual strengths and weaknesses lay, Walter decided to develop their own software solution in collaboration with a competent partner. After a practice-oriented test phase, conducted over the last six months, the Tool Management Cockpit was implemented in all of Walter’s tool management projects as standard – with no additional costs for the customer, but a lot of added value.
The aim is to achieve complete transparency in tool management processes through cooperation with customers. For this purpose, Walter is the central point of contact across the entire process chain, from the provision of the complete tools all the way through to recycling. This creates a cycle which guarantees optimum productivity. Unlike the methods which have been most popular until now, the Tool Management Cockpit shows not only the purchasing costs, but also the resulting production costs – i.e. the costs per produced part (CPP). This allows potential for optimisation to be identified as soon as possible. It also shows whether it is more cost- effective to optimise a machining process or to redesign it completely.
Designed for Customer Processes
Production businesses generally have a company-wide ERP system which determines how the processes must be designed. This focuses on production as this is where the company makes its money. And this is precisely where Walter’s Tool Management Cockpit comes in. It adapts to the customer’s processes – not the other way around. The software concentrates mainly on physical warehouse management and the supply chain. Customers can hand over all tasks relating to production, such as tool supply and the optimisation of production processes. Walter takes on complete responsibility for providing the right number of the right tools at the right place – right down to each individual part.
For this reason, particular emphasis is placed on logistical tool management. This process includes everything from the master data input to minimum stocks, based on predicted consumption or past consumption. For example, if a company receives an order to produce 20,000 engine blocks in the next month, they can enter this requirement into the Cockpit and the software will calculate which tools, and how many of them, are required for this task. Alternatively, however, users can also look at their history and use consumption over the past six months to predict how many of each tool will be needed in the future. This process can be additionally optimised and controlled by taking other factors into consideration, such as stock, capital commitment or stock reliability. One highlight of this provision planning is the integration of entirely new elements, which can be evaluated using Walter’s digital solutions directly from the machine. This enables live data from the production environment to be used consistently in order to control stocks, procurement processes and technical optimisation.
The Walter Tool Management Cockpit functions as a control centre and communicates with all relevant systems which supply corresponding data. The data required for this can come from any other systems and the corresponding interfaces are provided. For example, vending systems for tool provision can be integrated in order to “track” tools – i.e. record who has taken a tool out, when this happened and what it was used for. However, this data is not particularly insightful on its own, as it cannot be used to determine exactly which parts were produced using the tool in question. The use of a Tool·ID enables the tools to be assigned to a specific machining operation or multiple operations, for example. The Cockpit software then takes on the task of analysing and processing the data further.
Easy to use
The user interface is intuitive and simple in its design. It has been designed with familiar Office programs such as Excel and PowerPoint in mind and can easily be adapted to meet users’ individual needs. The data sets are easy to input and edit. The Tool Management Cockpit then produces statistics regarding stock, consumption and current part costs. It displays recommended reorder points and provides information about the average daily consumption. This can be used to determine the right time to place the next order as well as the optimum storage buffer size. An overview shows the pending orders and already delivered orders for each item. At the touch of a button, the Cockpit also shows which tools are currently being used to produce which parts. Another display shows the costs that have been incurred over a selected period of time.
The complete CPP (cost per part) calculations are particularly interesting, as they are key to cost-effectiveness. They also provide information about revision statuses and cost reductions. The Cockpit also enables CPP reporting in real time, including the proportionate costs for each tool with a target-actual comparison of tool costs. An order overview informs the user about the status of orders for each individual supplier, down to the individual items. Another highlight of the Cockpit is the ability to plan and control optimisation by displaying potential alternatives and the savings they represent. The requirement for this is that the tools are uniquely identifiable. The manner in which this is done is immaterial – as the records can be made manually or using a Tool ID, RFID or any similar identification technology. Processes in the production environment can be precisely reproduced, displayed and depicted on this basis. Processes that are not running optimally are thus detected incredibly quickly and countermeasures can be introduced. Walter makes corresponding suggestions, compares different solutions and, after consultation with the customer, takes care of implementation – every service from a single provider.
Order in hours, not days
In general, it is still the case that different departments such as Planning, Purchasing, Intralogistics and Reconditioning are involved in tool management. If the entire tool management system is controlled from a single point, however, it is easier to identify and utilise synergies. This often results in the administrative tool procurement process being identified as the greatest cost driver – although those involved are generally unaware of this. An entire week or more can pass between a request for a tool being made and the order being dispatched, while delivering the tool in under 24 hours does not present any problems.
Using the Tool Management Cockpit, this order process can be drastically accelerated – in extreme cases, it can be reduced from a whole week to just a few minutes. Human intervention in the tool order process is restricted to two points: Packing the tool into its box at the shipping company and storing it at the point of receipt.
Despite all the digitalisation involved, it is guaranteed that the customer remains in charge of the process every step of the way. The customer also determines which tools are purchased and used – although they are provided with relevant information in the event that different tools would be more productive or more helpful, regardless of the brand and manufacturer. On request, these alternative tools can also be tested within the context of Walter Tool Management before they are used, in order to determine whether they will actually achieve the predicted savings.
Cockpit for digitally networked machining
The Tool Management Cockpit is an example of the networked thinking of Industry 4.0. It exchanges basic data with the appCom platform. On the appCom platform, Walter, machine manufacturers and industrial companies compile apps and special software solutions for the production environment to meet their individual requirements. This makes it possible to classify and specify consumption details even more precisely, for example. It is also the solution to some problems that are familiar to production managers all over the world who have not yet entered the networked world of Industry 4.0.