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Tool management – manage tool inventory with modern software

Published: · Last updated: · 10 min reading time

Depending on the size of a company, there are more or fewer tools in the company’s inventory. The more extensive the list of devices, the more difficult it becomes to keep track of them. For many years, most companies have used Excel as their tool management software. However, as the tool inventory grew, it quickly became confusing to organize one’s tool management using Excel spreadsheets. Therefore, this method is no longer up-to-date in the Industry 4.0 era. Sophisticated tool management software provides a remedy for the tool jungle. Because of Industry 4.0, companies need to clarify how complex such software must be and what functions it must have.

What is tool management?

Tool management ensures that the information of the various tools is managed in a clear framework. A database provides that the tools’ data are stored and linked to a corresponding tool management software. A tool management system is used in production. The software can record different types of data, graphics, etc., of the tools.

The tool management is also responsible for ensuring that the manufacturing process proceeds without errors. Within tool control, a distinction is made between master data and transaction data.

Master data

In computer science and business administration, master data means data of various objects used in the company. This data includes, for example, information about products, employees, suppliers, and customers, which are relevant to the company’s business processes. Master data is stored in various ways, such as in databases or simply as a file. Master data is always static information.

Master data of tools include:

  • the geometric functions
  • the structure of the tools
  • how these tools can be used

Data for the tools include within the master data the tool descriptions and how the devices are to be used by employees and machines. Master data does not have data about the availability of the tools, as this is handled by other software.

Transaction data

Transaction data is often the opposite of master data. In contrast to master data, transaction data is dynamic because it is constantly changing. In terms of a database, transaction data is, for example, customer data. Customer data includes, for example, customer orders and contract data. Transaction data also provides for changes to the inventory in an ERP system.

Available knowledge is considered in the master data. However, this is only possible if data for the respective tasks is available at the employees’ workstations. Tool data can easily be linked to third-party software using the tool management software. This happens either by accessing the database of tool management software or by accessing various interfaces.

What can tool management software do?

This type of software records and maintains the life cycle of manufacturing equipment. The following factors play a role here:

  • Procurement of the tools with the question at which time the device is needed.
  • How are the individual tools assembled into a complete device?
  • The type of use: On which machine is which tool used?
  • Grinding and disposal of the tool.

The tool management software is also the hub of the various tool data. Data on the product, cutting conditions, and 3D models make work preparation and planning much easier. The transfer of tool data and cutting data to a CAM system is useful for NC programming. Other beneficiaries of the tool management software are the purchasing department, which receives information from the ERP system about the order quantity of the cutting sets, storage systems, production control, and presetting devices.

What are the advantages of tool management?

Sophisticated tool management software offers several advantages, which are listed below:

  • Production resources are used more effectively.
  • Capital commitments are avoided.
  • Meaningful reports can be created across departments. For example, the purchasing department can use the evaluations to see when certain parts for the tools need to be procured again.
  • New tools can be found thanks to the intelligent database search quickly.
  • Current recommendations and information from the tool manufacturers are available through the software.

Tool components in tool management

Tool components are individual parts of a tool that, when combined, make up a complete tool. The unique pieces are purchased and stored accordingly. A distinction is made in the tool components between cutting and non-cutting individual parts. For example, a non-cutting part can be a collet chuck, and a cutting element can be an indexable insert. The cutting components gradually wear out during use. Therefore, cutting components must be replaced at regular intervals. The non-cutting individual parts are not usually replaced, as they do not normally wear out.

The following information is stored for the individual parts or components:

What are tool lists suitable for in tool management?

The complete tools are recorded and managed within the so-called tool list. The printable tool list contains information about the tools’ placement (and thus for picking). In many cases, the tool lists contain further details on the complete devices. These include information for NC programs, plans for clamping and printing, etc. The header data contains information on the unique ID and information on which machine which tool is suitable for. A list containing the tools shows all the complete tools that are required for an operation. This list also includes essential information for the NC program, such as the sequence in which the NC program processes the tools. The list also contains information that only applies to a specific process, such as the minimum length at which the machine is cut. Finally, the setup list includes the information that is relevant for picking and assembling the tools.

The role in logistics

In the company, logistics is responsible, among other things, for inventories, the location of storage, and the procurement process for tools. Within the logistics department, a distinction is made between individual parts and the resulting complete tools. In the case of individual components, a fine distinction is made between internal and external (by suppliers) production. The following distinctions are made:

What does the interaction between tool data and software look like?

With tool management, the company has a solid partner to ensure that production orders run effectively. Information on existing knowledge is recorded in the master data and can thus be accessed by all those involved at any time. Other programs make use of the data provided by the tool management. Here there are two ways the different programs access the data of the tool administration:

  • Using the tool management database.
  • Using integrated interfaces.

These are the most common applications in connection with the tool management system.

In the following, we will show the most common applications that are coupled with tool management:

Production Planning System:
Each component is recorded in a work plan. The routing contains, among other things, the various work steps and resources required for the operation. However, since the PPS system does not offer the option of saving explanations of the resources, this is done via tool management. In the case of a work order, the PPS system makes the order available for production. This contains the complete work plan. Additional information such as the NC programs and tool lists, on the other hand, comes from the tool management. For the PPS system to communicate with the tool management system without errors, an interface connection is necessary. The prerequisite for this interface connection is to number documents and to operate resources uniquely.

CAM system:

The CAM system processes and provides the machining steps of the NC programs of CNC machines. The tool management includes information about the designation, the cutting values as well as geometry. The CAM system automatically stores the tools used by an NC program in the tool management tool lists. In this way, the work preparation department has an overview of which instruments are required.

Storage systems:

The storage systems provide the worker with information on the location of the required material (for example, which shelf). Here, the tool management takes over the task of storing the article number and the location of the corresponding material. If a material movement is now recorded in logistics (by posting the corresponding operation), the tool management system controls the storage system. As soon as the warehouse management removes the material, the warehouse system automatically records this.

Catalogs with tools:

For reasons of clarity, the manufacturers of the various devices nowadays provide data of their tools via graphics. This is the technical information about the individual instruments. These are broken down into specific DIN standards. The pictures are either 2D or 3D graphics. For 2D graphics, the format is defined in a DIN standard. 3D drawings are usually in STL or STEP format.

CNC machine:

For a CNC machine to perform the correct steps for production, it needs the coordinates of the tools and the dimensions. Modern systems make it possible to enter the exact setting values via an externally coupled device. These devices contain nominal values, designations as well as tolerance ranges. These are taken over from the tool management. The tool management is in communication with the presetting devices. Graphics are also taken into account.

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