The ongoing pandemic has prompted many machine shops to look at how they can cut their costs. While some have opted to implement one-time measures, such as reducing the numbers of their employees or cutting advertising spend, those that have taken steps to increase their efficiency will continue to reap the benefits of these actions long after the pandemic is brought under control. Thankfully, new technologies are proving a major boon to machine shops as they embark on this journey. 

Increasing efficiency 

For those looking to increase the efficiency of their machine shops, an examination of the ways in which they purchase, store and use tools is a good place to start. Many shops, for instance, might – for the sake of convenience – change tools, such as end mills or drills, every shift, but they should only really be changed when the tools are dull or something is broken. By maximising the use of each tool, a machine shop can reduce the number of tools it purchases over time. Other shops might be using multiple tools for similar processes, when they could be using a single tool across multiple machines—eliminating costs associated with the purchase and storage of two tools.  

Out-of-control inventory 

These two examples are indicative of an out-of-control tooling inventory and the costs associated with this issue are significant. Inventory takes up space that could be used for more profitable endeavours, while money tied up in unnecessary assets is money that could be invested back into the business. Huge amounts of time can be spent maintaining and managing tooling inventory, including ordering tools, putting them away, and picking, counting and relocating them. Further, as we have seen, an out-of-control inventory can lead to disorganised and wasteful working practices. 

Important factor 

According to a study undertaken by Gardner Research, however, small shops eager to save money on their tools are insufficiently aware of the extent to which inventory management is a factor in that cost. Tools are a high-variety product ordered frequently and finding a way to streamline and simplify the purchase and management of these products stands to deliver significant value. Larger shops are rapidly adopting the latest technologies – namely cloud-based inventory-management and tool-tracking software – to get to grips with this issue.  

Fortunately, such intuitive and proven solutions are becoming increasingly affordable for smaller shops too. The software as a service (SaaS) delivery models employed by innovative and disruptive entrants to the market mean that access to highly sophisticated inventory-management and tool-tracking solutions can be secured for a monthly fee that is no more expensive than membership at a good health club. This makes such software a highly attractive option for even the most compact and specialised of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). 

Many benefits of inventory-management 

The benefits associated with the use of inventory-management software are numerous. It automates the tool-ordering process and enables tools to be tracked from their point of delivery to their destination on the shop floor—slashing administration costs. Expenditure can be controlled. Tooling can be marked as “in use” rather than “out of stock”, for instance, eliminating over ordering, and rules can be set that ensure that operators choose used and refurbished tools before they reach for new. Perhaps most importantly, the use of cloud-based inventory-management software guarantees that the right tool for a given job will be in stock when it is needed—making production delays a thing of the past. 

The CRIBWISE difference 

CRIBWISE is modular, customisable and easy to integrate, and grants machine shops of all sizes complete control over their tooling inventory with minimal effort and expense. The software eliminates administrative hassles, eradicates production delays and cuts excessive – often hidden – expenditure.  

CRIBWISE customers have reduced their inventory costs by as much as 20% and have cut their tool usage costs by up to 10%. On-hand inventory levels can be reduced by around 30%. When used to manage inventories of personal protective equipment (PPE), consumption of these items can be slashed by almost 40%. 

The development of improved strategies for inventory management should be a priority for machine shops as they work to make their operations more efficient. While this task might at first glance appear daunting, the latest inventory-management software is affordable, easy to set-up and simple to use, making it is an asset for machinists looking to boost their profitability.