Machine shops face a singular set of challenges when doing business with carmakers and their top-tier suppliers, but with effective inventory-management software, maintaining their tooling inventory will not be one of them.

The automotive industry has, in the last fifteen years or so, been in a constant state of flux. Its fortunes have waxed and waned with those of the global economy, which – in the form of the global financial crisis and the covid 19 pandemic – has taken several hard knocks in fairly rapid succession. Suppliers, therefore, must be willing and capable not only of expanding, but also of being able to manage contraction.

Consumer demands and, perhaps more importantly, governmental pressure, meanwhile, are increasingly driving original equipment manufacturers to adopt hybrid and fully electric powertrains. In turn, machine shops must be light on their feet and flexible enough to cope with these changes.

Further, the industry demands that parts be delivered on time, to an exceptionally high standard and to stringent cost targets. As such, suppliers must be highly focussed on their efforts to cut any inefficiency from their operations.

Boosting bottom line

None of this will be news to the owners and managers of machine shops that supply to the automotive industry, but many might be surprised by the role that an effective tool-management system could play in streamlining their operations and boosting their bottom line.

Bad practices

Without an effective tool-management system, shops can find themselves doing one of two things. They either rush orders of new tools when inventories are depleted unexpectedly, or they stock more tools than they need so that they do not run out in the first place. Both can significantly add costs and can cause problems on the shop floor.

Some machine shops, for instance, might track their tools by instructing the outgoing shift to communicate tool consumption and status to the incoming shift, but when the incoming shift finds that the cutters and inserts it needs are worn-out, missing or in the wrong place, this can lead to expensive downtime. With tool-management software, managers can easily keep track of which tool is being used by which operator, and the tools that the operator might need for that next crucial job.

Mounting costs

Tooling costs easily mount into tens of thousands of pounds, and much of this can often be attributed to outdated and unconsolidated tooling inventories. Such inventories take up a surprising amount of space that could be used for more profitable endeavours.

When old tools are used in place of replacements, simply because they are there, the efficiency and productivity of the machining operation can drop significantly. Eliminating this problem can pay significant dividends.

With a standardised and consolidated tooling inventory, meanwhile, machine shops can place larger orders with a few major providers and can benefit from a reduction in costs. They can also cut the size of their inventory still further—saving space and cutting overheads.

Perfect planning

Perhaps most importantly, an effective tool-management system will generate data that owners and managers need to make strategic decisions about size of the workforce, their budget and their inventory size.

Cloud-based solution

On the face of it, implementing such a system might look like a daunting proposition, but this is no longer the case. Larger shops are rapidly adopting the latest technologies – namely cloud-based inventory-management and tool-tracking software – to get to grips with their inventories. Fortunately, such intuitive and proven solutions are now affordable for smaller shops, too.

CRIBWISE, for instance, 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.