Research & Best Practices

What Is Tool Room Management?

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Tool room management is an area that can play a major role in downtime reduction, part quality, inventory management and overall productivity. Tool room management typically covers tool and die equipment and operations — the equipment directly involved in production. It is considered distinct from storeroom management, which covers MRO parts.

What is tool management and what is die maintenance (two of the main facets of this practice)? These disciplines help ensure that tools and dies are easily locatable within the facility; that they are available for use when needed; and that they are kept in good working condition (or replaced as needed). A tool and die management system assures that these conditions are met, and that the facility can continue to operate productively. Throughout the rest of this piece, we will define tool and die management in greater depth, covering tactics and benefits.

Key Aspects of Tool Room Management

What is tool and die management? This critical maintenance practice will include several key components and aspects, all of which combine to streamline and optimize tool and die management and provide the benefits described later in this piece:

Preventive and predictive maintenance

Tool and die management should be part of normal preventive maintenance tasks and should also be included in a predictive maintenance plan. By engaging in preventive maintenance such as cleaning, inspection, sharpening, honing and other relevant tasks, personnel can extend the useful life of tools and dies alike, also confirming that a piece of equipment is ready for use when needed.

Using predictive maintenance sensors to monitor vibration, ultrasonic waves and other factors can help detect early indications of tool or die failure. Maintenance personnel are proactive to inspect and repair or replace the item in question so that it does not fail during production.

Die management

Die management should, minimally, include the following:

  • A consistent inventory numbering system
  • A strict check-in and checkout process
  • Controlled access to the tool room
  • A way of identifying and locating a die at any given time
  • A set of standards by which dies should be returned in optimal condition

System implementation along with training and dedicated personnel are the ideal ways to carry out these die management tactics.

Standardized repair process

When repairs are warranted, — a uniform process should be followed every time. This process is reliant on documentation, which should include:

  • Identification of the part at hand
  • The details of the repair
  • The specific date and time
  • The circumstances of the repair
  • Identification of the personnel involved in the repair
  • Results of any root cause analysis

Change engineering

Building on the standardized repair process, change engineering is a documentation-based approach to guarantee that tools and dies are used and maintained in a consistent manner — even when circumstances such as wear or repairs may have warranted a modification to standard operating procedures, such as a different optimal cutting angle. This process can be aided by technology such as predictive maintenance sensors, creating proactive change to prolong equipment life and time between failures.

What Is Tool and Die Work to Manufacturers?

What does tool and die mean for a manufacturing facility? These components are the backbone of the production process: Dies are typically used for molding and casting processes and must be carefully engineered — often to tolerances within 1/1000 of an inch — to produce high-quality output and maintain process efficiency and efficacy. Dies are highly engineered products, which must be carefully handled, used, and maintained to protect the major investment that they represent.

Tools are used for the shaping and other processes that produce finer details on parts and pieces. Tools can include anything from molding inserts to drill bits for machining, and everything in between: mills, saws, tapping bits and more. These items are, in general, considered consumables, and must be refined (i.e., sharpened or honed) or replaced after usage. Returning a worn tool to the tool room means that it will not be ready for use in the next application, which can have a disastrous effect in scenarios where time is of the essence or inventory is difficult to stock.

What Are the Benefits of a Tool Management System?

Tool management systems provide numerous benefits to manufacturers:

Faster location of components

A tool management system introduces total control over the location of tools and dies, facilitated by strictly controlled access to the tool room and a dedicated sign-in/sign-out process. This means that a specific part is where it is expected to be at any given time, and that its location can quickly be identified should it be needed.

Reduced downtime

Tool management reduces downtime in two major ways:

  • Reducing time spent locating components — thus cutting overall changeover time
  • Ensuring that equipment is ready for use when it is checked out, by introducing maintenance requirements when a piece is checked in

Longer equipment life

Tool management creates a maintenance culture, not only introducing more consistent preventive maintenance, but also instilling a sense of accountability as to the state of a tool or die. This leads to an overall improvement in equipment life span and thus performance and quality.

More efficient management of key inventory

Tools and dies are major investments for a manufacturer, but all too often are not treated as such. Tool management re-shines a light on the criticality of these components to the operations of the facility and makes it important to manage and maintain them to protect that investment.

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