Tooling inventory control is the process of controlling all tools used in a work area. Inventory control and maintenance is part of tool management. A tooling inventory control system ensures that they are only taken by appropriate people and returned at the end of the shift. This reduces the cost of lost and stolen tools. Tooling inventories can range from drills and hammers to expensive calibration equipment and specialized tools. “High-Speed Machining” by Bert Erdelg states that “the instant availability of good tooling is what is traditional expected from the tool crib.” Tooling inventory control ensures that all necessary tools are in stock and in good condition when employees need them.
Tooling Inventory and Control Process
Create an inventory list all existing tools. Include make, model, and manufacturer information in the inventory list. Also record the quantity if there is more than one of the tool or part.
Assign each tool a unique identification number. Label each tool so that it can be readily identified. This can be done with etchings of the identification number or radio frequency ID tags built into a printed label for the tool.
Secure the space selected to hold the tools. This space is called a tool room or tool crib.
Assign each tool its own storage place. Outlines of the tool’s size and shape can provide an instant visual reminder of how the tool should be stored and provide a check against placing a tool in the wrong place
Set up sign up sheets for when tools are taken. This should include a sign out time, a sign in time, and the person’s name. For a large organization, including employee numbers as well to prevent confusion on which people took a tool. If digital tool inventory management is to be used, assign all employees a unique account to track their signing in and out of tools.
Maintaining the System
Perform periodic audits to verify the location of tools. These audits should ensure that tools that are signed in are actually present in the tool storage area. Verify that individuals who sign out tools have the correct tool that they claimed. Ensure that employees are signing for tools they are taking.
Train employees on the proper tracking of tooling inventory control once the system is put in place. Constant criticism for using the system wrong does not make up for failure to teach staff to do it correctly. Train new employees in the tooling inventory control system’s use. Provide refreshers to employees found in audits to not be following correct procedure.
Ensure that tools are returned to the tool crib immediately once they are no longer being used. “Encyclopedia of Production and Manufacturing Management” by Paul Swamidass recommends that “at the completion of a part run, all tooling will return to the tool room to be replaced by a different dedicated set of tools for the next part to be manufactured.” By returning tools as soon as they are no longer used, the tools are not left lying around where they create a trip hazard and cannot be used for the wrong purpose.
Tooling inventory control systems can also be used along with preventative maintenance programs by tracking the condition of tools and seeing that they are calibrated or maintained on a schedule, preventing their failure or drift. Tooling inventory control can be integrated into enterprise resource planning systems by tracking tools as a resource. When a tool is worn out or broken and needs to be replaced, that information can immediately be fed to the purchasing department to order a new one.
A tooling inventory control system must include locking of tools at the end of the shift in an enclosed and secure area. This prevents theft from trespassers during break-ins. Base ideal tool inventory on meeting the needs to assembly and maintenance staff. If tooling managers keep only one or two of a commonly used tool or measurement device on hand to save money, they will lose productive time of key personnel who are left waiting for a single item to do their job.
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