The Aerospace Group of Parker Hannifin Corporation, located in Irvine, California, is a leader in the development, design, manufacture and service of control systems and components for aerospace and related high technology markets. In 1996, The Aerospace Group recognized that it needed to control its tooling inventory, tooling costs and machine downtime, and it set out on a search for tool crib management to achieve these goals.
As far as its tooling requirements were concerned, the company realized that it could not calculate its tooling cost per component and that its tool purchasing process was uncontrolled. Because The Aerospace Group had little or no control over its tooling and in order to obtain optimum stock levels, it needed to streamline its tooling suppliers. In addition to being a logistics saving move, the Group would reduce the variety supply and maximize its buying power, thus reducing costs.
Dan Girdner, a senior tool engineer who has extensive experience dealing with the tooling industry, was assigned the task of bringing tooling under control.
"We decided that we wanted to maintain a minimum number of tool suppliers, and we looked to set up a cooperative rather than a partnership," Mr. Girdner says. "We wanted to select primary tool suppliers, each providing their specific ‘best-in-class' products, that could provide tooling on a ‘just-in-time' basis."
Once The Aerospace Group had orchestrated this and chosen its primary tooling suppliers, the company wanted to automate its tooling process and began the search for a tool management system. It looked at every tool management system available. After extensive evaluations, The Aerospace Group decided on the ToolManager system from RealVision (Eagle, Idaho). The decision was based on the system's functionality and RealVision's willingness to further develop the system to Parker Hannifin's requirements and "because it was the only fully Windows-compliant system on the market," Mr. Girdner says.
Because all of the tools were identified with a random number, the company needed a system that would incorporate smart tool coding and a system that was intelligent enough to identify the tools by the tool ID. The ToolManager software has a user-configurable "tool wizard" that creates a consistent tool ID and description, ensuring that every user creates and accesses tools in the same way, thus avoiding costly duplication of data in a system with literally thousands of tooling items.
"Our main goal was to decrease our stock of tools in six different tool cribs," Mr. Girdner says. "We were previously ordering either too much or too little to satisfy our needs. Now with the visibility of seeing exactly what we had in each tool crib, we've been able to refine our actual requirements. By implementing the ToolManager software, alternative tool suppliers can be set up in advance, so if one supplier cannot deliver to our time and costs, we can automatically switch to an alternative, thereby giving us optimum stock levels."
The implementation stage had to be fast and furious. Perishable tooling was the first to be added to the system, then tool lists and fixtures. The ToolManager system has approximately 35 mechanical engineers, tool crib personnel, programmers, machinists and assemblers logged in at various times during the day accessing and updating information. Mr. Girdner says, "After speaking to other companies that have implemented similar systems and after experiencing the implementation process with RealVision, we couldn't have made a better choice."