Tool Data at the Cutting Edge
Visitors to IMTS 2014 may have noticed that some cutting tool manufacturers did not have row upon row of new product displays in their booths. Why? Because the emphasis has shifted to data about cutting tools.
At IMTS 2014, I almost didn’t recognize some of the booths of major cutting tool manufacturers in the Tooling & Workholding Systems Pavilion. In one booth, for example, there were only a few counters and tabletop exhibits of new cutting tool products on display. Instead, the focus was on presentations about new ways to gather, apply and leverage data about cutting tools. Wide, open spaces were needed for these presentations.
At another booth, kiosks with computer screens outnumbered the counters with arrays of shiny new cutting tool products. The main focus was on cloud-based resources for accessing critical cutting tool data. A similar shift in marketing strategy was noticeable at other booths as well.
This shift is significant because it proves that the concept of data-driven manufacturing is becoming a reality. It also signifies that cutting tool data will be at the center of this revolution.
This development is entirely logical and compelling, for the simple reason that the physical cutting tool is the center point around which every metal removal process revolves. How well the cutting tool performs ultimately determines the success or failure of every machining operation.
This reality makes information about the cutting tool of extreme importance. The cutting tool manufacturers know this. The means to convey the best, latest and most complete information about cutting tools to end users in a readily deployable format promises to unlock the potential for higher productivity, greater cost-effectiveness and improved quality across the board.
For example, cutting tool data is the key to better CNC tool paths in CAM programming and simulation. Data about cutting tool performance is critical to meaningful machine monitoring and measurements of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Cutting tool data integrates the tool supplier, the tool crib, the tool presetter and the CNC.
Key developments are making the value of cutting tool data prominent. These include the availability of cloud-based networking and new standards such as ISO 13399 and MTConnect that promote interoperability and connectivity for cutting tool data applications. Big Data analytics, new sensor technology and mobile communication devices also enhance the need for and value of data centered on the cutting tool.
If the essence of data-driven manufacturing is a move away from decision-making based on guesswork, wishful thinking, unproven theories or emotion, to decision-making based on verifiable facts, measurements and real-time monitoring, then the cutting tool manufacturers are clearly leading the way.
Decisions about the cutting tools used in machining operations are arguably among the most important in modern manufacturing.
Having fully interactive access to shopfloor control software enables supervisors at metal finishing and repair job shop to monitor shop activities and make better decisions on the spot.
A panel discussion at the recent Top Shops Conference focused on various points of view regarding the value of connecting machine tools to a network for monitoring performance and recording results. Because machine monitoring helps a shop make better decisions about manufacturing processes, it is a good example of data-driven manufacturing in action.