What Is in Your Company Library?

People in need of information cannot be very productive. A company library can be a good source for general information.


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If tool engineers don’t know the tap-drill size for a 3/8-16 thread, they cannot order the appropriate cutting tool, and if operators don’t know the target dimension for a given workpiece attribute, they cannot make sizing adjustments.
Think of times in which people are not productive because they need information to complete a task. Do they have to interrupt others to get needed information? Do evening-shift workers call people at home? Are reference materials misplaced? Do machines sit idle while people try to find information?
Productivity is not the only thing that suffers when people can’t find information. Safety can also be a casualty. Incorrect or missing information leads to mistakes, which can lead to scrapped parts, damaged machines or injury.
I always emphasize the need to appropriately document tasks. For setup people, this includes setup documentation. For operators, this includes production-run documentation. These documentation types are very specific to the job being run and are kept with each job. 
I also suggest that companies develop an operation handbook for each of their production machines that includes all of the procedures that setup people and operators must perform. Again, these handbooks are very specific to the machines they cover and should be kept close.
In addition to specific documentation for jobs and machines, most companies need a more-centralized source of general information—a place where information is accessible to anyone. They need a well-maintained company library. 
Items in this library can include anything that helps people find information. To solve productivity issues, I’d recommend documenting past experiences and what has caused wasted time. Here are a few suggestions. 
Equipment Documentation:
• Machine manuals. Keep them organized by machine.
• Manuals for machine accessories. These can include bar feeders, pallet changers and more.
• Manuals for other equipment in the company. These can include manuals for tool-length measuring devices, gaging devices and more.
Consider the documentation you’ve received for the equipment you’ve acquired. These materials by themselves can probably fill a few shelves.
Software Documentation:
• CAD and CAM system manuals.
• Accounting system manuals.
• Shop management systems.
Admittedly, more and more software products include self-contained help files. However, companies should still maintain a centralized file for product and registration codes. 
Company Information:
• General company documentation. This includes policies, safety practices and more.
• Copies of manuals you have developed, such as operation handbooks.
• Documentation for unwritten rules. This includes how offset numbers are tied to tool-station numbers, target values for sizing adjustments and more.
Target this section in your library to eliminate wasted time.
Trade Journals:
• Manufacturing trade journals for the machining processes you perform.
• Product-specific trade journals for your company’s industry.
It’s likely that only a few people in a company receive these materials. Why not make them available to everyone? 
• Supplier catalogs for all the products a company purchases.
• Supplier documentation. This can include technical information from cutting tool suppliers.
Educational Materials:
• Books related to a company’s industry, manufacturing processes and management philosophy.
• Instructional videos for machines, software and accessories.
• Self-study courses.
It’s likely that the library will need copies of some materials to provide quicker access to individuals who regularly need them. A programmer, for example, should have quick access to programming manuals.
A company library can act as a backup copy for its most important documents. I know of more than one company that lost its only copy of an important manual. If the company doesn’t allow materials to be removed from the library, there will always be an available copy.

Not allowing materials to leave the library means that people can view materials only while they are in the library. In this case, be sure to include a comfortable place to sit down and study. If the library includes multimedia materials, be sure to include the equipment needed to view them.