IoT Meets CNC: Automating the Cutting Tool Supply Chain

Until recently, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was more of a marketing buzzword than anything else, but as cloud services begin to connect disparate data sources, outdated workflows get a much needed revamp. Machinists and programmers use MachiningCloud to find the cutting tools they need for a job in seconds, but that’s just scratching the surface of what cutting tool digitization enables.

Digitizing Supply
Manually tracking data, like tool supplies and lifecycles, can create a number of problems: It’s inefficient, often inaccurate, and definitely reactive. Manual cutting tool management leads to oversupplies and stock outs that require expediting materials. Real-time data, like what comes from the IIoT, allows companies to make fast, proactive decisions that improve efficiency.

When data flows from machines through the IIoT and into the hands of everyone on the shop floor, the real benefits aren’t seen until every part of a workflow is digitized as much as possible. Connected machines and sensors might provide the data to make a dashboard look nice, but they are just a means to an end. The real magic happens when people on the shopfloor no longer need to stop using their tablet or PC. With the IIoT, entire workflows can be executed with clicks and almost no manual intervention.

Supply chain concerns aren’t always top of mind for CAD/CAM programmers, but the supply of materials necessary for a job does play into their everyday decisions. Digital workflows give programmers and machinists the ability to complete the loop between what’s happening on each machine and what needs to occur in order to keep each job running as efficiently as possible.

Real-time Machine and Cutting Tool Monitoring
In an IIoT environment, MachiningCloud can provide a seamless assist. With real-time machine and cutting tool monitoring, shop managers know when there are collisions or downtime due to cutting tools reaching their end of life. By anticipating failure, tools that are stored in MachiningCloud can be shared with workgroups and made visible for everyone who’s part of a cutting tool life cycle. Through MachiningCloud, cutting tools are shared, ordered, and changed according to whatever the job demands. Downtime decreases, tool switchover time is reduced, and cutting tools are available right when they are needed with less risk of double orders and stock outs.

There are two scenarios MachiningCloud is most useful: 1) When machinists need to find new cutting tools and assemblies for a job, or 2) when machinists know what tools they need or have them saved, and they need to make their cutting tool workflow easier. MachiningCloud makes it easy to do things like export cutting tool CAD/CAM files for virtualization and forward order sheets for accounting and procurement.

Cutting Tool Shopping in the Cloud
The goal of IIoT and Industry 4.0 is to align people, processes, materials, machines, methods and data at the order level. Depending on how an organization works with cutting tool selection and purchasing, the alignment that takes place within MachiningCloud can vary. For example, a CAD/CAM programmer adds the tooling choices to the cart, the purchasing department handles checkout/quoting, and accounting reviews the quotes/invoices. Each element above can happen within MachingCloud’s Cart function.

Through MachiningCloud, we can put together various carts, all saved in a list. Each of these carts contain tooling choices. If you look at the options, you can edit the cart, export it to a zip file, transfer the cart contents to someone else (or another department), and split products in the cart into separate carts. These functions are part of the actions that can happen between departments.

The Cutting Tool Supply Chain
With your digitized cutting tool shopping cart, you can pass along whatever data is necessary to any department. Within each cart, the tooling components are listed. The carts contain all of the essential data for ordering such as part #, quantity, manufacturer, material type, etc. You’ll notice at the bottom, “Proceed to Checkout”. At the top, someone could choose to review details, remove items, or add additional items.

Cutting Tools Collaboration
Since there’s only one centralized cart that’s available for anyone in your workgroup, history is saved to see what’s happened. You can see a cart history that records quotes requested by purchasing (to the tooling manufacturer) as well as transfer cart contents to different people. At the top, you’ll notice you can send a PDF quote to someone, export the entire file for use by other departments, etc.

Get Quotes
Finally, the final page where a buyer can request a quote from the manufacturer or distributor for that specific cart.

Industry 4.0 promises transparency and a connection between people, machines and processes. With IIoT adoption underway, MachiningCloud provides a collaborative cutting tool workflow that is no longer a one-off, individualized process. Cutting tools can become part of the IIoT ecosystem where the entire machining organization can work together to deliver value through channels geared to the needs of the customer.

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