Improve machine uptime

Departments - Mike’s Tooling Insights

Proper preventative maintenance reduces vibration, decreases downtime, and improves part quality without requiring massive investments.

May 2, 2022

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Did you know there are ways we can improve our part quality and not spend a lot of money?

Often when there are quality problems on the shop floor, it’s due to poor tooling issues or using the incorrect tool holder. When visiting customers as a tooling salesperson, I would see operators using tooling in poor working condition. If I looked at turning tools for instance, I recognized the tool had been involved in a wreck on the machine and the nose of the tool was damaged, allowing the shim to be unsupported under the nose. If this is the case, replace the toolholder because this type of condition creates vibration in the tool and allows for a poor finish or difficulty holding size and/or finish.

If the machine has been involved in a wreck, it’s important to inspect the machine to see if it’s still on center. There are numerous ways to inspect and determine this. The easiest is to face a bar end and look to see that the machine is on-center and doesn’t leave a bump at the center of the bar. Some of today’s machines have alignment pins in the turret. If your machine has these pins, check to make sure they’re not sheared or broken. If so, replace them immediately.

Milling cutters are also tools that need to be maintained and inspected for damage. Many cutters no longer use shim seats in the cutter itself, so you need to make sure there’s no damage in the pocket. This includes making sure there are no burrs on the floor of the seat and checking for any damage to the cutter wall. Any issues in these areas won’t allow the insert to seat properly, harming finish and tool life.

Poor tool maintenance can lead to poor tool life. Poor tool life leads to downtime, so make sure to set up a proper tool maintenance program in your shop. This will allow you to improve the uptime on machines and ensure the quality of your parts meet specifications expected by your customer.

Keep in mind, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

CMR Consultants

Do you have specific topics you would like addressed or cutting tool challenges? Email me so I can address them in a future column:

Mike Ramsey, president of CMR Consultants, retired from Kennametal Inc. as vice president, global machine tool industry sales, after 39 years of service in sales and marketing. He can be reached at