Tool life vs. productivity

Departments - Mike’s Tooling Insights

Which is more important to you?

July 20, 2021

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As we begin to move out and go visit with customers again, I am hearing some interesting discussions among customers. Their main concern – Do they want tools to run faster or do they want longer tool life? Recently, I was visiting with some customers and we addressed this very question.

I asked them, “Can you pick what you want and then achieve it?” In other words, can you have both and still achieve all your goals? The answer is it’s possible but at some cost. Can I still use all the tooling and fixturing I have? Probably not. To reach these goals, you will need to ensure you have the best setup possible and the latest cutting tools and tool holding technologies. You will also need the most rigid setup and to make sure the machine tool in use is capable of the necessary speeds and feeds.

For many years, we’ve looked at the price of an item and not what the actual cost is at the bottom line. We say we’re looking at cost, but we measure price. In many cases, you will need to spend more money to reduce costs. One example is in machining high-temperature alloys. You could buy uncoated carbide and spend very little and produce your parts. However, your competitor may decide to buy new rigid machine tools along with advanced cutting tool materials and produce parts in half the time. Their tooling expenditures will be higher than yours; however, their cost will be less. Their quoted lead times, price, and delivery times will be less and you will lose your contracts. I have seen this many times and can assure you that if you measure your success on purchasing cheap tools you won’t see it reach your bottom line and your customers will see you as noncompetitive in the marketplace.

Working with your tooling suppliers and your machine tool suppliers, you always want to obtain the best deal possible. Hold them accountable to make sure you produce your parts at the lowest possible cost. It’s their job to ensure you are the most productive, lowest cost producer. Don’t be afraid to spend money on tooling and hold all of your suppliers accountable to maintain your competitiveness in the marketplace.

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 Consulting, 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