A large manufacturer of gas turbines had been using dated technology that resulted in excess spending and delays in production times. The client’s annual tooling budget remained fixed despite increased tool costs. ST Solutions saw an opportunity to improve the total life cycle of the tools while keeping the client within their budget.
As a result of ST Solutions partnering with this manufacturer for many years, the customer trusted our expertise and creative problem solving. They allowed us to offer recommendations for process improvements. Not only did we supply better quality tools, but we also implemented a logistics program to support the tooling. The result was a 75% decrease in consumption, improved cycle times, improved part finish, and significant cost savings.
Quality issues stemming from outdated tooling became a major challenge for our customer. The client was limited by the common misconception that buying a cheaper tool produces cost savings. Advances in technology had been disregarded and quality declined. Most significantly, the customer upgraded the material being machined to a high performance, nickel-based chrome alloy. Against this new material, the cheaper cutting tools had slower removal rates and deteriorated rapidly, requiring frequent repair. Costs skyrocketed. The client was spending approximately $4 million annually, their entire budget, on one tool. The frequent replacement of these tools created unnecessary down time which further reduced output.
What sets ST Solutions apart is our people. Our team members aren’t just sales professionals. These individuals are experts in the field of engineering and are skilled at providing first-hand knowledge and support in logistics and procurement. In this case, we had earned the trust of this customer after years of working together. We observed the customer’s existing processes and saw room for improvement. Understanding the value of starting small and demonstrating the benefit of a few simple adjustments, we identified 4 key areas for improvement: new coating technology, a move away from in-house grinding, new geometries, and new edge preparation.
First, we applied a new coating to their existing tooling. This small change made a significant impact. Immediately, the tool produced 8 times more parts. With that slight adjustment, we proved to the customer that it was imperative to introduce tools designed with newer, updated technology, even if it meant spending more per tool. Of course, this increase in cost was more than offset by the resulting productivity improvements.
From there, we recommended a shift away from in-house grinding and introduced a new supplier, who specializes in regrinding and honing tools. Within 6 months, the client implemented these new solutions and began to see additional improvements in tool life. Instead of a price-per-tool assessment, we evaluated overall tool usage, a dynamic shift in their corporation’s outlook on purchasing.
The client began to see the value in purchasing the best tool in order to get the best result and stayed within budget for the first time in years. Eventually, new geometries and carbide substrates were introduced, increasing production much further. To ensure continued efficiency, we installed ST Solutions’ point-of-use vending in the facility. This solution created an inventory management system for tools that reduced down-time with visibility of live counts while tracking usage by tool.
Overall, this solution was about looking at the big picture and bringing together a tool box of solutions for our client. We were able to prove the substantial return on investment that comes from utilizing higher quality tools, materials, and services.