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Tool store system aids efficiency Featured

Benham Precision Engineering manufactures complex components and assemblies for the global aerospace, defence and oil and gas sectors from two locations in the south of England. The company also undertakes electro-mechanical and mechanical assembly of piece-part components, including the testing and kitting of parts.

Continuous investment in the latest production equipment means that Benham Precision now boasts an impressive plant list, including a wide range of Mazak five-axis CNC machining centres, as well as CNC turning and turn-mill machine tools. To help realise the high-yield potential of its advanced machine tools and enable the efficient manufacture of quality parts, the company employs a series of progressive, time-saving processes within its production regime.

For instance, the latest CADCAM software enables offline programming of production parts, while the generation of pre-production process control plans ensures that efficiency is engineered into every aspect of Benham’s manufacturing processes. Furthermore, to minimise machine tool downtime and help boost production, all cutting tools are preset offline.

A major factor in Benham’s efficient production organisation is the company’s use of Iscar Tool’s Matrix tool-store system. Managed by Benham’s local Iscar distributor, the use of Matrix ensures the instant availability of the correct cutting tool, where and when required.

Benham’s close relationship with Iscar began several years ago. With the intention of increasing machining efficiencies, reducing its cutting tool inventory and streamlining its cutting tool ordering system, a review was conducted of the company’s entire tooling structure and process optimisation techniques.

Iscar’s cutting tools were compared with competitor products in terms of tool life, price and machining time advantages. The results of each of these comparisons were translated into both machining costs and actual savings per part. On completion, the trials delivered a number of positive results and proved the major advantages Benham could gain by its increased use of Iscar cutters.

“Although the reasons behind our continuing growth are numerous, our philosophies of pursuing maximum machining efficiencies and of developing close commercial and technical partnerships with our suppliers are key factors in our success,” says Benham’s commercial and projects manager, Joe Benham. “For example, in addition to the close relationship we have with our main machine tool supplier, Mazak, we also enjoy a similar connection with Iscar UK.

“Our adoption of Iscar’s cutting tools has resulted in a significant reduction in the category of tools we use,” he continues. “We have also enjoyed the benefits of faster cycle times and increased machine tool productivity. What’s more, the long life and cost effective price of the products has ensured that our cutting tool costs have been reduced.

“Following our adoption of Iscar as our main cutting tool supplier, we soon installed our first Matrix computerised tool-storage system. As the use of our original Matrix system delivered the kind of efficiencies that we were looking for, we have recently installed a large number of additional Matrix units throughout both of our production sites.

“As they share a common database, the company-wide expansion of our Matrix units, means that we now have a single, all-embracing system that ensures we constantly have the correct cutting tool available for every forthcoming job.

“Our expanded Matrix system dovetails perfectly with our existing production systems. We have programmed Matrix-TM, the Iscar management software module, with minimum stock levels for each category of tool. When this critical level is reached, an order is automatically generated, delivered and installed into the appropriate cabinet by our local Iscar distributor. The Matrix system has proven to be an invaluable tool in our pursuit of machining efficiency and cost savings.”

Matrix is a computerised tool management system that gives users absolute control over their cutting tool inventory. In addition, the system streamlines tool purchasing functions and drives down users’ costs. The system combines an automated tool dispenser with Matrix-TM, a management software module. Access to any item stored within the system’s locked bins is electronically controlled by the software and is swipe-card or fingerprint activated with entry determined by pre-defined authorisation.

The modular Matrix system is adaptable to user requirements; drawer configurations can be swapped-in or out, while add-on cabinets are able to be connected with a click cable. Multiple cabinets can be deployed together or located in several different locations and networked into a single system, enabling each of the cabinets to share one common database.

Matrix technology includes a patented locking system to prevent unauthorised access, a large, high-resolution, touch-screen operator interface, plug and play ‘smart’ electronics, and remote diagnostics capability. A barcode reader is used for rapid and reliable tool issuing, while a manual system override is also included, enabling easy access in the event of situations such as power failures.

Suitable for both small and large organisations, with single or multiple sites, Iscar’s Matrix system ensures that every required tool is always instantly available. The solution is able to act as a stand-alone, computerised tool management system, or can be integrated into a tool assembly and pre-setting arrangement, as used by Benham Precision Engineering.

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