Should Your Production Scheduling Software Consider Tooling?

You are evaluating production scheduling software. Should the ability to automatically consider tooling be a requirement? If so, how?

The need for your production scheduling software to consider tooling constraints is very much dependent upon your type of business. Some businesses don’t need tooling to be considered at all. In other businesses, the way in which tooling should be handled by the production scheduling software is very much a function of the type of business. Some different types of tooling that might be used by different kinds of businesses are described below:

1. Consumable tooling – an example might be a cutting tool. These types of tooling wear down as they are used. Eventually, the useful life of the tooling is exceeded, and it is discarded. Consumable tooling is usually fairly inexpensive.

2. Fixed Tooling – examples might be injection molds in the plastics industry or progressive dies in the stamping industry. Usually this tooling is quite expensive. In some cases, fixed tooling can produce more than one part simultaneously. The simultaneously made parts may be the same or different part numbers. In other cases, fixed tooling can produce different part numbers only after tooling components are changed out. Sometimes fixed tooling can only run in a subset of available machines (e.g. a mold may run in an injection machine of 50 tons, but not an injection machine of 25 tons).

3. Tooling components – per number 2 above, changing tooling components in mold or a die can result in the mold or die producing different part numbers.
Fixtures – fixtures are similar to fixed tooling in that they can be quite expensive.

4. Fixtures – differ from fixed tooling in that fixed tooling is typically used at one operation. However, a part can be attached to a fixture and travel with it through multiple operations.

What kind of features should your production scheduling software have to handle the types of tooling discussed above?

1. Consumable tooling – Must handle the gradual consumption of the useful life of the tool. Often modeled as inventory. Each individual tool is modeled as an inventory location. The life of the tool is the quantity of inventory available in the location. The quantity required on the operation’s bill of material is the life of the tool required at that particular operation.

2. Fixed Tooling – Should allow more than one but less than an infinite number of parts to be scheduled from the tool simultaneously. Must allow only certain part numbers with certain characteristics to be scheduled simultaneously in the tool. Should conditionally pick tools and machines so that feasible solutions are chosen – e.g. a mold requiring 25 tons of pressure can run in either 25 or 50 ton machines, but a mold requiring 50 tons of pressure can only run in 50 ton machines.

3. Tooling components – Must be modeled concurrently with the main tool (mold or die). The software needs to schedule so feasible combinations of main tools, components, and machines are chosen.

4. Fixtures – The software needs to schedule so that if a fixture is used over multiple operations, the fixture must always be tied up, even for the time the associated part is waiting in queue.

Make sure that the production scheduling software you chose has the necessary features to model the types of tooling that are important in your business.