ARTS Tool Management Services for Industrial Giants
In the industrial sector, centralised tool management is a hot topic. Many people, however, see it solely in the context of traditional tool allocation. However, the term involves a range of more demanding tasks. ARTS Tool Management Team Leader, Nadja Meder reveals the challenges that her team overcomes day after day.
I have spent the last several years working on projects for ARTS at Airbus in France. My project experience now ranges from the Customer Service Centre for Simulation Training through to quality management and central tool administration, where I currently operate as a team leader. The ARTS project role in the field of tool management has many different aspects and the only thing I can say for sure in advance is that no two days are alike.
No two days are alike in the field of tool management
At Airbus’s locations in Toulouse and Saint Nazaire, a total of ten ARTS tool managers are responsible for the on-site supply of consumables, tool sets, work clothes, hazardous materials, safety equipment, hand tools and test tools. Day in, day out, Airbus employees from the work preparation, engineering, production and quality control departments come to us to collect or return their tools for their work. We are always located on the production floor in storage areas that cover an area of between 80 and 100 m2 that are filed with shelves and all kinds of metal cupboards.
In Toulouse, at Airbus’s headquarters, a variety of production lines are combined. Toulouse is the production facility for many different Airbus aircraft, including the A320, A350 XWB and A330. The plant includes equipment for painting aircraft and fitting out aircraft interiors, and is even home to the final assembly line and pre-flight preparations for the A380. In Saint Nazaire, Airbus’s production activities include mounting the cockpit of the A380 to the lower, central portion of its fuselage. In addition, this French port town is where the A350’s fuselage section is connected to its nose. As you would expect, the wide range of production activities require high volumes of tooling and materials - in total, ARTS is responsible for around 13,500 tools and other pieces of equipment in Toulouse and Saint Nazaire. However, the process of issuing and taking back tools (which is naturally recorded down to the smallest detail using an SAP-connected scanner) is just a small part of our tool management duties. To ensure that everything can be properly recorded using the computerised technology, we allocate a barcode to each tool and consumable.
At Airbus in Toulouse and Saint Nazaire, ARTS is responsible for 13,500 tools and items of equipment.
The working day always begins with a team discussion in English. My team speaks a total of four languages (German, English, French, and Spanish) but the main language of communication is English. We discuss current requirements, inbound goods and supplies, delays and any disposal activities that may require new orders. The goal is always to optimise the range of tools, both in terms of availability and stock levels while while maintaining steady tool availability. If, despite all this, a tool is unavailable, we first look to establish whether we can obtain the tool specifically from one of the Airbus facilities in Germany or France, or whether another solution can be found. We manage and maintain tools over their entire life cycle: check their function, quality, and, if necessary, repair or remove tools. We also take care of test tools: we monitor expiry dates and recalibrate test tools if any calibration is found to be inaccurate.
The ARTS Tool Management team starts every morning with a meeting to discuss the day's events.
Turning the right screws, we improve processes
Before the project begins, it goes without saying that we have already reviewed the ways of working, workflows, and parameters in the computer-controlled tool management in great detail, and discussed the issues with workers in related departments. Airbus had the clear goal of being able to focus on its core business processes and wished to outsource the tool management process. By engaging ARTS as an external service provider for the process, the aim was primarily to save on indirect process costs. However, indirect process costs are mostly concealed in the business’s overheads and cannot easily be identified at first glance. Indirect costs in relation to tool management mostly arise due to inefficient procurement and storage costs, although costs can also be incurred due to tool shortages, for example as a result of production stoppages. Industrial manufacturers are mostly already familiar with the organisational challenges, but they often lack the time to introduce process optimisations on their own account. But why? This is precisely because they need to concentrate on their core business.
ARTS introduced a clearer tooling structure at Airbus
This is where my team got to work: we took over responsibility for the processes and, as a first step, broke down the current stock of tooling and hardware in the minutest detail. We had already begun pushing the right buttons: for example, we introduced a clear tooling structure for Airbus.
Our results were then documented in great detail in their tool management system. Due to this clear arrangement we now safe time when locating tools, while enabling tool usage to be measured with greater accuracy, putting us in a position to organise the tool storage more efficiently.
We are currently in the process of carrying out further initiatives to improve operational performance, as improving the efficiency of existing business processes on a continuous, sustainable basis, is at the heart of our approach to everything we do.
Tool Management for Industrial Manufacturing
Just like ARTS supports Airbus in their tool management, we also support other aerospace businesses and other industrial giants in high-tech sectors such as the automotive and engineering sectors. Through our project activities, we establish new trends, and optimise and deliver operational processes as required. When watching the tool management market, observers quickly encounter the terms “Industry 4.0” and “Smart Factories” – where everything works digitally. There are now apps that allow businesses to administer their tooling requirements, while fewer and fewer tools are required, as automation solutions and robotics are deployed to support the production process. As a supplier-independent service provider, we know the market well and look forward to addressing the new challenges faced by the area of tool management, but also by many other areas of activity that serve to support the production process.