Star Rapid partners with tool manufacturer Gühring to increase speed and improve quality

Business partnerships are nothing new. Partnerships that result in leaner manufacturing processes, more consistent quality, and lower manufacturing costs—that is worth talking about.

With global competition so fierce, manufacturers must always be keen to spot areas of muda (waste). Even seemingly minor waste can have repercussions to overall customer satisfaction down the line. In the case of Star Rapid, a global rapid prototyping, rapid tooling, and low-volume manufacturer, issues with milling tools were recognized as a potential area to reduce muda and improve customer satisfaction.

Star Rapid had been buying a number of cutters from reputable international brands through agents. But reports started to come in from the shop floor, to the effect that cutters were wearing out quickly, breaking, and not performing well. Star Rapid sent some of these branded cutters back to Europe and the United States to confirm their authenticity, and found out that they were, in fact, fake. Not the fault of the brands themselves, but an unscrupulous stockist.

“At Star Rapid, we are never complacent when it comes to high speed and quality,” says Gordon Styles, the company’s president and CEO. “We’re always looking for new strategies to improve these aspects of our service.”

The difference in quality between genuine brand tools and counterfeit ones is huge. One of the key differences between genuine tools and fake cutters is the tungsten carbide grain size. Genuine tools typically have a grain size of 0.2 to 0.6 microns—knockoffs can be 10 times that size. A quality cutter can be resharpened five times, compared to two or three for a counterfeit. The constant contact time is also improved from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, meaning an operator can run the cutter significantly harder or faster for the same time.

One of the tooling suppliers that Star Rapid contacted was Gühring, a world-class manufacturer of round-shank cutting tools for the metalworking industry and a provider of top-quality coating, reconditioning, and tool management services.

After speaking with Gühring reps about the cutting issues, Styles was convinced that if Gühring would provide and manage cutting tool inventory at Star Rapid’s facility by way of consignment stocking as well as one of Gühring’s vending machines, it would be “a perfect arrangement from our point of view.”

Gühring’s family of cutting tools also have proprietary thin-film, vacuum-deposited coatings. This coating technology extends cutting tool life and performance by protecting against the high temperatures, friction, vibrations, and chip adhesion associated with everyday use.

Star Rapid will now use Gühring’s custom tool management system, which provides tool storage, inventory control, and real-time monitoring of tool consumption. This system creates a more efficient workflow through improved tool tracking, and allows for more precise tool ordering based on anticipated future usage.

Gühring’s tool management system provides real-time monitoring of the following functions:

• Allocation of tool costs to jobs and cost centers

• Measuring equipment inspection and calibration

• Mold and fixture inventory

• Incoming material inspection documentation

• Machine calibration and inspection documentation

Via the connected office, each CNC programmer will know what material is in stock and can choose the best tool for the task, as well as the machine to run it on.

In addition to being Star Rapid’s vendor for new tools, Gühring also will now supervise sharpening and regrinding of the company’s tools that are currently in use. With Gühring’s expert understanding of the metallurgy and the complex geometry of each end mill or cutting insert, it can ensure that these sophisticated tools are in peak condition and able to hold precise tolerances for excellent finished parts. Star Rapid’s machinists will also work with Gühring’s onsite technical support to optimize the “speeds and feeds” for every cutter, reducing total time and cost while increasing output.

Sharing resources this way speeds up production, reduces waste, and therefore lowers costs to the customer.

“The partnership we have developed with Gühring allows us to gain a greater competitive edge to meet the growing demands of our global customers,” explains Styles. “The benefit to our customers is lower cost of manufacture and faster delivery times. We are now experiencing production times from 30 percent to 50 percent faster compared to before the Gühring deal. We have been revising our prices and lead times downwards in the last few months as a result. This makes us faster and more competitive.”

“Factoring in replacement costs and downtime, the Gühring tools can be up to 10 times more productive, no contest,” he adds. “And the peace of mind is priceless.”

“It’s rare to work with such a forward-thinking customer,” says Steffen Lang, head of Gühring’s service department. “With the measures that have been put in place, Star Rapid will be able to ensure that its cutting services are running as efficiently as possible and creating parts that are of optimal quality.”

This article first appeared online on May 9, 2018, at Quality Digest, a Kaizen Institute Online partner.

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