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Carving a niche through custom tooling

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Why finding a niche through custom tooling should be your next step

In the modern agile market, manufacturers are looking for—and finding—ways to stand out from the pack and develop successful, long-term relationships with their customers. While standard tools are still being produced, more and more small and medium-sized businesses are creating a point of difference through custom tooling.
In the past ten years, many manufacturers have honed their expertise and niche in providing custom tooling. This is why you should join them.

Greater flexibility for customers and for you
The way we all operate is changing. As businesses of all shapes and sizes move towards more agile working styles, their needs also become more changeable. Tool grinders who respond to market demands can work in small batches to create precisely the right piece of custom tooling to suit a customer’s need.
Recognising this, ANCA machines and software have a high degree of flexibility for us to make impressive tools for our customers. It begins with a conversation with the customer, to understand their needs and the details of the required tool. After asking questions about the material being cut, the specifics of the application and coating of the tool, the team can begin on designing the perfect tool geometry and cutting recipe. Then, by simulating the design before grinding begins and working in small batches, we can create micron-perfect tools our customers can’t buy anywhere else.
Custom tooling requires machines that are designed to be simple and flexible
If you’re wanting to focus on custom tooling, look for machines—like ANCA’s—that are easy to set up and program. Open-source software allows the operator to quickly program a custom tool, giving them the option to start from an existing standard tool and create a special, or craft one from scratch.
In custom tooling every element of the material and processes should offer the ability to be customised, including:
  • Changes in the geometry
  • The rake angle and clearance angles for the cutting edge
  • Specific protective coatings
  • Using specific carbide grades
  • Application of the coolant
Custom tooling doesn’t mean starting from scratch
Don’t feel like you have to start with a blank canvas when creating tooling, however. Existing tools can be adapted to fill customer needs. A tool that’s worked well on a specific piece of material could be used as a blueprint for another customer and adapted to suit their needs. In this way, a manufacturer using custom tooling could ultimately develop a suite of custom tools unavailable anywhere else and service multiple businesses exclusively with custom tooling.
These very small modifications could have significant benefits to the end customer. Rather than pushing through with a tool that’s “good enough”, they’ll have precisely the right equipment to get the job done right, which is good for their business and yours.
When it comes to custom tooling, having the capability to make subtle differences to the cutting tool itself can revolutionise the customer’s productivity, performance and profitability—which will boost your business, too. Getting the design right from the beginning equips you to make the tool again and again, knowing that the quality of the machine ensures it’ll be exactly the same every time.
Building customer relationships that last
While this process requires an upfront investment of design and operational resources, it delivers the opportunity to build strong, ongoing relationships with customers.
With niche tooling, manufacturers can effectively develop their own IP.  They have their own designs that they can leverage, and that enables them to retain customers through their specialisation. With their custom tool designed and ready for action, the customer knows where to get what they need. As the manufacturer, you effectively create a scarcity in the market—a high-quality, purpose-built product that can only be sourced from you.
Designing and creating the tool yourself also allows you to offer a high level of personalised support the customer can’t get anywhere else. And, as their needs continue to respond to their own market, you’ll become a preferred supplier for future custom tools.
It’s simple to adapt as your business changes
While large tool manufacturers produce both standards and specials, more small and medium-sized manufacturers are only doing custom tooling and carving out a niche.
With the support of great machines, your business can react quickly to both new customer demands and new ways of machining. As needs change, you’ll have the flexibility to go to market with a growing range of unique pieces.
Finding and exploiting a niche enables manufacturers to retain their client base through their specialisation and become the experts their customers can’t afford to lose. They’re creating a competitive edge—excuse the pun!

24 January 2023