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How cutting toolmakers can approach zero-waste manufacturing – saving time, money and the environment

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Zero-waste manufacturing is, as the name suggests, a method of production that is so efficient that tools are able to be made without sending anything to landfill. Why is this important for toolmakers? Of course, minimising the impact of manufacturing on the environment is an admirable goal. But it’s also true that the materials you use to make cutting tools can be expensive. Reducing waste is more than an environmental concern; it also makes good economic sense.

Zero waste is a whole-of-business approach that starts with where you source your materials and ends long after the product has left your warehouse. Although true ‘zero waste’ is not completely achievable yet, there are steps you can – and should – be taking towards a more efficient future.
At a basic level, zero-waste manufacturing requires getting the first component (the cutting tool) right, and then maintaining those tolerances and dimensions through the entire production so there is minimal waste/rejection of tools at the end. Factors that will influence the amount of waste you produce include:

  • Raw materials: Starting with high-quality raw materials will produce a higher-quality end product.

  • Ensuring you have an efficient loading system

  • Ensuring operators are trained to understand the quality and efficiency required.


Tip: Vendors like ANCA can supply reports detailing the potential output of your equipment and offer guidelines to help you get the most out of them.


Technology is your greatest zero waste-manufacturing weapon

The goal of zero-waste requires serious precision. To manufacture a tool without waste, you need complete control at every stage. Technology has far greater capacity than a person to analyse production in real-time, make accurate predictions and forecast production requirements.

For example, measurement and compensation machines like those in the Zoller range can give you a level of detail no human ever could.

Ways you could already be using technology for a more efficient factory include:

  • In process laser measurement and automatic compensation for tools to ensure the entire batch of tools are maintained within specified tolerance.

  • 3D modelling to analyse tool design and simulate cutting processes , so you can measure and verify their efficiency before you even start grinding ensuring nothing is wasted.

  • Machine testing tools to make sure the tools work as per the product requirements.

  • Pre-Inspection of blanks inside the machine before manufacturing to confirm blank are to the required specifications.

  • Wheel probes, to automatically measure grinding wheel sto ensure the grinding machine is set up for maximum efficiency.

When you’ve got the best possible tool on hand, automation allows you to store and run processes that will recreate it exactly, every single time.

Zero-waste manufacturing doesn’t end with production

Being left with excess raw materials is the most obvious waste of money in a production line, but it’s far from the only one. Losing energy, resources and even people at any stage is a costly exercise. Even waste disposal can have a direct hit to your bottom line.

One of the biggest obstacles to zero waste manufacturing is changing your processes. Most businesses have established systems in place to produce tools in the best way they know how. Shifting that approach can be challenging, usually requiring new equipment and buy-in from the rest of the business, but is completely worthwhile.

Make good choices at every stage

Real zero-waste manufacturing is more than what happens on your shop floor. It means making good choices about the whole lifecycle of your product, starting from where you source your raw materials.

Consider Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (ERP) – choosing products that are less damaging to the environment and human health. The work you do to reduce waste in your factory can be completely undermined by starting with wasteful materials.

There has also been a big shift to thinking about the value of your offcuts. Businesses are doing more than just using environmentally-friendly materials or recycling – they are actually planning to use what’s left over. Global companies like Coca-Cola and Subaru are designing products with waste value in mind, using plastics, Styrofoam and even engine parts to create new, usable resources.
Zero-waste manufacturing is a shift in mindset. It requires a strong understanding of your existing production line, so you can change and refine it. It means making good use of available analytics and new technology that supports a more efficient workshop.

With an investment in better processes, your factory can be part of a zero-waste future.


23 April 2019