Ask the Stamping Expert: The 10 Tooling Laws explained

STAMPING Journal March/April 2013
March 11, 2016
By: Thomas Vacca

Q: In your last column you listed the 10 Tooling Laws. I had never seen these before. Can you please explain each law in more detail?

A: I drafted these laws years ago out of necessity. After more than 35 years of experience in the stamping field - - many as a master toolmaker, then as a toolroom manager, and finally as director of tool design and development engineering—I recognized that many performance issues stem from a relatively small list of misconceptions. The tooling laws address these misconceptions.

Although the laws are based on common sense, they are broken frequently. Often as a result of not knowing what to do, stampers tend to shoot from the hip. The outcome is that half of all activities could have been avoided in certain processes if we could achieve perfect execution the first time, with everything going as planned. This is particularly true of tooling maintenance, as it is riddled with unknowns, unforeseen consequences, and compounding variables. The process is rich in rework and inefficiency.

Here are the 10 Tooling Laws again with more explanation. I suggest you post them on your shop wall and reference them in your day-to-day activities.

1. Have no other goal except your personal best. Do not cut corners. The result of inadequate work is having to touch it twice. If you have to touch it twice, then change the way you address the work in the first place. First-time success is a reflection of your personal best.

2. Quality workmanship is defined as consistency. Even if you think it does not make a difference, do it the same way every time. The measure of success is how consistent the results are. Quality is consistency. Do not move, adjust, or attempt to change anything that is inconsistent - - it is like throwing darts at a moving target. Once a process is consistent and the target stops moving, then you can target the bullseye.

3. Always strive to be consistent in every minute detail. Input equals output. Strive to be consistent. Identify variables and create a documented process that controls and yields consistent results.

4. For better or worse, if nothing changes, then nothing will change. I knew a toolmaker who turned up the part ejection air on a stamping die because the part was not blowing off the tool with every stroke of the press. Later the tool broke because of a double hit on a part that didn’t eject. There was a hole in the feed line getting worse over time. Find the cause for adjustments. Eliminate the cause, and eliminate the adjustments.

5. Achieve perfect execution. As stated in Tooling Law 1, if it is touched twice, it was not done right the first time. Take it to the next level and anticipate what can go wrong, plan, and take action for unacceptable risks to achieve first-hit success every time. Doing it right and doing it once is the only goal. Never approach a job with the trial-and-error method.

6. Never make changes without evidence. Ask this basic question: What has changed since…? Trace your steps and list them. Brainstorm to eliminate the obvious. If you cannot assign a root cause to the problem, do not take the quick-fix route. Resist the pressure to make unsubstantiated changes. There is always a root cause!

7. Do not bear false witness to bad results. Never justify what was done when it does not yield the expected results. If you use poor judgment or simply make a mistake, move on. The worst thing you can do is explain failures with “good reasons” why.

8. If it needs to be done, it needs to be on the print. Also note, if it is on the print, it needs to be done. Do not cut corners. Put service ranges on punch lengths, heels, sweeps, polish techniques, and surface finishes. Put everything on the print to define consistency. Details!

9. Nothing is the only thing that is insignificant. You have to identify problems and issues to be able to change them. By nature, everything is subject to change over time. (See Tooling Law 4.)

10. Grow and improve in steps. Where does this all leave us? Are we robots? Every process should incorporate continuous improvement. Seek out change as a necessity. If you do not innovate, the competition will pass you by. Every task should come with recommendations. Being a proponent of change is your job. One second saved in a minute yields 24 minutes a day (based on a 24-hour operation), times 5 days yields 2 hours per week, times 50 weeks yields 100 hours a year. Imagine if every employee saved an additional one minute per hour every week for the entire year!

The key to your success (and the company’s) is understanding (communication) and agreeing on the expectations. What are you all really trying to accomplish? Business cannot be successful without your being successful!

Thomas Vacca

Director of Tooling and Design Engineering
Micro Stamping Corp.
Has a shop floor stamping or tool and die question stumped you? If so, send your questions to to be answered by Thomas Vacca, director of tooling and design engineering at Micro Stamping Corp.

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STAMPING Journal is the only industrial publication dedicated solely to serving the needs of the metal stamping market. In 1987 the American Metal Stamping Association broadened its horizons and renamed itself and its publication, known then as Metal Stamping.

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