Hard coatings to arrest or slow down wear, improve productivity and produce quality products are now well established in single-point tools (HSS and carbide). However, the same is not true for multi-point cutting tools. The paper examines the progress made in low-value high-volume (bandsaws, holesaws) and high-value low-volume (circular saws, broach tools) products. Whilst some successes are reported there are some continuing disappointments in tool life improvement and performance owing to the lack of systems approach. The author gives examples of products and has identified parameters and processes which tool manufacturers and coaters should jointly address to fully exploit the advantages of surface engineering technologies. The paper should prove useful and be of interest to material suppliers, tool manufacturers and surface coaters.