This paper presents experimental investigations of various interrelated multi-scale cyclic and temporal processes that occur on the frictional surface under severe tribological conditions during cutting with buildup edge formation. The results of the finite element modeling of the stress/temperature profiles on the friction surface are laid out. This study was performed on a multilayer coating with the top alumina ceramic layer deposited by CVD (chemical vapor deposition) on a WC/Co carbide substrate. A detailed analysis of the wear process was conducted by 3D wear evaluation, scanning electron microscopy/energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDS) and electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD), as well as X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) methods. The following cyclic phenomena were observed on the surface of the tribo-system during the experiments: a repetitive formation and breakage of buildups (a self-organized critical process) and a periodical increase and decrease in the amount of thermal barrier tribo-films with a sapphire structure (which is a self-organization process). These two processes are interrelated with the accompanying progression of cratering, eventually resulting in the catastrophic failure of the entire tribo-system.