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Purchasing the Right Machine Tool

By February 17, 2017 No Comments

Gone are the days of purchasing any old lathe, grinder, and mill to produce parts. Today, buying a machine tool for your shop is more complex than it was a few years ago. Below are several factors that may drive your machine tool purchase decision.

Machine cost

The overall cost of the machine does factor into the initial investment. In the past, many companies used cost as “THE” factor in making their purchase decision. However, over the average life of the machine, cost becomes less of a factor. An additional $20,000 of capital investment spread over the useful life of a machine may mean as little as $10 per day based on a single shift, eight years of useful life and 250 days per year of production.

Many machine tool purchases are driven by capacity issues. And, manufacturers believe they are utilizing their equipment to its fullest potential, when generally, it is being utilized at a much lower rate. Today, by using MTConnect®, you can gather data from the actual machine and determine its true utilization in real-time.

MTConnect® gathers data from the machine, and that data can be analyzed to conclude machine run time, wait time or repair time. With these results, manufacturers may find that they don’t need to purchase a piece of equipment immediately. However, at the same time, knowledge is gained on how to better utilize existing equipment. From improved shop scheduling to perfected material/tool placement in regards to machine availability, much of this information can be beneficial to keeping the manufacturing process consistent and profitable. For example, the initial data may conclude that the machine may need a simple repair, or it can reveal the machine needs to be replaced because it is too unreliable to leave in production. Additionally, most machine tools are being produced as MTConnect® ready, which means these machines are equipped to help you understand your capacity and utilization once a new machine is operational.

While price is always a factor, it is a good idea to determine if you really need additional machinery. Consider the initial cost of the machine tool with the productivity increases, improved quality, decreased part handling, real-time data delivery and reduced downtime you may receive with the purchase of a new machine.

Overall quality

Quality, speed and efficiency have become more consistent across manufacturers of machine tools. The differentiation in quality between manufacturers has narrowed over time, and there aren’t many low quality machines that have survived. One of the foremost purchase considerations should be about the machine having the capacity, the tooling, and the functions to efficiently make the parts you need.

Understanding what you’re buying

Ask questions! Manufacturers often don’t ask enough questions upfront. The approach is like buying a car. You want to make sure the car has the features you need and that it is capable of doing what you need it to do. Do not assume that something is standard on any machine you are buying. Many demo machines are loaded with options. Ask for a clear listing of standard equipment, what the available options are, and about the ability to add features to a machine down the road.

With the diminishing skilled machinist labor force, look to combine processes to reduce handling and increase quality. Perhaps, there is a multi-tasking machine that would take your parts from four operations to two, or maybe, a pallet changer would help reduce change-over or improve through-put by setting up the next job while one is running.

Support and training

Support is one of the most critical factors to consider when purchasing the right machine tool. Even the most advanced machine available will fail to produce if you can’t obtain the necessary training and/or repair parts and services.

The support you receive from manufacturers and distributors becomes paramount over the course of ownership. If your machine goes down, and you don’t receive prompt service, and every hour your machine is not operating results in loss of revenue and potentially a lost customer. Questions you should ask and have answered are: Does the manufacturer or distributor have local service? What is their average response time?

In addition to service, you must also consider the availability of replacement or spare parts for your machine. Today, many manufacturers and distributors have reduced parts inventory, which could result in a significant delay in the delivery of the parts you need. Ask questions so you know.

Training is also important. With the shrinking pool of qualified candidates to operate advanced machinery, along with the pressure to deliver improved quality and reduced pricing, training support is necessary. Can you count on the manufacturer or their distributor to provide you with the necessary training to get the full potential out of your purchase? Even at additional cost, in-depth training can make the difference in achieving the equipment’s full potential.

When making the decision to purchase a machine tool remember to appraise your existing equipment’s overall efficiency, as well as the new machinery’s efficiency, reliability and support from the manufacturer and/or distributor.

For more information on purchasing the right machine tool please contact Tony Lupariello at Lupariello@techsolve.org or 513-948-2095