A new machine tool is a big investment. Make sure you carefully evaluate your needs and identify which product will help you meet your objectives. You’ll need to carefully consider your exact production goals as well as the part/jobs involved. In addition to that, your shop’s operator skill levels will come into play along with how the new machine will fit in with your existing technology. And last but definitely not least, you’ll need to determine a realistic budget.
1. What are your production goals?
Think about where you want your business to go. Whether the goal is increased output, reduced part costs, improved quality or all the above, you must physically list and prioritize what you really need out of this next machine tool. Also, keep in mind that the means to achieving your goals may not always be a machine tool. It could instead be the addition of automation or a combination of machine tool and automation.
2. What kind of parts are you doing?
A machine will serve you best when it is optimized for the work you do. The size of your next machine depends on the size range of your parts, and it must have the power and speed to handle the materials from which those parts are made. Likewise, your job lot sizes and production rates affect whether or not you’ll want a machine with multiple tables or pallet changing capabilities. Part tolerance will also dictate the levels of performance consistency and accuracy the new machine will need to achieve. To ensure its customers get the right level of Multi-Tasking technology, Mazak offers its 5 Levels of Multi-Tasking that help match machine to application. In addition, the more accurate the information you provide about your production demands the better you and your machine tool supplier can sort through the various options and find the right technology for the job.
3. What are the skills of your operators?
The closer the new technology “fits in” with what operators already know, the faster they’ll master it. Closely evaluate your programmers’ skillsets and determine whether they are well-versed in CAD/CAM programs or if they could benefit from easy-to-use conversational language.
You may want to also ask yourself if automation would help bridge your shop’s skills gap in addition to boosting the overall output of the new machine.
4. How will this machine fit with your existing technology?
In addition to shorter operator learning curves, a new machine that pairs well with your existing equipment helps you get up and running as quickly and as smoothly as possible. It also helps keep tooling and workholding costs down when you can use the same systems throughout your shop.
5. What’s your budget?
Do some serious digging and weigh all your machine financing options. You may be able to sell or trade in some of your existing equipment for a machine with more capabilities or to take advantage of government programs or tax incentives to further help with the purchase.
Most importantly, when calculating your budget, think about the total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the machine. Mazak’s machining centers, for example, are reliable and long-lasting and will reduce maintenance and repair costs down the road. And if you’re adding automation, take into consideration what that might save you in time and labor. You need to also account for standard features vs. options to accurately compare the cost of one machine to another.