ASK THE EXPERT: 8 mistakes to avoid when choosing your next tool presetter

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If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the time and costs savings an offline presetter can provide. Maybe you’ve seen for yourself how presetters help you deliver a consistently high-quality part, and now you want to upgrade. 

Either way, you’re ahead of the curve because when it comes to presetters, the biggest mistake you can make is thinking you don’t need one. Even with an entry-level unit, you see results quickly: shorter setups, longer machine run times and superior parts. Over time, savings stack up as you generate less scrap, extend tool life, avoid machine crashes and minimize repair costs. 

To guide you on the quest for the perfect presetter, we consulted Chander Bhardwaj, general manager of ZOLLER Canada, to find out the most common mistakes shops make when choosing a presetter — and how to avoid them. 

1. Assume offline presetting doesn’t apply to small shops 
Small job shops can be tempted to use their expensive CNC machining centre to preset. But these same shops can gain the most from an offline presetter. Small shops often churn out lower volume, customized runs and frequently switch jobs. Having preset tools cuts down changeover time so you can pivot to the next job more quickly. Remember, you only make money when your CNC machine is producing parts. Every second spent on setup detracts from your bottom line.  

2. Turn a blind eye to the obvious ROI 
Most presetters pay for themselves in six to eight months. Consider this example: A shop with five CNC machines that each average seven tool changes per day loses about 438 hours of machine run time annually without an offline presetter. That’s $52,500* in lost profits every year. In this case, you earn back the cost of a presetter in seven months. Anything after that is profit. 

3. Fail to recognize the upside for your customers 
Outside of the time and money savings, a presetter serves another vital purpose: quality control. A presetter measures tool lengths within a few microns every time, guaranteeing a consistently high-quality part for your production facility or the end customer. Plus, because your CNC machine can operate more efficiently, you can deliver those parts faster. 

4. Choose a presetter that can’t grow with you 
There’s the company you are today, and the vision you have for the future. Chances are that future includes a digitally connected toolroom with software that collects real-time data to anticipate issues before they arise. Think big picture and invest in a presetter that’s already integrated into a digital tool management system with a single database. Bonus points if that software is designed in-house, making upgrades much easier. 

5. Ignore the safety certifications (or lack thereof) 
Before you buy, make sure the presetter is safety certified according to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Otherwise, the responsibility to certify falls on the shop. That lengthy process can involve an inspector combing through the machine part by part, requesting more documentation and requiring modifications. This field certification can cost a shop up to $10,000 to $15,000 out-of-pocket. 

6. Neglect to check the scope of the warranty 
Know exactly what your warranty covers. Most growing pains happen when you’re learning to use the machine, so that’s when you want to see the most support. For an entry-level presetter, check for a warranty that covers parts and labour for at least one year. Advanced models should carry a minimum two-year warranty. 

7. Don’t consider access to service and spare parts 
Are the technicians who service that presetter local? If so, that pays dividends when troubleshooting. The same logic applies to spare parts. The ability to quickly order spare parts – ideally online at your convenience – can’t be understated, particularly as supply chain issues linger. 

8. Think your employees can’t learn to use a presetter 
A company’s culture is often one of the biggest barriers to adopting new technology. Convincing employees to try a different approach can be difficult, even if it makes sense on paper. Do a gut check about whether that applies to your shop. If it does, consider a presetting system that includes a robust training program with hands-on, real-world learning. SMT

Chander Bhardwaj, general manager of ZOLLER Canada.

*Here’s the formula so you can plug in your own data: 

• 5 machines x 7 tool changes x 3 minutes per tool change = 105 minutes of downtime daily 

• 105 minutes x 250 workdays per year x 1 shift per day/60 minutes = 437.5 hours of downtime annually 

• 437.5 hours x $120 machine hourly rate = $52,500 per year in lost productivity.

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