by Kevin Burton
Getting machine investment ‘right from the start’ is the key to reducing payback times
Despite the significant investment that a new machine represents, the fact that around 70 per cent of machines are purchased un-tooled means that many manufacturers are still missing opportunities to reduce payback times and improve the return-on-investment (ROI) from their capital outlay.
Achieving the best possible ROI requires recognition that a machine purchase is only one element of a successful installation. Carefully planned machine investment strategies should encompass both capital machine purchase and a detailed assessment of the best methods and tools for the chosen production task. Time taken as early as possible in the planning stage can pay huge dividends in terms of reducing the ‘total cost of acquisition in terms of a smooth installation, shorter run-off period, minimum business disruption, reduced cost-per-component and the earliest possible payback.
Indeed, in some cases early identification of the best approach and tooling solutions may even present the opportunity to further improve ROI through the purchase of less expensive machines than originally planned.
All key specialist players should be involved at the earliest possible stage, including machine tool, tooling, software, clamping and coolant suppliers.
With pre-investment collaboration between the expert parties, overall results are inevitably better because difficulties are foreseen and addressed early. The focus is on priorities such as production costs and output, with discussions typically involving capacity objectives, process definition, choice of machining method, component machining costs, cycle times, tooling requirements, programming, work-holding, process flexibility, quality, unmanned operating possibilities, predictable tool life and tool-holding/changing.
From experience, if planning is not done correctly, the result will be extra costs for new tools and the loss of key people to other commitments. Also, the machine often becomes very busy, very quickly and it gets hard to find the time to address issues, which in turn leads to reactive ‘firefighting’ rather than proactive planning.
By spending a little more time and effort in the beginning, those adopting sound machine investment (MI) practices will experience less surprises and frustrations, and come out ahead in the long run. This is about more than just equipping the machine–MI support relies on a unique combination of tools, tooling solutions, service and industry experience to help attain higher productivity, faster throughput, more rational tool management and reduced downtime. MI specialists can turn talk into concrete financial data based on target production parameters. A specially developed interactive program gives end users instant access to the direct and indirect benefits of smart machine tooling.
Without doubt, tooling has a big influence on ROI, as a few simple examples show. For instance, while milling is demonstrably better for roughing and semi-finishing operations than rival processes, even when the need for straightforward turning is required, turn-milling with an end mill or face mill may be a better solution for metal removal rate.
Similarly, drilling is usually most efficient using an indexable insert short-hole drill. However, when there is a variation in hole sizes along with limitations to tool magazine stations or spindle power for large diameters, the flexibility of an end mill producing holes by helical interpolation may well be the best way forward.
World of opportunity
Through MI support, machine shops quickly see a new world of opportunities based on providing the power to run a new machine to its full potential. After all, custom-matched cutting for specific operations can increase cutting data by an impressive 20 per cent, which can mean a full 15 per cent reduction in total component cost.
Of course, lower component costs are just one of many modern pressures facing the manufacturing industry. Others include global competition, reduced lead times, high raw material prices and ever more complex designs and exotic materials. Thus, those paying for a new machine should make sure it pays them back. MI offers a total package that can unleash the full potential of the investment, right from the start. SMT
Kevin Burton is turning product and industry specialist with Sandvik Coromant Canada.