8 Hot Trends: BIG Machines Making a BIG Impact
Ken Buechele 03.05.2014
Lately we’ve been getting a lot of interest in big CNC machines from shops on the west coast. There are a number of trends that are bringing these customers our way, and these “hot topics” provide some compelling clues for industry-leading shops everywhere to follow. Why are west coast companies resisting the temptation to buy commodity machines and opting for Okuma quality? Here are some of the key trends that are driving big interest in our big machines.
Trend #1: Finding the Best Fit for Specific Applications
The newer technology we’ve come out with is well suited for very complex aerospace components. And there are a lot of large aerospace shops out west. We’ve designed and developed some products – like the MU-6300V (a large vertical with a 5-axis trunnion table) and the MU-10000H (our largest 5-axis machine to-date) that are a perfect match for this industry’s needs.
Trend #2: Prioritizing Accuracy and Reliability
Okuma builds to “half the Japanese industrial standards.” So if the standard accuracy of a CNC machine is within 4 microns, we actually build it to deliver 2 microns of accuracy. As a result we can hold much tighter tolerances than the industry standard. This is why, when you see our machines, they’re a lot bigger, a lot heavier, and have a lot more iron. We just don’t compromise on this. This also creates a more reliable machine, so investments last a long time. Overall, this translates to lower cost-of ownership.
Trend #3: Understanding the Value of a Balanced Platform
We engineer each component of the machine, and they’re fine-tuned to work seamlessly together – including the iron, motor, drive, spindle, encoder and the control. (We don’t rely on third-party suppliers that provide off-the-shelf components that “almost” match the machine’s requirements.) This is known as a “balanced platform”, or what we call true Single-Source. When you engineer the whole system, it performs at a higher level.
Trend #4: Looking for a Machine That Lasts
The balanced platform and building to half the Japanese industrial standards also creates a more reliable CNC machine that delivers more uptime. The best way I can demonstrate this is through our Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) statistics. Okuma has a documented track record for 90 months’ (7.5 years) MTBF for the entire machine. For the axis drive motors, our MTBF averages more than 20 years!
Trend #5: Adopting Technology That Enhances Productivity
There’s no reason to do things the hard way anymore. Technology exists today that can dramatically enhance productivity while making your life a whole lot easier. Some of the favorites that our big machine customers rely on: Thermo-Friendly Concept (which dials up the machine tool’s accuracy) and Collision Avoidance System (which prevents costly crashes). I also like to show some videos that spark ideas for new technologies they can implement. Check out this video demonstrating Machining Navi, which is used to prevent chatter and improve surface finishes. Or this one showing Turn-Cut, which enables users to turn features on large, unbalanced parts on the same platform where standard machining functions are performed.
Trend #6: Taking Some Clues From Support Staffing
Another wow that happens with our customers (and customers-to-be) is when they visit our facilities in Charlotte. During plant tours I take guests to our Board Repair/Exchange Program rooms. All Control Board and Spindle Drives for North and South America come through these rooms. When you tell a customer that 100% of all board repairs are sent to Okuma in Charlotte for ALL of North and South America – for over 50,000 controls in the field – their jaw drops when they walk in the room where repairs are made. What they see is simple: a very bright, quiet clean room with only four technicians making repairs. Yes, only four people for all of North and South America! Now that shows reliability when you have a small room of four when other builders have a large facility (or several) just for repairs.
Trend #7: Moving Away From Me-Too Machines
If your shop wants to win against your competition, you can’t have a me-too machine. You can’t have the same CNC machine that everyone else has. If you want to stand for quality in your marketplace, Okuma has a brand name that’s recognized for quality. This puts our customers head and shoulders above their competition and differentiates them from the pack.
Trend #8: Building On Money-Making Investments
We see a repeat scenario with our big machine customers. They know they’re not buying the least expensive machine when then make these investments. But on many occasions, they come back to buy another Okuma after they find out that these machines, with their ability to produce high-quality, complex parts more efficiently, are making money for them.
Ken Buechele is Senior Regional Sales Manager, Okuma America Corporation.