Key Areas to Explore When Making a Machine Tool Purchase
Jim King 09.24.2021
When the time comes to purchase a machine tool, many customers create a spreadsheet that compares available metrics on the equipment they’re considering. While it’s useful to look at machine tool specs and data, make no mistake: these metrics alone do not tell the full story.
Having observed hundreds of shops and their purchasing processes, I’ve noticed that the most successful decisions are those that take into consideration the Total Value of Ownership. Here are three key areas to explore when evaluating the long-term benefits, and the true beneficial value, of a machine tool.
In a typical purchasing analysis, it’s common to focus primarily on weight, speeds, feeds, and price. However, this leaves the important criteria of “productivity” off the table. It’s essential to consider the increased productivity that can be achieved with a high-quality, well-built machine tool, such as an Okuma.
Purchasing the right machine tool can enable you to make significant productivity gains, such as producing parts that require less finishing work. Additional efficiencies, such as faster cycle times, even when using the same programs, can also make an immediate difference in the money you make on every job, every day.
This brings to mind a conversation I had with Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing, after his shop switched to an Okuma. The part they were making on this machine had previously taken two days to complete. When they moved these parts onto an Okuma, cycle time was reduced to just 8 hours. Plus, the parts came off the Okuma with a smooth finish, which in racing can translate to added horsepower. This is the kind of difference that can become a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
2. Tooling Costs
Most people are aware, rigidity is an important consideration in a machine tool purchase, and Okumas are engineered for extreme rigidity. Consider how rigidity affects your tooling costs. If your machine’s not rigid enough, you will burn through inserts on a regular basis, and these costs really add up.
Depending on what you’re cutting – aluminum or hard metals – your tooling cost could be four times the purchase price of a machine, and this can take place within a year if you're cutting titanium and Inconel. We’ve seen shops that can pay for a new machine tool based on savings in tooling costs alone, so this is an area worth investigating.
3. Maintenance Costs
It can be revealing to research how many maintenance items you’ve purchased for various brands of machine tools. If you don’t have this data, your builder(s) should be able to provide it, simply ask them to provide a summary of items purchased within a year’s time frame.
When you add up the costs of maintaining aged equipment and compare this to the cost of a new acquisition, the acquisition cost might be minimal compared to paying for the escalating operating costs of older equipment.
Many of our customers have tracked maintenance costs in this manner and found that their Okuma costs are negligible compared to significant costs for competitor machines in terms of spindles, pumps, and out-of-warranty parts.
Big Numbers With Big Impact
When it comes to purchasing a new machine, there are many numbers in play that may not show up in a typical spreadsheet analysis. These numbers can be big and make a big impact on the success of your decision-making process. We’re often able to support you in conducting these evaluations.
We can perform a time study, which can be the easiest and quickest way to collect additional data. A test cut will also provide significant insights, if you have time to fit this into your schedule. Another pre-purchase activity that provides high-quality information is visiting a shop in your area that already has the machine you're looking at in use. Your local distributor will be happy to make these arrangements. We’re here to assist in any way we can, and I hope the approaches I’ve outlined here will support you in making a wise investment.