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Machine Tools: Tips For Users

Sept. 18, 2007
The trend is toward a multifunctional capability with the goal of eliminating most post-machining operations.

When it comes to machine tools, rule No. 1 is to be up-to-date -- about lean, the competition and the latest product capabilities, such as multitasking.

"Manufacturing strategists need to build an appreciation of the capital equipment investment priorities of the foreign competition." That's the advice of Rich Curless, vice president product technology and development at MAG Advanced Technologies. "Be prepared to unlearn the conventional fallacy that foreign manufacturers, with their very low cost structures, are satisfying their manufacturing needs with 'plain Jane' equipment."

Adds Mark Logan, vice president of business development for MAG Advanced Technologies: "The lesson for me, from a marketing standpoint, is that we need to market and offer our latest technology around the world and we need more than ever to offer the total solution."

Among MAG's U.S. customers, Curless sees offshoring diminishing as continuing analysis shows the strategic benefits of bringing it back.

"Multitasking is going beyond just turning, milling, and drilling . . . with the goal of eliminating most post-machine operations," says Rich Curless (right). MAG's strategy: "Refocus more on systems and new markets," says Mark Logan (left).The underlying reason, says Curless, is the growing prevalence of lean strategies.

Curless says the challenge is in managing the unintended lean effects from economic cycles.

"That can be an opportunity for machine tool suppliers to extend aftersales services," adds Logan. He says that role is part of the strategy for the MAG Industrial Maintenance Group. "That support role creates an opportunity to be a stronger partner with customers."

Becoming a global machine tool provider has impacted the design of the company's products. The operative description is modular design, a strategy intended to meet site-specific requirements, says Curless. For example, a German customer may be happy to buy the base machine, but require a locally made chip conveyor to assure local support. Morgan says the right strategy is to be able to configure-to-order as opposed to design-to-order. He describes the practice as being globally local.

Other design accommodations to global customization include special communications features to enable the factory to assess operation regardless of where the customer is located.

In addition to the modular design trend, Curless sees multitasking evolving. "It's going beyond just turning, milling and drilling. Today, the trend is broader, toward a multifunctional capability with the goal of eliminating most post-machining operations."

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