Modern Machine Shop

JAN 2017

Modern Machine Shop is focused on all aspects of metalworking technology - Providing the new product technologies; process solutions; supplier listings; business management; networking; and event information that companies need to be competitive.

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44 MMS January 2017 THE VIEW FROM MY SHOP Guest Columnist A s a m a c h i n e s h o p o w n e r, I h a v e m a n y demands on my attention. Every day I'm bombarded by a ton of different issues. Much of that impact comes from sales- people or the media telling me all about a new tool or a new state-of-the-art piece of equipment that will revolutionize my business and skyrocket my profits. Articles are being written about how 3D printing is the way of the future, but at the same time, I can hear about a brand-new tech- nology to make machining better than ever and also read a grim prediction for the industr y's ultimate fate. This constant stream of conflicting information is tearing apar t my brain cells. I of ten wonder why I didn't just become a plumber. My life would have been much simpler. All I would need is a wrench, right? Over the past 30 years, I have come to believe that machining is the most capital-intensive industry out there. It can seem as though every- thing we buy for our shops soon becomes obso- lete. We only have to take a look at the hundreds of orphan tools in our tool cribs to know that's the truth. But we tend to keep all of them, just in case that one job on which we used that particular tool comes back around again 17 years later. So how do we keep our shops competitive? Par t of that constant stream of conflicting information introduces us to new equipment that can completely change the game, so to speak, for our individual shops. This is what happened when multi-axis machines with automated han- dling systems first came out. A lot has changed since then. Trying to stay competitive today with three-axis machining centers or two-axis lathes is like a new printer opening up shop armed with only the original Gutenberg printing press. Try taking on Kinkos with that. It's not enough to just have modern machin- er y, however. Shops also need to stay current with software in order to run competitively. CAD/ CAM, enterprise resource planning, material requirements planning—over time, our machine shops could begin to resemble mini NASA mis- sion control centers, with employees attached to little screens, monitoring every aspect of the business from equipment to people to profit and productivity, seemingly all calculated down to the nanosecond. Somewhat creepy. Why would anyone put themselves through this non-stop merry-go-round of investments in order to stay current and competitive? When the pace of our industr y becomes over whelming, stop the merr y-go-round, take a deep breath, and think. The ultimate goal of every machine shop is to be globally competitive. It's hard to put a finger on exactly what that means, however, because what's competitive today may not be tomorrow. It's a goal that's always in forward motion. Machining has become a lot more complicated over the past century, and even the last decade. If we allow it to, the number of innovations and Keeping Up, One Small Step at a Time Incremental change is the secret to staying globally competitive in an industry where everything seemingly is obsolete as soon as you buy it. UDO JAHN GENERAL MANAGER MODERN ENGINEERING DELTA, BRITISH COLUMBIA UDO@MODERNENG.COM This Month's Columnist:

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