Don't You Wish . . .

. .

Columns From: 2/5/2001 Modern Machine Shop, ,

. . . you could find a "Definitive Buyer's Guide To Vertical Machining Centers" that had independently performance-tested the 20 top-selling models, compared the features, and could tell which model was the best buy, had the highest rating, or was the recommended choice?

It ain't gonna happen. No such thing exists. And there's no similar guide for CNC lathes, surface grinders or any other popular category of commodity machine tool that you might be looking for.

We get enough phone calls and e-mails asking about such a guide to know that it is certainly sought after. Callers hope that we have conducted or sponsored this kind of product testing or have published articles based on such a study. Unfortunately, we're not in a position to evaluate equipment and are unaware of any outfit that is. That's too bad because it would sure make the decision about what VMC to buy a lot easier. But choosing a machine tool is not like choosing a new refrigerator or video camera.

Testing and rating machine tools isn't like testing and rating household appliances or consumer products. It would be more difficult, more time-consuming and much more expensive. The results would be more controversial, too. And given the rate at which machine tool builders upgrade existing models or add new features, comparisons and ratings would be out of date quickly.

This isn't to say that product listings, directories or databases of machine specs don't exist. Nor is it meant to overlook standardized methods for determining performance characteristics of machines. These are valuable tools for narrowing the search for suitable makes and models, then making valid comparisons.

But nobody is going to offer definitive recommendations on what to buy. That's just as well. The key to choosing one model over another isn't so much what you'd like to know about the machines under consideration. Rather, it's what you need to know about your own shop, your business goals and strategic plan, the skills of your people, and insights into customer needs.

Armed with that knowledge, a shop would approach the acquisition of a new machine with more confidence and certainty and be less worried about the dangers of making the wrong choice. Some other party's recommendations might be worth consulting but would carry less weight.

Yeah, that wished-for Definitive Buyer's Guide might be great to have, but it's not something to have to depend on.

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