In my February 2001 column, I lamented the fact that our industry doesn't have the equivalent of a Consumers' Guide for machine tools. Responses included several suggestions about other approaches to getting the inside scoop on what machine to buy.
Matt Coffey, president of the National Tooling & Machining Association (NTMA), reminded me of a referral service among NTMA's membership of 2,550 companies. Each year, NTMA members are asked to report any new equipment or software that they have purchased in the prior year. Members willing to talk about their experiences with equipment or software are listed on the members-only section of NTMA's Web site (www.ntma.org) where other members can find them and get in touch. Sounds like a great way to get some honest opinions and one of the many good reasons for joining the NTMA.
According to Tom Charkiewicz, president of MTI Systems, Inc., many of his customers are using the company's Costimator estimating and quoting system to compare manufacturing operations on different models of machining centers, lathes and turret punch presses. The program recalculates from machine to machine such factors as machining time, labor and machine handling elements. Comparison can be made of setup time, time per tool to set up, chip time, tool change time, min. and max. rpm, horsepower and various cost factors. For more information, call the company at (413) 733-1972 or visit www.mtisystems.com.
TecRight Machine Tool Sales, a distributorship and consulting firm in Rockford, Illinois, has developed a nifty computer program that automatically ranks machine tools by numerical score based on a user-created database of specific design criteria and pricing terms. Called TecScore, the program makes sure the buyer pays adequate attention to technical specifications and capabilities rather than emotional issues and sales hype. The person to talk to about this program is Marjorie F. Palm, president of TecRight, (815) 332-2317.
I'm sure I'll hear more suggestions on good ways to get machine tool comparisons in lieu of a definitive buyer's guide. All of these suggestions are welcome, and all reinforce my original point. Your best bet is to begin with a thorough understanding of your own needs, wants and goals. Nobody can offer you a substitute for this basis to any buying decision.