Improving operational focus.

Position:Industry outlook 2009

Q: Many manufacturers of all sizes find the sheer expense of maintenance starting for their machine tools to be staggering. How are machine tool builders ensuring their customers see maximum life and return on their investment? What do you see as the leading methods to increase throughput, eliminate handling/ secondary operations, and maintain high quality?

Horwarth: Bill Horwarth, president of MAG Maintenance Technologies, prefers to answer the question with a basic comparison: just as poles on two magnets naturally repel one another, manufacturers encounter a similar force field when they try to balance what appears to be conflicting objectives of appropriate machine tool maintenance and reducing cost.

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Manufacturers are tasked with getting the most mileage out of their equipment investment, he said, running machines longer and harder in a quest for maximum run time, productivity, and return.

"Unfortunately, we often run into an equal and opposite force pushing back in the form of increased maintenance costs, required to support ever-higher productivity goals," Horwarth said.

Given that manufacturers need to focus their limited resources on increasing production and not on increased maintenance, an obvious alternative is to shift that responsibility to a third party--in most cases, to the machine tool OEM. That approach, Horwarth said, can yield significant value.

With a service provider handling the full scope of maintenance, internal personnel can be reassigned to production. In addition, significant cost reductions can be achieved through the transfer of direct labor costs, as well as the discounted rates and repair parts that are typically part of a service agreement.

"These cost savings are worth thousands of dollars,"...

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