Plot your next machine tool buy.

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Features and benefits add up to the best value by using the matrix.

Machine tool builders and buyers are both using the same systematic methodology to quantify the features and benefits of one machine tool model comparing them to another to identify the best value choice for a particular application.

The technique described here has been used in countless industries including electronics and consumer products to bring together the opinions of a diverse group of people as to how well a particular product matches up against a master list of attributes of an "ideal" product. The matrix makes it possible to formulate a profile of an ideal machine tool from a wide variety of viewpoints including engineering, production, marketing, maintenance, and purchasing, and then to weight and compare the opinion of individuals on a buying team.

The result is a dollar-per-point evaluation of the relative worth of the machine tool vs other machine tools in its class, explains Rod Jones, president, Decision Technology Inc, Ada, MI. His company conducts research for builders to identify how various niches in the market are served by existing products or to develop a profile of a yet-to-be-built machine tool. Using a similar matrix concept, Decision Technology produces a Product Attribute Ratio (PAR), which can be plotted on a positioning graph.

The first step in using the matrix concept is to compile a master list of 15 to 20 key performance specifications for the machine tool category to be studied. "Too many specifications can dilute the impact of the most important buying considerations so it is important to really work on developing a prioritized listing," says Mr Jones.

Obvious starting points are machine spindle speeds, rapid traverse rates, axis travels, ATC capacity, and the like. Information can be gleaned from company brochures, by calling distributor sales people, or consulting Internet web sites or related on-line services that provide a spreadsheet of machine specification information.

"It's important to consider how the machine is to be used," explains Mr Jones. For example, does it deliver full horsepower (torque) at both high and low speeds. Does the machine tool builder give the spindle horsepower rating as peak, continuous duty. Or does it bother to tell what it is at all?"

If information on a spec isn't readily available, he suggests using an average value.

Comparing machine specifications, however, provides only one part of the equation. In fact, today...

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