CNC And The Small Guys
Compared to the big guns, it’s a totally different perspective when a smaller guy intends to acquire some CNC woodworking equipment. Their sets of considerations are poles apart. From a small guy’s perspective, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered correctly.
Should one choose a dedicated machine or some multi-function model? What can the performance be like? Can the machine justify its price?
The underlying aspect of all these questions is the fact that the smaller guy most likely has a smaller budget and naturally fidgety.
However, the first consideration when thinking of buying a CNC machine is a simple commitment. This mindset will go a long way in dealing with the machine and the people who will deal with it.
Consider the following factors that are needed to be met — time to learn the machine’s software, time to learn proper dust collection and hold-down techniques, and time to train new employees.
The CNC machine can only do what its operators want it to. While the CNC tool can do the tasks more accurately than humans, it still needs regular maintenance and an operator committed enough to learn everything about it.
Another attitude to help you through all this is patience. You and your people will need much of it when they bring in the CNC machine into your shop. Expect a lot of growing pains for everybody involved.
For one thing, understanding new technology and its processes cannot be successfully put into operations in just one or two days. In hindsight, it would then be good to partner with a company that has experts to help your people.
Before signing into the dotted line, look first into your supplier’s help to your people. Check on the quantity of training that company will provide yours. Patience is needed in finding the right company, the perfect trainers, and the high level of enthusiasm from your people.
The high mark in the test of your patience is learning this new process and trusting your own decisions. Experts say “most small companies investing in their first CNC machine will start to gain that comfort level around the 90-day mark.”
Being flexible, configurable, and being repeatable can make the CNC raise and enhance its productivity in cell-based operations. The big advantage of a multi-function machine is reduced labor and processing time.
Choose a CNC model that is easy to set up, easy for all operators to understand and use, and straightforward enough to change over or configure for the next task.
Fears and facts
There is a baseless misconception among small shop owners that a machine not in operation all day is a wasted investment. Would a CNC machine be a good investment nevertheless?
Standard manufacturing concepts stated that machines should be operating at all times for maximum efficiency. That mindset was changed when the router they purchased became operational and produced in a few hours what their employees took two days to make.
Commitment and patience, and not just a leap of faith, are certainly needed for a small shop owner when trying to upgrade his business. CNC machines are just what he needs to be in step with today. Woodworking is never the same again.