What’s Important When Selecting Equipment? Part 2 – Equipment Capability

POST DATE Oct 11, 2013

AUTHOR Udo Jahn

  1. What type of capability does the equipment require?

  2. What size of equipment do you need?

  3. What controls does the equipment come with?

  4. What productivity tools are available for the equipment?

Since I'm in the machining industry, I'm relating this to the type of equipment that I work with, however this pertains to other equipment as well.

What type of capability does the equipment require?

In my case it's usually a lathe (turning machine) or machining center (milling machine). Newer types of equipment can mill and turn but there are limitations because they usually do one better that the other. This dual capability equipment is also more expensive and therefore you need to weigh the benefits of that extra cost. If you're selecting equipment such as computers, phone systems, or photocopiers you'll need to look at the all the capabilities and make sure they're strong in all the areas that you require. Make sure to examine carefully.

What size of equipment do you need?

This is a very interesting question. This is where you can make the mistake of buying something too big or too small. It is almost a Goldilocks story. I firmly believe that you need to have equipment that fits a certain range of sizes. Buying one piece and thinking that it can do everything will lead to productivity problems. These problems include large machines that make small inexpensive parts very slowly, or small machines that make large parts very slowly because they're overtaxed. I think the best thing to do is to determine where the bulk of your work is and buy the appropriate size.

What controls does the equipment come with?

Most equipment today comes with some sort of electronic control system. Each industry has its standard types. Your company is probably already using one of them. It is important to note that if you buy something other than what you, or your people are used to, then you may be asking for potential issues. If you're used to doing things one way on one piece of equipment and you now have to do things differently on another then you may develop productivity issues. This can include mistakes or operation slow downs because operators aren't used to the differences in the controls. This can be very painful. That being said, you also don't want to make your decision based on compatibility alone. There are always better things on the horizon and refusing to look at them, and their benefit, will be a disservice to you and your company. Sometimes it is good to make a change.

What productivity tools are available for the equipment?

Productivity is one of the most important aspects in the decision. This also includes expandability. We often buy equipment and later realize we should have added more features (like automated handling systems that make the equipment more productive). These types of systems increase the throughput of your purchase. Many people buy equipment without additions because it's not available or they've exceeded their budget and therefore leave it out. This is a huge mistake. It's actually the cheapest part of the purchase when you relate it to the productivity of the equipment. In our industry many leave it out because it's thought to be too expensive. Additions include robotic handling, wash-down stations and many other add-ons. These, however, are the additional tools that increase productivity. Make sure that you consider them for how much they will save, and not their cost.

The bottom line is to have good balance in all of the above aspects of selecting equipment. You can overbuy and underbuy and, in both these cases, you will regret your decision.

Author: Udo Jahn

Next Article: What’s Important When Selecting Equipment? (Part 3 – Getting Company Buy-in.)

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