Shop Doc – Should I Scrap?

Today’s Machining World Archives April 2011 Volume 07 Issue 03

Dear Shop Doc,

I recently bought a shop with CNC lathes and mills. In one room there are old #00 and #2 Brown & Sharpes. I have nobody with the expertise to run these machines. A dealer I trust said I should scrap them. What do you think I should do?

Ambivalent

Dear Ambivalent,

First, I would consider how much of the current revenues come from those machines. I know of shops who claim that during the last recession, their Brownie department kept them afloat. Other shops used the downturn as a reason to eliminate their Brown & Sharpes. So let’s attack this by defining the issues.

How old are the machines? Are they G series machines or Square Base (Pushbutton) machines? If they are and you do not currently enjoy any revenue from these machines, then your dealer’s advice is sound. You might be able to sell them for a few bucks, but it’s unlikely to be worth the trouble. If they are Ultramatic series machines, and especially if they are Ram Slide machines (the latest two series), then they would be worth some money to a user out there. Put a small ad in the classified section of a trade magazine (maybe Today’s Machining World) and most likely someone will buy them, but don’t expect too much out of them, depending on condition.

What kind of CNC turning will you be doing? If your CNC lathes are large ID bores and you don’t envision running production turning work, then absolutely get rid of the machines. If you plan on doing production turning, then you must consider what type of production work. If you’re doing close tolerance work in low lot sizes, then go with the CNC lathes. If you’re machining production runs of medium tolerance parts in the 200 – 500 pieces range; stay with the CNC lathes over cam-operated Brownies, especially if you have no skilled personnel. In order to be profitable in the machining business you must match the lot size, part complexity and tolerances to the right machine.

If you have no experience on the Brownies and cannot (or do not want to) hire someone with experience, you definitely should scrap or sell them. It takes a couple of years, minimum, to train someone on the cam machines. And that’s if you have someone to train them. So unless there are jobs tooled up and these machines are providing an income stream, parting with them makes sense.

If they are the later model Ultramatics there is an option to have them upgraded with CNC controls. This eliminates the need to set cams, trip dogs and tool timing. Typically, training time is reduced from years to weeks. I know a company who started a person with zero machining experience and he was setting up jobs on his own in a few weeks! But keep in mind that he did have resources at that shop to help train him. The practical lot size also goes down and productivity goes up tremendously with servomotor controls.

So get rid of the machines and open up the floor space if the machine capability does not match your business model. Hire someone to run them if you have an income stream from the machines (you can always get rid of the machines later). Or upgrade later model machines with CNC controls and servomotors if production precision turning fits your business plan.

Greg Knight
AMT Machine Systems

Greg Knight is the Vice President of Machine Tool Automation with AMT Machine Systems in Columbus, Ohio, a company specializing in equipping Brown & Sharp’s with ServoCam CNC systems.

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