The Shift from More to Better

A Mayfran Chip Handling System

I’ve closely studied two recent auctions of screw machines and ancillary equipment – Anderson Fittings in Chicago and MTTM in the Twin Cities last week – for indications of market strength and customer preferences. This is not just “inside baseball” for people in the trade. These auctions, which from all appearances were actually honest sales with no observable price pumping (I tend to be cynical about this stuff), tell a clear story about the turned parts market, at least for the multi-spindle niche.

The buyers generally do not need more capacity. They have more than enough spindles turning. At the Anderson auction, nice rebuilt Davenports in the1980s and ’90s with threading and pickoff brought $5,000 or less. New Britain Model 52, 6-spindles with threading went for $3,000 to $10,000, with a 1981 62 New Britain fetching under $20,000 with buyer’s premium. The one machine that brought a fair price was a 1995 8-spindle model 81 New Britain that sold for a little under $60,000 with the BP. When I evaluated the deal last winter I had figured the automatics would bring higher prices than that, yet I significantly underestimated what the auction ultimately brought in total.

The wild card at Anderson was the peripheral equipment, such as a Mayfran chip handling system which brought almost $50,000 and Ransohoff parts washing machines which had been disconnected and pushed to the wall when I evaluated the deal. The parts cleaning machines brought in over $100,000, which surprised everybody at the sale except the people bidding on them, because it was a fraction of the replacement cost.

The tooling and spare parts exceeded expectations, and the underground auger for transporting chips to the crushers and spinners brought $10,000, to my surprise.

The auction in Minnesota last week told a similar story. It was a collection of old nondescript 6-spindle National Acmes, which I assessed would bring low prices at the sale–and they did. The only machine worth more than $20,000 was a mid-1970s 1-¼ RA-6 that sold for $26,000 including the buyer’s premium. A decent 3-½” RB-6 took in $6,000 and a mediocre 1” RAN-6 without a pickoff fetched under $10,000.

But bidding on the tooling and accessories rocked. A Winter thread rolling attachment sold for over $4,000 and Langolf shave tool holders fetched almost $1,000 each.

The takeaway from these recent auctions is that buyers in this field do not covet more capacity, they have enough spindles turning. What they need and will pay for are the complimentary tools and equipment that will make their operations better and more versatile. Attachments, tooling, chip equipment, washers and inspection items are what auction buyers will bid up the price for.

In the Graff-Pinkert machinery business we see a similar trend. Our clients often want to “trade in” their tired but still viable machinery for similar but rebuilt machines with productive attachments hung on them. The machine is seen as a platform for the attachments and tooling which give manufacturers an advantage with a relatively modest extra cost.

For people in the trade this is an important market shift from “more to better.”

Question: Is it easier to find good machinists today?

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5 thoughts on “The Shift from More to Better

  1. Dave

    Finding good machinists and operators is difficult here in Upstate NY. Albanys policies have and continue to drive manufacturing out of the state. Then just a couple of years later the skilled tradesmen and women follow.

  2. Joe Landry

    The education system in our country has not, and may never, encourage bright young people to enter manufacturing trades. They all think you have to go to a four year college to be successful.

    I have heard this comment many times: Johnny is failing math and science, let’s send him over to the machine shop classes.

    Academia just does not get it.

  3. DEMojica

    How many Johnny’s are great machinists, engineers and shop owners because they were send over to “Shop” because they were failing math and science. I am one of those Johnny’s. How many non-failing math and science now have worthless degrees and student loans up to their necks still looking for a”real” job? I know of many. Successful is not how many degrees you have, but if you enjoy what you are doing.

  4. chuck lacasse

    From the other side of the coin , I have 30+ years in shop experience .I can program ,set up, and run most cnc machines made .No bad habbits or health issues but every shop i apply at wants to hire me for 17 bucks . No wonder they can’t find good help.


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