Thoughts while making applesauce for the winter.
Is the screw machine the Winesap apple of machining? I was talking shop with some apple orchard owners at a couple of farmers markets over the weekend. I asked why there were virtually no old varieties like Gravenstein and Winesap sold anymore. Even the more common Jonathan is scarce. They said the answer was pricing power and demand. People will pay $3 per pound for Honey Crisp and Jonagold. For Gala and Macintosh they can shop the supermarket and buy them for 99 cents. The farmers are doing what business people do, planting the hot varieties, and chopping down the commodity apple trees.
We saw this in our used machinery business, Graff-Pinkert & Co., as people pruned their National Acmes and Wickmans and brought in CNC lathes and Hydromats. Even with the refocus, the pricing power of screw machine producers eroded in the 1990’s and 2000 decades. My radar tells me that this weakness in the marketplace has ended and has now reversed. Using the apple metaphor for machining again, screw machines are now “heirloom” technology.
As the skills have gone away the people who can figure out the mystery of the old cam operated multis can compete with the generic Mexican tomatoes of machining, the “Chinese bushings and Indian fittings” that are just mushy enough to be irritating.
The new “hot” apple is the Sweet Tango. It is similar to the Honey Crisp variety, but a little sweeter—same crunch as the Honey Crisp with a wonderful flavor.
The owner of a machining firm has an orchard of machines. The smart ones are constantly clearing the machine tools that do not have pricing power. They are continually planting the “in” new trees because they take years to produce quality fruit. But for those with patience and marketing skill there is also a place for the “heirlooms” to launch a comeback.
We are finally beginning to see it on the few well tended screw machine orchards that are left.
Question: Does your business have pricing power?