Old Tools: Retread your old machine tools to make them better than new!
Lebanon, OH — In an effort to further improve its service and support for the machine tool end user community, Siemens Energy & Automation (SE&A) implemented its strongest initiative to date in the area of machine retrofits. The company says its commitment evidences the SE&A directive to become a more visible and viable retrofit partner to the machine shops nationwide, who seek to improve their equipment performance and enhance their competitive position in their markets.
The company says it is ramping up its Preferred Solution Partner program, through which Siemens CNC, motor and drive packages will be brought to the machine shop market by a nationwide network of qualified retrofitters. While these organizations and integrators will be responsible for installation, the service, application engineering assistance and aftermarket support will also be provided by Siemens, with all the warranty and back-up end users expect from any machine tool market supplier.
The Siemens retrofit business development manager, Tom Curfiss, a 35-year veteran of machine tool engineering, sales and retrofit work, will head up this group and is based in the company’s facility in Lebanon, OH, near Cincinnati. Tom came to Siemens when the company acquired Cincinnati Machine in 1999.
Siemens first offered machine tool retrofitting their market expertise, geographic territory coverage, machine tool line specialty and other factors that make them the most viable adjuncts to the team, the company says.
According to Curfiss, the retrofit jobs will typically start when a customer contacts the company either through the sales force, Internet, trade show, advertisement, press release or other contact point, then Siemens will determine the most suitable partner to handle the job. After completing a cooperative preparation of a work needs assessment and pricing, Siemens and its partner will present its recommendations to the customer. Upon securing the order, the partner will complete the installation, with full guarantees and applicable warranties applied by the manufacturer. The partner will then be the direct contact for the work done, but Siemens will be in a full support and access mode at all times, for training, troubleshooting and general tech support activities.
How the process works : “When we determine the scope of the work needed, the proper partner will be selected. Generally, for smaller jobs, a local partner is best. On major, more complex or dedicated machine tool projects, where a certain level of expertise and perhaps greater manpower are required to properly effect the retrofit, we might look to a more regional or even one of our national partners in the program.” He also acknowledged that Siemens plans to be intentionally limiting in its Preferred Solution Partner program, to ensure viability of the relationship, fulfillment of sales targets and a mutually satisfying business venture for all parties involved.
The current targets for securing these arrangements, according to Curfiss, comprise approximately six to 10 national organizations and about 12 to 20 regional and local partners. The program is being managed by the Machine Tool Business unit, reporting directly to SE&A.
There are two major reasons a shop decides to retrofit, he says. The first is that the older controls and drives can no longer be serviced or are simply not able to run the machine in the most efficient manner, compared to newer technologies. He notes the recent encoder technology advancements simply make machines run faster, with greater precision and resolution, than older hardware, so that even if the older components can still get serviced, retrofitting makes sense. The second factor is a growing trend, even among smaller shops to upgrade capabilities.
He explains, “As smaller shops are seeking to upgrade their capabilities, to get more competitive or be more value-adding to current customers, they want to push their machines, often to levels that are impractical, given the original design. For example, the machine base, bearings and ways on an HMC may be as solid as the day they left the factory, but the controls simply won’t allow the kind of precision machining a shop wants to do for, say, automotive or aerospace, where outsourcing is the watchword nowadays. Such shops can benefit greatly from considering a retrofit assessment.”
Cost and effects: Curfiss also reaffirmed the industry yardstick that says a retrofit job becomes workable when its cost does not exceed 60% of the price on a new machine. This is not always the case, he noted, citing such examples as the smaller shop that seeks to penetrate a new, higher precision market. Often in such cases, the retrofit might exceed the 60% level, but the gross savings still make it a worthwhile expense, especially with larger machining centers.
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— Edited by C.G. Masi , senior editor
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