January 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 1|
Who knows what's best for you?
By Mike Deren
Who knows your company best, you or your vendors? Believe it or not, some vendors think they do, especially ones who have been doing business with your company for a while. However, those that think they know your company best usually don’t. That’s why some tooling vendors try to sell you what they want, rather than what you need.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the vendors I deal with. I am always open to suggestions. However, I keep a close eye on costs, as do most machinists and managers. To accomplish that, shops should be careful who they buy from, be skeptical about certain high-priced tools, and expect vendors to listen to what they ask for when bidding out equipment they need to buy.
For example, all distributors can supply whatever you need, from any manufacturer, but there is usually a price to pay. Distributors primarily work with certain manufacturers. By promoting and selling more of one manufacturer’s product line, they get a better discount and generate a higher margin. In turn, distributors can pass those savings onto end users. The manufacturers that a distributor typically doesn’t represent, however, will give that distributor a standard discount.
I typically work with two cutting tool distributors. Using both allows me a choice of products at competitive prices.
Regarding high-priced cutting tools, consider the following story. A vendor ran tests of two cutting tools at a facility where I worked. The tests were successful, according to the vendor and operator, because the tools reduced cycle time by 3 minutes per part.
When I saw how much the tools cost—$4,000 total—I almost fell over! The productivity gain might justify the cost if we were running 500 parts a day, but we were running 50 per month. The time required to recoup that investment would have been too long, and the tools were only suitable for that part. When I suggested finding a simpler, less-costly solution, the senior salesman said he knew better—a big mistake.
The vendor came back about a week later with a three-page report, “documenting” annual savings of $1,700. Unfortunately for them, upon review I noticed some data skewed to produce the results they wanted.
I contacted another vendor and discussed my solution. He liked my idea and suggested an alternative solution. We ordered the test tools, which cost less than $500 each. My solution involved circular interpolating the part’s cored holes, while his used a core drill to open the holes to within 0.003 " of finish size. My solution was suitable on other parts. His was dedicated to that hole size, but opened the hole much quicker than circular interpolation. I went with his solution based on the faster cycle time. The payback was realized in a couple of months, not years.
When bidding out equipment you need to purchase, the first rule is to see who gives you what you ask for. At the same facility, we wanted to bring back the production of parts we had outsourced earlier. The problem was, we had thrown out the original fixtures about 10 years earlier and needed new ones. Fortunately, we were running a similar but larger part.
We asked two vendors to quote on a hydraulic fixture similar to the one we had. That was no problem for the first vendor, but the second vendor wanted to build two fixtures. I told the latter we wanted one similar fixture. The first vendor submitted a quote in line with our expectations. The second vendor, sure enough, provided a quote for two separate fixtures, at about double the price. He thought he knew what we needed, instead of what we wanted, and he lost the job.
Vendors should pay attention to their customers’ needs and listen to what they’re trying to accomplish. They usually know what they need. CTEAbout the Author: Mike Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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