Cutting Tool Engineering
October 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 10

Fourth and goal -- time to score

By Michael Deren

Like many sports fans, my thoughts turn to football this time of year. But I’m also thinking about the fiscal fourth quarter and obtaining extra equipment for the shop that we couldn’t afford earlier in the year.

Typically, there are unspent funds in a company’s coffers. These funds were allocated for purchases but, for one reason or another, haven’t been spent. Now is the time of year to ask your supervisor or manager if any discretionary funds exist. Usually, these funds are available for anyone in the company to make departmental purchases. If those funds go unspent over the course of the year, management usually will reduce next year’s budget by at least that amount.

In the late 1990s, I worked for a privately held company with fewer than 50 employees. One October, I asked the owner if there were any funds that needed to be spent before the end of the calendar or fiscal year. He asked me how much I wanted to spend and told me to provide the request by December 31.

I then went into the shop and asked the machinists what they needed. One guy said a tool cabinet, another wanted for a good modular boring bar system, and others voiced their requests as well. As a result, I presented the machinists with a host of catalogs to search through. “Pick out what you need,” I said, instructing them to give me their choices by the end of the week.

The end of the week came and went without receiving their choices. I asked what was taking so long. A couple of machinists said they were concerned about losing their end-of-the-year bonuses because of the purchases. I told them this had nothing to do with their bonuses and was from a different account. They didn’t believe me until I had the general manager explain it to them.

They finally gave me their “wish list,” which totaled about $10,000. I gave the list, with prices, to the owner and explained each item and its benefit. He looked at the list, looked at me and told me to place the order—no questions asked. Needless to say, our tooling rep was ecstatic.

The next October, the guys approached me about how much they could spend!

This is also the time of year to consider major expenditures for next year. Do you need to replace any equipment, such as a mill or lathe, or add equipment? These are capital expenses and need to be allocated in next year’s budget. Otherwise, you probably won’t see the equipment. Exceptions include machines required to meet unexpected increases in job volume and replacing vital machines that unexpectedly break down and are too costly to repair.

Carefully evaluate your needs for next year. What can you purchase that will significantly improve productivity? I’m currently examining some good, used automatic surface grinders to replace a WWII-vintage Norton grinder. The poor operator’s arms are scraping the ground from cranking the grinder’s wheels.

A machine to get the job done properly doesn’t have to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The right piece of equipment might require a capital investment of less than $10,000, but the purchase won’t occur if the proposal doesn’t get in front of management.

The funds are probably there for this and next year’s wish list. Your task is to claim your fair share and maybe others’ shares if they aren’t quick enough. It’s fourth and goal. Will you score? CTE

About the Author: Mike Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be e-mailed at mderen1@wi.rr.com.
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