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Tallying True Costs

When a machine spindle goes down, much more is involved than simply the bottom-line review of a repair bill or the purchase price of a new spindle. Additional underlying costs include more than dollars. Ed Zitney of SKF Machine Tool Services examines what you can do to help save time and money when a good spindle fails.

Posted: October 29, 2011

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When a machine spindle goes down, much more is involved than simply the bottom-line review of a repair bill or the purchase price of a new spindle. Additional underlying costs include more than dollars. What can you do to help save time and money when a good spindle fails?

When a machine tool spindle goes down, decision-making will turn on whether to repair or replace the asset. But at what costs? Much more is involved than simply the bottom-line review of a repair bill or the purchase price of a new spindle.

Additional underlying costs include more than dollars. They will accrue from lost production, longer than expected delivery times, and “shortcuts” that eventually may backfire. The goal is to get machinery back up and running, and repair often will emerge as the most practical (and overall least expensive) way to go – but only when the job is performed properly and consistently with industry-recognized best practices. What can you do to help save time and money when a good spindle goes bad?

Evaluate repair vs. replacement. When a spindle fails, options include buying a new spindle from an OEM. But will the spindle be in stock? Is the exact model available? How much will it cost? Other questions abound but, in general, repairs typically will cost up to 60 percent less than an outright replacement and often at a much quicker delivery time – important and influential first-step considerations.

Calculate costs of downtime. In most cases, the true cost of a high-quality spindle repair will be relatively small compared with the all-encompassing cost of the entire project in returning the machine to service and producing quality parts. Even such factors as the time and labor required to remove and re-install a spindle should be known. Understanding the time and money losses associated with downtime can begin the process to determine whether repair offers the most benefits.

Communicate with the repair shop. When a decision to repair a spindle is made, all communications with a repair shop will prove helpful, such as details about your operation, the specific application for the spindle in service, and even diagrams of the spindle in question. Every bit of information about the spindle enables the repair shop to fully understand the problem(s) and arrive at ideal solution(s).

Don’t cut corners or rush the job. Every maintenance supervisor naturally wants machines to run continuously and, when production stops, the pressure often will be enormous to return failed equipment to service.  With most repairs delivery time is critical – but this is not the time to cut corners. When repair shops are requested to rush the job and/or perform only the minimum necessary work, a heavy toll will be exacted over the long run (and, in the short term, rush jobs will surely result in a higher bill).

Spindle repair is a labor-intensive endeavor, with every spindle presenting its own set of issues that must be addressed. The process cannot – and should not – be accelerated unnecessarily, whether cost-based or time-based. Otherwise, quality will be jeopardized and extra “fallout” costs will add up, whether immediately or over time.

Invest in spare spindles. A spare spindle at the ready can render downtime and lost production irrelevant. In fact, if a few days of downtime will cost more than the cost of a spare spindle (which is likely), having a spare on hand makes even more sense from all cost-related perspectives. Especially with extremely important production lines – but appropriate for all – a spare essentially will pay you back each and every time when a repair becomes necessary.

Get the damaged spindle out the door. All too often, a spindle in need of repair sits at an operation for a time (subsequently resulting in “rush” job costs). Ideally, the spindle should be sent as soon as possible to the repair shop to expedite the process with minimized negative impact. High-quality spindle repair will be grounded in good planning, communication, proactive initiatives, and even common sense.

When deciding to take the repair route, always remember that partnering with an experienced shop can add value and prove highly cost-effective on multiple levels when a spindle fails.

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