Growth-minded machine shops know that to succeed, they must continuously improve. But what does continuous improvement mean in the context of legacy equipment?
Today’s machine shop owners have to decide:
- Should we scrap our outdated equipment?
- Should the old machines stay on the shop floor alongside our newer technology?
- Should we look into automation possibilities for helping our older equipment remain useful?
The answer will depend on the company’s size and your goals for the business.
Old Habits (And Machines) Die Hard
Before I stepped into the role of President at NTMA, I worked in a machine shop that looked a lot like the shops many of you own and operate.
As the company acquired new, technologically advanced equipment, we’d fit it onto the shop floor right next to the older, legacy machines. The idea was that more machines would help us increase production—but the solution wasn’t that simple.
Instead of embracing the new technology, the shop’s manufacturing professionals continued to gravitate toward the machines they already knew well and were accustomed to using.
We’re all creatures of habit, so it should come as no surprise that many employees at today’s machine shops will shy away from unfamiliar new equipment in favor of outdated machines they could operate in their sleep.
But how can a shop maximize its manufacturing efficiency if the team won’t touch the new technology?
Every Manufacturing Improvement Needs a Big-Picture Strategy
Before investing in a new piece of equipment, take the time to work through the next steps you’ll take.
If you run a large shop that replaces more than one machine annually, it could make sense to simply let the old equipment go. Can you sell it or trade it in for a new machine? Can the old equipment be donated to a local community college or vocational school as a tax write-off?
If you run a small to midsize shop that purchases new equipment only once every year or two, you may find it beneficial to retain your legacy equipment. Use the older machines for training, as backup equipment, or for overflow work.
Today’s Machine Shops Must Improve with a Purpose
As you work through your strategy for buying, selling, and replacing equipment, remember why you’re investing in new technology in the first place—to increase productivity and efficiency. After all, with so many shops struggling to recruit new employees and retain existing workers, productivity and efficiency are of the utmost importance.
What does successful improvement look like for your business?
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. There’s only your shop, your capabilities, your people, and your growth goals. Let the unique needs and talents on your shop floor guide your purchasing decisions, and you’ll get great results from your people and your equipment—whether a legacy machine or the latest and greatest technology.
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