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Innovation for global competitiveness.

Never has the metalworking industry been more aware of the global nature of Competition than it is today. When I suggest that a greater investment in machine tools is critical to achieving global competitiveness, it is not a serf-serving recommendation. The fact is that investment in the newest cellular manufacturing technology and advanced machines is essential to the longterm viability of our manufacturing base.

We at Mazak are manufacturers, too, and we are a global company with a major investment in computer-integrated manufacturing capability throughout the world, performing in the very same industry--metal working production--that our customers do.

From our vantage point, certain matters are clear. For one, continued investment in machine tools that are smarter, that produce faster, that have the right degree of flexibility, and that meet the ever-increasing demand for higher degrees of accuracy is essential for survival.

Managers who understand that, as well as that the related cost issues of inventory, floor space, labor content, and production are critical to their competitiveness, will not only survive but will be the winners of the next decade.

Another major new trend in machine-tool investment is apparent directly from our involvement with overseas manufacturers who are automating their operations. Mazak sells a significantly greater number of integrated manufacturing cells worldwide because European and Asian manufacturers are investing much more heavily in cells than North American manufacturers.

Moreover the buyers are not just the big companies. Job shops in Europe and Asia are investing in machining systems once reserved exclusively for firms with large manufacturing engineering staffs.

Don't get me wrong, we, like other machine-tool builders, are pleased with the continuing expression of confidence in the innovativeness of our tools, including horizontal and vertical machining centers, turning systems, and multi-task offerings that combine turning and milling.

However, the undue concentration on price that may ignore value and "spread sheet" comparisons that can mistakenly equate unequal machines are a concern to all machine-tool manufacturers. They can miss the real issues of quality, output, and cost/performance benefits that are addressed by the latest innovations in machine-tool design.

For this reason, Mazak recently concluded a study that compared our current machines with the best technology of ten years ago to determine how new technology can impact operator output. To summarize the study, Mazak machining centers and turning centers were compared producing a typical batch often parts. The first part of the study easily demonstrated an increase in productivity of three times due to technological advances in non-cutting time movements, cutting speeds, controls, and the related setup time/labor required.

The second part of the study dealt with combined operations due to today's multi-task approach to machine design. Chucker parts always require second end (or second side) turning. Most require secondary operations such as keyway milling, drilling, and tapping--machining combinations easily accommodated by today's multi-tasking machining centers.

Each loading results in, on average, three times the actual machining accomplished. Thus it is practical and expected that the operator handle three machines, hence a three times improvement in operator output.

The third subject of the study clearly represents the wave of the future--increasing periods of untended operation. Short of running an entire shift it is not difficult to double machine running time simply by continued operation through lunch hours, breaks, and between shifts. The machines of today offer precisely this capability.

To summarize, our study supports the premise that it is practical to multiply an operator's capability by three times due to cycle time, three times due to combined operations, and twice by running short periods untended. That's actually 18 times the output as compared with the one person to one machine orientation of just ten years ago.

It really does take a global view to reach the right means to production decisions. We need to explore our own needs carefully and make decisions based on a broad view of the performance we can expect from technology that's available and in use today.

Winners will capitalize on the advancing technology. Our own industry--the manufacturers making these competitive enhancing machine tools--is doing its best to lead that trend.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Speaking Out
Author:Papke, Brian
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Column
Date:May 1, 1992
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