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Straight talk on buying auxiliary equipment.

Experienced processors tell which features are important and which aren't, what works and what doesn't, and how to pick a piece of equipment that's durable and easy to maintain.

Buying auxiliary equipment in the '90s is a different game from what it was less than half a decade ago. Just-in-time manufacturing and the ever-increasing emphasis on quality parts with "zero defects" have transformed purchasing decisions for this type of machinery. What used to be an afterthought is now considered too important to take casually. "If you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on high-tech molding equipment and you don't find the proper auxiliary equipment to go with it, your expensive molding machines will be wasted," says Tom Opielowski, director of manufacturing for Precise Plastic Products Inc., a custom injection molder in East McKeesport, Pa. That's why we sought out experienced processors for some no-nonsense plain talk on how they go about selecting the right auxiliary equipment to meet their needs.

Processors and suppliers agree almost unanimously that the most important factor to consider when shopping for auxiliaries is how the equipment will help maximize processing uptime while minimizing downtime. Efficiency, reliability and quick, easy maintenance are at the top of almost every buyer's checklist.

While this doesn't mean cost is no longer a consideration, cost isn't the dominant factor it once was when molders would put most of their capital into the molding machine or extruder, using what cash was left over to buy cheap and often inferior auxiliaries. Larger manufacturing trends--such as JIT and quality consciousness--are primarily responsible for the recent change in molders' philosophies, but there's also a second, less-discussed trend that has led to the new manner of "shopping smarter."

"A few years ago, you could finance molding machines but you couldn't finance secondary equipment," explains Terry Minnick, president of custom injection molder Pro Corp. in Florence, Mass. "But now that the financing option exists, it allows you to spend a little more on this equipment and make sure you get machines that are right for your job."

Processors interviewed say financing options have also enabled them to spend a little extra on auxiliaries to ensure reliability and good service. Keeping those auxiliaries in peak running condition is so vital to a molding operation that many processors say they won't do business with suppliers that do not stock spare parts or cannot guarantee speedy shipments of those parts. Other processors try to maximize uptime of auxiliary equipment by continually purchasing machines from the same supplier.

"In-house stocking of spare parts is very important to us, so that when equipment breaks down, especially on the second or third shift, we have parts on hand to fix it. But it's also important that we not have to stock parts for many different brands," says Don Miller, a staff engineer at Hoover Co., North Canton, Ohio. Hoover injection molds a variety of parts for its line of vacuum cleaners and floor-care products.

CLOSER LINKS WITH VENDORS

JIT and zero-defect manufacturing are not only changing auxiliary equipment buying habits; they are leading some companies to downscale their engineering staffs, forcing processors to rely more on vendors to recommend the auxiliaries best suited for an application. In turn, this has led to a higher level of cooperation between supplier and buyer than ever existed before. The exchange of ideas between suppliers and their customers has led some vendors to incorporate processors' suggestions into future generations of equipment. Processors say they have benefited from the relationship by seeing increased productivity from more efficient auxiliaries.

"Let's face it," says one molder, "none of this stuff is throw-away equipment. These are definitely capital expenses and it's in our best interest and the best interest of the vendor not to sell us things we don't need or can't use." The bottom line is taking greater care in selecting auxiliary equipment. And while one person's opinion is just that, we hope that the views of some savvy buyers will provide some useful guideposts to lead processors through the thicket of equipment options available today.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Gardner Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Words:677
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