I remember the first time that I sat down to work on quadratic equations and discovered that there was more than one possible solution to the equation …

Yep Two solutions! Which one is right?
Yep! Two solutions! Which one is right?

How many of us realize that every day in our businesses, we are solving equations that have more than one solution?

How many of us realize that we have a choice between solutions, and that lowest price doesn’t necessarily mean lowest cost to us?

At Horn Technology Days, I attended a session on Customer Specific Tool Solutions presented by Todd Hayes.

Todd started his presentation with a challenge to the assumption that ROI is just about dollars.

As Todd put it:

“ROI is not just about dollars. Increase my tool life. Increase my machine operating time, increase my accuracy (especially on features tied to another!) reduce my time in cut by simultaneous machining. Give me my weekend back. Let me run lights out.”

This rang true with me.

When I produced  steel for machine shops, the purchasing agent was always looking at lowest price per pound- for the steel.

I told him that what he should be looking at is the lowest cost to produce the part. Steel price was just one part of that cost. The cost to machine it was another.

Todd was talking about creating special tools to solve problems in production

  • Maybe to make another tool position or two  available in an already crowded machine.
  • Or to get better control of the chip and finish.
  • Better accuracy, especially between different features.
  • Less time to setup or replace the tool.  
Yes the tool is more expensive but...
Yes the tool is more expensive but…

(click on photo to enlarge in separate window)

For short runs, the cost of a special tool is prohibitive. But not all of us are quoting short runs. But how many of us are still using short run thinking?

How many of us are solving for lowest tool price rather than optimum output?

  • What if the custom tool (or special steel grade) saved me several changes per day on several machines?
  • How much more machine operating time will I gain?
  • How much utilities will I save by not needing all the CFM of compressed air that we all over use when we change a tool?
  • How much  will I save because I have eliminated variability and or better controlled the chip so I do not have to inspect for chip weld and out of spec surface finishes?

I am not exhorting you to go out and buy specialist tools for every job. Just like I was not asking my customers to buy the premium machining grades of steel for every job.

I am asking you to recognize and challenge your assumptions about how you decide to purchase, just as I had to recognize and challenge my assumptions that there was only a single “solution” to those equations I faced in class that day.

Lowest price on purchases, or lowest cost of production?

Two solutions- you get to choose one.

Quadratic equation courtesy mathwarehouse.com