What is Machine Tool Builders’ role in the gear industry?
For nearly 30 years, Machine Tool Builders Inc (MTB) has been a leading provider of machine tool solutions to the gear industry. What started with a toolbox and two ambitious engineers repairing old gear machinery has since evolved into a world-class machinery rebuilder specializing in the gear industry. At MTB, roughly 85 percent of the work we do is focused on gear cutting, grinding, and inspection machinery. The remaining 15 percent consists of customized machine tool builds, CNC re-controls, or rebuilds of non-gear related equipment such as milling machines, OD/ID grinders, specialty grinders, VTLs, presses, transfer machines, etc. Machine Tool Builders is truly unique in the gear industry because we have a staff of industry experts and multiple complementary core competencies that frequently provide an invaluable service to our customers.
Tell us what the “5 Rs” are and why they are important?
MTB summarizes our offerings using the 5 Rs of machine tools services: Retrofit/Repair, Re-control, Rebuild, Remanufacture, and Replace.
These are important because they help our customers better understand the project scope and range of investment that may be required. Unfortunately, there are so many terms being used in the industry today to describe the updating of machine tools that it can be really confusing for customers. All too often, these terms get used interchangeably. At MTB, we work with our clients using clearly defined services and the scope associated with each. Our goal is to exceed the customers’ expectations, and that starts with the setting of expectations, keeping the customer informed and involved is a must.
We break down the 5 Rs like this:
Retrofit/Repair: This is generally the first level of upgrade. It might encompass a single system or, possibly, multiple systems or components, on a vintage machine.
Re-control: This is usually a more extensive type of upgrade where the entire CNC system or a large mechanical assembly is totally replaced with a newer, more modern version. The new CNC equipment is all prepared offsite, then integrated into the existing machine on site.
Rebuild: The word itself defines what occurs with this type of service. The machine is totally rebuilt back to its original factory specifications. The way the machine operates and the mechanical assemblies remain largely as they were prior to the rebuild. This type of work is almost always done offsite and usually requires a significant amount of time to complete.
Remanufacture: This is the most advanced level of upgrade. It includes not only a rebuild and a re-control, but the machine is modified to reduce or eliminate as much as possible the mechanical linkages, gearing, and other driving mechanisms. Depending on the type of equipment and the scope of work, the remanufacture may actually be more cost effective than the rebuild. Plus, you will have a more modern machine tool as a result at a fraction the cost of new.
Replacement: Obviously, replacement is self-explanatory, but this is where the older machine is replaced with a new or pre-owned machine. Shockingly, many gear manufacturers jump straight to this option without looking into the other solutions.
Why is it sometimes more advantageous to rebuild an older machine rather than replacing it with a new one?
Remember the old adage, “They don’t make them like they used to”? Well, that statement often holds true with machine tools, especially with gear machinery. The older gear cutting machines were designed with heavier castings providing mechanical durability and a very rigid machine. These were built to last many decades, and the cost of replacing one of these could be millions of dollars with delivery lead times measured in years. However, not every machine is necessarily a candidate for rebuilding, either. For instance, many standard machine tools such as lathes and mills are better bought new simply due to quick availability and low cost of replacement. Any older machine, either manual or automated, that is critical to operations, dedicated to your production cycle, and is not easily replaced is an ideal candidate for rebuilding.
What’s wrong with choosing the lowest-price rebuilder?
It is our experience that there is often a reason why the price is that low, and, again, it’s so important for customers to compare apples to apples. You may find that the scope of work has been underestimated, key components are not reworked, repaired, or replaced, but rather cleaned and reinstalled or, worse, never inspected. What has served us well is working one-on-one with our customers throughout the entire process to show the overall value we provide and the expertise that accompanies it. Do your homework and make sure that you are getting the best solution at the best value.
As gear companies move into the future, why is it important to keep older machines working efficiently?
As a machine ages, it becomes less efficient, demands more service, and causes quality issues. In short, it starts affecting your bottom line. However, it’s a misconception to presume that just because a machine is old it’s not worth upkeep or modernization. In fact, it’s all the more reason to invest in a retrofit, re-control, rebuild, or remanufacture. These upgrades are key to keeping your machines operating efficiently and effectively, and your plant running smoothly. As we all know, a well-running plant yields a high level of productivity, which enables companies to meet supply and demand, which in turn leads to greater reliability. Overall, a reliable and productive plant is a profitable one, and MTB can make your machine run like new.
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