In gear manufacturing, high-quality parts, machinery, and services are important elements to an efficient production process and a long-lasting end product. However, in an effort to provide the highest level of performance and reliability, costs can snowball quickly, whether you’re the customer or the manufacturer. It’s important to be aware of some key ways to help yourself and your customers save on overall expenses.
German Machine Tools of America (GMTA) is a leading supplier of machining and fabricating equipment solutions in North America. It represents various lines of German machine tools and metal fabricating equipment while completing processes such as gear scudding, gear cutting, gear honing, gear grinding, gear deburring, laser welding, and turning operations. In addition to machine service and spare parts, GMTA sells products that cut gears, point gear teeth, generate polygons, deburr gears, hone gear teeth, grind gear teeth, turn gear blanks, wash gears, and laser weld components.
According to Scott Knoy, GMTA’s vice president of sales, the company strives to provide the gear market with highly technical niche machinery and processes that will give its customers a competitive advantage over its competitors. However, that can’t be done at the lowest market upfront cost.
“Since we are not known to have the least expensive machinery, we need to show our customers cost savings in terms of reduced capital expense and efficiency,” Knoy said.
One example in which Knoy and his team at GMTA were able to accomplish this was by working with General Motors (GM) to provide two scudding systems that took the place of nine other machine tools. The end result was an overall cost savings of $4 million and floor space savings of 60 percent. In this case, GM was much more excited about saving the floor space than the reduced cost of capital equipment.
In addition to helping his customers, Knoy said it’s critical to reduce costs on the equipment manufacturer’s end, which will directly affect the customers’ costs in the long run.
“Our biggest cost-cutting measure is cross-training our service engineers so that they can work on all of the model machines we sell,” Knoy said. “This makes us more efficient and cuts down on time needed to reach the customer with an effective service response.”
Knoy also said that GMTA has invested in new CRM and accounting software that will provide greater overall company organization, making it easier to run the business without adding on additional staff and costs.
Another way to save on costs is to work with a custom gear manufacturer. While they don’t sell standard gears off the shelf, they do customize gears based off an individual’s or company’s specifications with an expert staff on-hand to assist you throughout the entire process — from design and prototyping through the pre-production, production, and aftermarket stages.
According to Dean Burrows, president of Gear Motions Inc. and AGMA executive committee chairman, working with a custom gear manufacturer has many benefits that just can’t be found elsewhere, including expert engineering services, open availability, long-term cost savings, an experienced and knowledgeable staff, and quality customer service.
“Custom gear manufacturers are not new to this industry,” Burrows said. “They have spent years — even decades a lot of times — honing their skills to craft expertly made gears. Gear Motions was built by forming a network of quality gear manufacturers and currently works with various industries from oil and gas to aerospace, automotive, and the military, among others.”
The biggest disadvantage when working with a custom gear manufacturer is the time it takes for the gear to be designed, tested, and finalized. However, more often than not, the ends justify the means.
“With a stock gear, you get what you get,” said Ron Wright, corporate sales engineering manager at Gear Motions. “The components have to adapt to the stock gear. That means shafts that the gears spin on, mounting surfaces, and a lot of other things that go into the gearbox will require adaptation due to the stock gear that is available. Otherwise, they have to modify the stock gear to fit the function of the unit they’re building. The added costs that go into that, even though the gear itself may be cheaper, end up costing people more in the long run.”
“When working with a custom gear manufacturer, you end up with a product that is significantly more effective in meeting the customer’s requirements. Sometimes, you can sub-optimize that by not going with a custom gear.”
According to Wright, the time aspect of the custom gear manufacturing process pales in comparison to how much customers can save in the long run.
“We’re able to work on the optimization of the gear’s design and its performance of the end use of that product by creating and designing a gear specific for a customer’s specific application,” Wright said. “Over time, it reduces warranty costs, reduces steel issues, and reduces assembly issues associated with a gear that is not designed specifically for your application. Your customer also ends up having a better experience when it performs better long-term for their end use.”
While the industry grows and evolves to meet the demands of modern technology, gear manufacturers will continue to help their customers save on costs without jeopardizing the quality of the products and services.