Change, Fear, and Screw Machines

February 7, 2024 - 11:41am -- Selcuk Gulboy

“I can’t hire a cam multi-spindle operator who knows what they’re doing! I’m throwing out my multi-spindles and going all CNC.”

“These old Acmes, Wickmans, or New Britains pay for themselves every three months. They’ve left a wide open field for me!”

Selling used screw machines at Graff-Pinkert, we hear both stories every week.

It is the story of change and fear. Today I will focus on the quandary and opportunity.

Cam screw machine operator is not the job kids aspire to do. The shop noise is brain-rattling. Headphones quiet the cacophony but shut out the cues that maximize output.

Your clothes will stink of oil, your fingers will have the shop on them as you hug your loved ones. The money is chasing inflation, but trails a plumber or a school teacher with tenure.

And it’s so “old school.”

But metal components put the planes in the air, the cars on the street, and the ammo in the Howitzers.

The exodus of industry to China has ended. It isn’t all coming back, but the massive folding up shop for the Far East is over for now. Trump’s and now Biden’s tariffs have also helped. The niche is there for the entrepreneurs who can figure out the business riddle of our day. Where are the people who want to work in our shops?

Many have solved the problem in the simplest of ways. Throw out the antiques that nobody knows how to set up. Bring in CNC machines. The federal government will give us a fortune in depreciation money. 

Best of all, we can find operators who enjoy pushing the buttons. Programmers are out there if you come up with the right money. Life will be simpler. What are we waiting for? We’ll epoxy the floors and have a party.

In a nutshell, this is what we hear every day as we attempt to get past the electronic gatekeepers who pass for efficiency in offices. 

Yet occasionally, we sidestep the soulless gatekeeper and talk to a person, usually somebody we know from the past, who tells us another side of the story. They still like cam multi-spindles.

CNC machines are woefully slow compared to multi-spindles and Hydromats. The key to winning the game is making your company attractive enough that good operators will stay and others in the field will be attracted.

Training takes patience, effort, and money, but it is possible. If you make an effort to crack the puzzle, the rewards can be huge.

“The CNC lathe making the same part takes 12 seconds longer.” 

“Swiss machines are incredibly slow.”

“Competitors can buy the $500,000 CNC lathe, and I’ll slaughter them using my Hydromats with robots.”

We also hear this too, but it takes the non-conformist and the stubborn entrepreneur to take this rocky road. 

While big companies often send in the “smart young folk” who think they know it all. They are the “throw-it-outers.” 

Neither path is “right.” There is plenty of money out there either way as automotive wakes up, oil and gas need hardware, and if Boeing and Lockheed can find the right managers.

Graff-Pinkert will cater to both teams and sell the businesses of those who tire of the battle. 

Opportunities abound. Go out and find them.

Question: Which machines make the most money for your shop?


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