Do I have To Hire A Computer Geek To Operate My CNC?
This is a tough question because it depends on the operating system and the type of CNC you purchase. In some cases, it is a good idea to hire someone with good computer skills. In other cases computer skills can be learned. The most important prerequisite is that the potentional operator be open to new technology and not be afraid of the machine.
Unless you hire someone with prior experience, it is going to take time to get someone up to speed. I have found that the best operators can be found coming right out of high school or a technical college with a computer background. This is not to say that the average fabricator can't learn, but the right person needs to be chosen.
What to look for when purchasing a CNC
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are many CNC manufacturers out there and the number is growing. There are also many options available. You will need to decide which options you will need. Many times some of these options are useless for what you will be using your CNC for. I have seen dozen of shops who are using their CNCs for sink cutouts only.
When set up properly, this can be a big savings because sink cutouts can be a major bottleneck in the shop. On the other hand, it can also cost you more. How you will use your CNC and what type of work you are doing need to be considered and evaluated before you make a purchase.
In addition to the options, one very important question that needs to be asked when you purchase your CNC is "How quickly can I get my CNC repaired or is someone available to answer my question or solve my problem?" I can't tell you how important this is. Let's say it's Friday afternoon and you have a job on the CNC that has to be done today to be installed on Monday. For whatever reason, the CNC shuts down. You get on the phone and call to find out how to resolve the problem and the office is closed and won't reopen to Monday . . . Now what do you do? I have had this happen to me, and in my opinion service is everything. Ask about service policies. Are they available on weekends? How quickly will they return a call?
Service is one very important requirement, but you also need to know if parts are stocked in the United States for your make and model. Imagine the same scenario above and you find out that you need a new spindle that has to be ordered from overseas and is going to take four to six weeks to get it in. Can you wait that long?
Don't buy a CNC based on a test drive even if it went nice and smooth and it looked very easy. I can remember a friend of mine who bought a new Jaguar many years ago and thought it was the best car on the market. He test drove it, bought it and spent the next three years visiting the dealership every month for repairs. If he would have asked current owners and did a little research, he would have discovered that his particular model required a lot of maintenance and repair work. The best way to get feedback on a make and model of a CNC is to visit someone who has one. Ask the dealer for three to five references and check them out. The dealer is not going to give you any customers that are unhappy with their machines; however, if you ask the right questions in the proper way, you will get the answers you need. Here are 10 questions to ask:
- How long have you had the machine?
- How long did it take to get comfortable operating it?
- How many service calls did you have during the first year of operation? How many do you have now?
- When you have a problem, how long does it take to get a return call or to get a technician on-site?
- Would you buy this same machine again? Why or why not?
- Did you find this machine helped with your productivity or not?
- Was the machine difficult or easy to learn?
- How was the training offered? Was it worth it?
- Did the dealer follow up once you were up and running?
- How many kitchens or lineal feet are you getting per day?
Of course there are dozens of additional questions you could ask. I would also ask if it is possible to visit the shop and see the machine in operation. I have found that many fabricators are open to this and will be glad to help. It doesn't hurt to ask and may be worth a trip or two. You can also go to several of the stone forums online and post your question there. One such forum can be found at www.ntc-stone.com.
Common Concerns And Questions About CNCs And Operations
Over the years I have had many questions and have experienced some concerns with not only CNC technology, but also operational problems as well. The following are some of the most common questions: