In addition to the different options available, there is another important question to ask when considering a CNC: How quickly can I get my CNC repaired or is someone available to answer my question or solve my problem? If it's Friday afternoon and you have a job to be done on the CNC that is getting installed on Monday and the CNC shuts down, what do you do? You get on the phone and call to find out how to resolve the problem. You call and find out the office is closed and won't reopen until Monday. I have had this happen to me, and in my opinion, service is everything. Ask about a company's service policy. Are they available on weekends? How quickly will they return a call?
You will 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 but one has to be ordered from overseas and it's 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. 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 the model required a lot of maintenance and repair work. The best way to get feedback on a make and model of a particular 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. The following are a list of questions I would ask:
- How long have you had the machine?
- How long did it take to get to 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 hard 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 fabricator forums online and post questions.
Some of the trade associations may also be able to help you in gathering additional information.
Concerns And Questions About CNCS And Operations
Over the years I have had many questions and experienced some concerns with not only CNC technology, but also operation problems as well. The following are some of the most common questions I've encountered:
My Best Fabricator Can Cut And Polish A Sink In A Lot Less Time Than A CNC, So Why Should I Buy One?
This is absolutely correct. I know I can cut out a Kohler 2210 and polish it and have it ready in 45 minutes, where as a CNC may take the same or even longer. The advantage to having a CNC do it is that it can do it again and again and again without getting tired and without needing a break. I'm not sure I would want to do 10 cutouts in a row, day in and day out.
I Know Many Fabricators That Have A CNC And They Are Pulling Pieces Off And Putting The Final Polish On By Hand.