CPM Industries' Blog

Pay Now or Pay Later w/ Cutting Tools

Posted by Gavin Mason

Quality vs. Low Cost

IMG_1697As a consumer I have always been very price conscious of the products that I purchase, especially in today's market. Most consumers use the price of a product to influence their purchase, after all who doesn't want to save money when ever they can? But just because I use the price of a product to HELP make my decision doesn't mean that I go out and look for the cheapest possible price. The cheapest price doesn't always result in the least amount of money spent and most expensive price doesn't always translate to the best quality. This concept not only applies to individual consumers, but also applies to industrial consumers such as machine shops and pattern shops

A machine shop is contracted to take the customer's part and machine it to specified tolerances requested by the customer. Sometimes tolerances aren't necessarily important to the finished product. For example, in the past we have produced counterweights for a clock manufacturer that basically had no dimensional tolerances. As long as the weight fit inside the clock it would work, it just had to meet a specific weight to balance the clock's timing mechanism or it wouldn't operate correctly. While at the other end of the spectrum, machine shops can be contracted to machine parts that require a dimensional accuracy down to a thousandth of an inch and if it is not exact the part will be scrapped. These high accuracy parts are common in the aerospace and medical industries and any mistakes can quickly transform your payday into a payout. 

Have you ever heard the saying "it takes money to make money?" This is especially true in the machining world with the addition of "it takes quality tools to produce quality parts." Just as any other market, there are cost effective cutting tools and there are quality cutting tools. The quality cutting tools are produced using better raw materials, better manufacturing methods, and better coating options for the best possible performance; but the consumer is going to have to pay a pretty penny for them. On the other hand, the cost effective tools are produced to be, well, cost effective while still being able to perform the task at hand. These tools may be able to get the job done, but come with several trade offs; the tool may not be as accurate, might not be able to cut as fast or withstand heavier chip loads, the tool might break, produce excess heat, or just wear down much quicker. 

Speaking from personal experiences, the consumer looking to save a quick buck by purchasing the cheaper item may end up paying more in the long run. While the cheaper product might save you a couple bucks up-front, often times it will come back to bite them in the butt, especially with cutting tools. Going back to the previous paragraph; if you purchase the cheaper cutting tool and the tool breaks, not only did you just lose that tool, but you will also incur costs from the down time required to change out the tool. Not to mention when a tool breaks it is usually catastrophic for the part being machined, further increasing costs. If the tool produces excess heat, the heat can warp the tool and/or the part being machined. If the tool is warped it will not cut accurately and ruin your part, or of the part is warped then it too must be scrapped. The downtime accrued from a broken tool is what really costs machine shops. Not only are you paying your employees for zero productivity, it is pushing back the line of scheduled projects. So your decision to save a couple dollars up front quickly turned into a very expensive ordeal because of your decision.

Sometimes it is in your better interests to spend a little more money up front for a quality product than to deal with the problems that can stem from the cost effective one. High quality cutting tools are not only more accurate, but they can withstand heavier chip loads which means more material being removed at a faster rate and have a longer life due to coatings. The combination of the two, in my book anyway, is enough to justify the higher upfront cost of the cutting tool. The choice is yours, spend more initially for a longer lasting, better performing cutting tool or save a couple bucks and pray nothing happens. 

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