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Productivity In A Multiworld

Nov. 21, 2006
Just how beneficial are multispindle and multimtasking machines?

Just How Beneficial are Multispindle and Multimtasking Machines?

AT IMTS 2006, THE MACHINING industry's march toward a "multiworld" — one of multitasking and multispindle machines — was on full display. What show attendees saw were significant changes in machining processes made possible by such machines. The presumption is that these technologies will increase productivity, competitiveness and profits, and many machine tool manufacturers can provide compelling demonstrations to show how this is so. But the big question is just how productive and profitable are these machines once installed on a shop's floor. The answer to this question lies within the data of the 2006 AMERICAN MACHINIST U.S. Machine Shop Benchmarking Survey.

From the survey data, the assumption can be made that any technique/technology used substantially more frequently by the top 20 percent Benchmark shops of the survey than by other shops from the survey probably contributes significantly to profitability and productivity. The survey shows that Benchmark shops use multispindle and 5-axis machining more than twice as often as the other shops and that they use multitasking almost as much. The following table shows the percent of usage by Benchmark and other shops and also shows the percentage of captive, contract and job shops using each technique/technology.

While Benchmark shops use these techniques/technologies far more often than other shops, the table does not indicate whether or not there is any direct correlation between each machining technique/technology and profitability or productivity. The techniques/technologies must be correlated to profitability and productivity measurements. The following table shows the average (mean) and median net profit margins reported by all shops using each of the techniques/technologies. It is important to remember that average or mean values can be skewed by a few extremely large data points, and so median values are probably more "typical."

From the table, shops, in general, using each of these techniques/technologies are more profitable than shops that do not. For instance, shops doing 5-axis machining are significantly more profitable than shops that do not. However, all shops using multiple spindle and multitasking machines are reporting net profits at or slightly below the average and median profits reported by the Benchmark shops. This may indicate that, while multiple spindle and multitasking machines offer real potential for improving profits, the potential is probably not being fully realized by all of the shops using those machines.

Another measure of profitability from the survey data is shop revenue per man-hour (annual revenue divided by total paid man-hours including paid vacation and overtime). This measurement shows significantly higher dollars for multispindle and 5-axis, but not for multitasking.

A detailed analysis of the productivity of shops that use multispindle, 5-axis or multitasking machines indicates that shops using these techniques/technologies have above average productivity in some areas and only average productivity in others. For example, the impact on customer order lead times is a mixed bag. When looking at the median number of days to process an order, it would appear that shops using those techniques are no more efficient than the average lead time for all shops, but on-time completion rates for those shops is equal to or better than the Benchmark numbers. Scrap and rework as a percentage of sales and finished product first-pass quality yields shows results similar to the on-time completion-rate comparisons while cycle and setup times are more mixed like customer order lead times.

So are multispindle and multitasking machines as profitable and productive on the shop floor as they appear to be in the machine tool manufacturers' demonstrations? The data in the 2006 AMERICAN MACHINIST U.S. Machine Shop Benchmarking Survey confirms that shops using them are consistently more productive and profitable than shops that do not — maybe not absolutely more productive and profitable, but consistently so. While these techniques/ technologies have strong potential for increasing a shop's productivity and profitability, how well they achieve that potential is determined by the total environment in which they are used.

Percentage of shops using selected machining techniques

Machining technique Benchmark shops Other shops Captive shops Contract shops Job shops
Multiple spindle machines 39.2% 16.8% 27.2% 24.5% 15.6%
Five-axis machining 35.3% 14.7% 28.4% 18.4% 11.9%
Multitasking 51.0% 35.1% 43.2% 36.7% 35.8%

Average and median net profit margins of all shops using each technique

Average net profit margin percentage Median net profit margin percentage
All shops 15.8% 12.0%
Benchmark shops 17.1% 15.5%
Other shops 15.3% 10.0%
By machining technique
Multiple spindle machines 17.2% 13.0%
Five-axis machining 21.4% 19.0%
Multitasking 16.6% 12.0%

Revenue per man-hour for each machining technique

Average $/man-hour Median $/man-hour
All shops $72.80 $60.10
Benchmark shops $71.58 $63.55
Other shops $73.43 $60.00
By machining technique
Multiple spindle machines $73.69 $70.35
Five-axis machining $84.85 $70.00
Multitasking $65.09 $57.27

Customer order lead time (order entry to shipment for typical product in days)

Average (days) Median (days)
All shops 25.0 16.5
Benchmark shops 20.2 15.0
Other shops 27.4 20.0
By machining technique
Multiple spindle machines 20.7 16.5
Five-axis machining 25.3 20.0
Multitasking 24.01 16.5

On-time completion rate (percent of goods delivered on time)

Average % Median %
All shops 87.3% 92.0%
Benchmark shops 92.2% 95.0%
Other shops 85.0% 90.0%
By machining technique
Multiple spindle machines 91.9% 98.0%
Five-axis machining 90.4% 95.0%
Multitasking 89.8% 95.0%

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