In today’s challenging business climate, companies are focusing increasingly on efficiency. Getting more production out of manpower and capital equipment such as CNC machinery is becoming critically important to gaining or maintaining a competitive edge.
New machinery can be exponentially more efficient than older machinery, but the efficiency usually comes at a large capital expense. There are options to consider though, and companies may want to explore the possibility of retrofitting or upfitting their older machinery with newer motion control parts. This can strike a great balance between increasing productivity while still keeping expenses as low as possible.
The Problem with Old Machines
A good analogy for an aging piece of production machinery is a bicycle that has been well-used over the years. The frame would still most likely be mechanically sound, but the individual components such as derailleurs, shifters, and brakes would have worn down and lost performance. The same type of thing can happen with industrial machinery.
Other issues include parts that are obsoleted by the manufacturer and become hard to find, or increasingly expensive, and difficulty in finding repair and maintenance personnel qualified to work with older machines.
What is Retrofitting?
Retrofitting is the repair and replacement of parts in a machine with newer parts of similar performance. To go back to the bicycle analogy, this is like replacing a cable-pull disc brake with another of the same type and performance. For production machinery, this might mean replacing all bearings, belts, and other drive components to “as-new” performance.
What is Upgrading?
Upgrading is just that — the upgrading of a component or group of components to improve overall performance. On a bike, this might mean switching from a cable-pull disc brake to a higher performance hydraulic disc brake.
On a production machine, upgrading can take many forms. It may mean upgrading to larger, more powerful stepper motors for increased accuracy and performance, or upgrading the production computers’ operating system and a machine’s motion control unit.
Put simply, upgrading seeks to maintain the existing frame and structure of a machine while strategically selecting components to replace with better performing ones.
Upgrade or Purchase New
When considering either the upgrade of an existing machine or the purchase of a new one, there are numerous things to consider. Most importantly, leadership should be objective about production, efficiency, and plant safety goals in the future. Things to consider during the decision-making process include:
- Is the current machine requiring too many man-hours to operate safely? Newer machines often have advanced safety features.
- Does the current machine offer any sort of predictive maintenance capability? Newer machines can be outfitted with numerous sensors than can continually monitor and help protect it, saving you downtime and money.
- Is the machine critical to the facility’s performance? Is downtime greatly impacting productivity?
- Is demand for your company’s products skyrocketing? Would newer, faster machines contribute to more products being shipped?
Each production facility has unique needs, and there are many options for retrofitting, upgrading, or replacing existing machines. For a deeper understanding, watch our free webinar: Machine Retrofit vs New Build: How Do You Decide?