Best Practices for West Texas Machine Shops: Machine Parts Right, the First Time

Best Practices for West Texas Machine Shops: Machine Parts Right, the First Time

Texas has a long history of crude oil production as far back as 1543, but West Texas and the Permian Basin have steadily yielded large quantities of oil since the early 1920s. One of the biggest discoveries for Texas happened in 1936 just west of Lubbock in Cochran County and was later named Slaughter Field. Since then, an entire industry has sprung up to support the needs of the oil industry, supplying everything from nuts and bolts to precision parts and instruments used in exploration, drilling, extracting, production and refinement.

Our local machine shops here in West Texas help the oil and gas industry run smoothly. Combine the tight schedules companies keep with even tighter turnaround expectations, and machine shops are under the gun to deliver the goods fast and accurately. That’s why machining parts correctly the first time around is so critical to staying on budget and retaining customers.

Consider the cutting tools you use.

Using an inferior or poorly spec’d cutting tool results in increased machining time and cost. It can also dramatically increase material passes and the load you put on your tooling, requiring replacement more often. Cheaper tools not only have a shorter lifespan, but they can damage workpieces causing you to start over. Talk to your cutting tool supplier and schedule an on-site consultation to determine what specific tooling requirements your operation requires for optimum performance.

Consider the machinability of certain material.

The higher the machinability, the faster and less costly the material can be machined. That depends on the physical attributes of the material. Often, the softer the metal the easier it is to machine. For plastics, stiffer material is often better for accuracy and low friction. Minimize redo’s by assessing your material usage regularly and adjusting tooling and machinery to match.

Don’t underestimate the cost of machine downtime.

Even a few short hours of machine downtime can have catastrophic effect on revenue. Invest the time to evaluate your machines’ performance, regularly schedule maintenance and replace when necessary. Many shops try to make do with outdated or underperforming machines, thinking that it’s saving them money. That line of thinking rarely pays off and can be costly. You have limited floor space and that real estate should be home to machines that are generating money. Evaluate your facility and try to optimize your floorplan to get the most bang for your buck.

Hire smart and train machinists regularly.

The more machines you have in your facility, the more machinists you need to run them. Not only is equipment failure a major contributor to revenue loss, so is operator error. That’s why it’s critical to have knowledgeable machinists on staff. Today’s growing labor shortage may make that seem impossible, but there is another way to secure good talent. Look for potential employees that show initiative and a willingness to learn. Then train them on your processes. Not only is it sometimes easier to mold a less experienced worker to your specific processes, but investing in workplace training and development is linked to increased employee longevity and satisfaction.

Whether you’re creating a one-off piece or looking to produce large-scale volume, the accuracy and effectiveness of your machined parts can make or break your operation. The longer it takes to machine a part, the more money it costs you. Not only do you need to look at machining time, material costs, start-up costs, but you also need to consider the special cutting tooling you need. Getting it right the first time saves you time, money and unnecessary machining steps.

Are you a machine shop in West Texas or beyond? Do you have a part that is difficult to make or struggling to turn a profit? M&M Sales & Equipment has technical experts on staff to help you choose the right cutting tools so that you can machine parts right the first time. They understand the technical nature of the work you do because they’ve been there. Stop in or call one of our four Texas locations, and let us help you maximize output and profitability in your shop.

Related Reading: What’s Machine Downtime Really Costing You? (And How to Avoid It)

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