Ever heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? For some small- to mid-sized manufacturers, this saying accurately describes their equipment maintenance policy. And it works… until it doesn’t. One of our manufacturing customers, a family-run business that makes retail displays, ran into a pickle applying this very policy. In equipping their Batavia plant, the owner invested in the latest manufacturing machinery and software for the time, cutting laminated MDF (medium density fiberboard) for point-of-sale displays with CNC machines.

CNC machines are controlled by computers. (CNC = Computer Numerical Control.) CNC tools include lathes, mills, routers and grinders.

Our client’s CNC machine cost 7 figures. Annual maintenance with the equipment’s manufacturer was a significant expense. As years passed, the manufacturer let the maintenance lapse. And then, in the dusty factory environment, the Microsoft® Windows 98 desktop that managed the machine failed. (Remember Windows 98?) Our customer called the machine’s manufacturer for updated software as we prepared to acquire for them a (then current) Windows 7 computer–until the manufacturer required $37K to bring the tool’s maintenance up to date. The owner called me.

“Chris, we need another solution,” he said.

They had 2 CNC machines. One line was completely down. Time was of the essence. But we couldn’t just run out and purchase a new computer—none of them ran Windows 98 anymore. Tapping our network of sources, we dug up some ancient computers, loaded them with Windows 98 and got the old PCs working. We built two machines, including a backup—for $600.

Versus the $37,000 maintenance bill plus computer costs.

Does your manufacturing firm need a realistic solution, or short- and long-term tech strategies? Are hardware or software sunsets rapidly looming? Let us help. Click here to schedule a talk with one of our IT experts.

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