Category Archives: Machine Shop Management

Topics in this category are geared toward the running the machine shop from a managers perspective.

CNC Lathe Headstock – Alignment Checks and Adjustments

We’ve all been there … Crashville. It’s not a place you want to visit frequently … but inevitably, we all make a visit. When I first started in CNC, one of my mentors told me “If you don’t bump it once in a while … you’re not experimenting … not trying new approaches … and not using it to it’s full potential.” Well … I’m not sure about that but there is a little truth in the concept.

Once you visit Crashville, you may notice some cutting errors and quirks developing in your workpieces. In this post we will be dealing with some of those unintended consequences of your visit to Crashville.

The first … tapers developing on your CNC lathe when turning or boring … the result of your headstock being bumped and not being square to the X axis ways. The result is that as the turret rides on the machine axis ways … and the headstock and ways are not “square” … you will be machining a taper. The amount of taper is the result of the amount of the mis-match between the headstock and the ways. It’s important to remember that the ways ( base ) of the machine and the headstock are not one-piece ( normally ) … the headstock is bolted onto the base. The illustrations below will give you a better idea.


So in our first post in our series … we would like to point you in the right direction and give some tips on re-aligning your headstock.

As the above pic and notes convey, the headstock is normally bolted onto the machine base … making the X / Z ways and the headstock independent of each other. Normally … there are alignment screws on the headstock assembly that allow you to move the headstock and thus align it “square” to the machine ways. When you visit Crashville … oftentimes one of those un-intended consequences is that that alignment is off because the headstock may have moved. So how do you get the correct alignment back?

There are a couple of methods … let’s start with my favorite … the one I consider the simplest and the one I used most in the field.


First … you’ll need a piece of stock. Qualifications? You need a good material, easy to machine yet with the ability to produce a good finish. I didn’t like using aluminum … I preferred some grade of steel like cold rolled or similar. We want to insure that everything we do is reflected in the material … not the workholding. So it’s best to use hard jaws on the chuck … and you want to make certain that the chucked material is not flexing … so the material diameter to overhang factor should be appropriate to insure that the material isn’t flexing when you’re cutting. You also want to have a good length sticking out of the chuck … after all the longer the area to measure the better your readings and the better your adjustments. Yes … there are a lot of factors to consider here … but you’re a machinist !!! You know what to do and what is appropriate.

It’s important to note here also what may be obvious … don’t use the tailstock. We don’t want any mis-alignment in the tailstock to reflect in our measurements.

Next … chuck up the material and clean up the stock by cutting the material the entire length. Take whatever cuts you need to clean up the stock … just make sure the last cut is a nice finish cut and leaves a nice finish. Usually using MDI or the job / feed manual options are the best method. Creating a program is a little overkill and using the handwheel may result in an uneven cut and finish.

Now measure the diameter at the furthest and closest points to the chuck along the turned diameter. Not the same? That’s the reflection of your headstock mis-alignment.


To adjust … you’ll need to find those adjusting screws on the headstock … the above illustration might shed some light on where they might be and how they work. You will need to slightly crack the bolts holding down the headstock body to it’s base … then use the adjusting screws to move it in the direction you feel you need to move it to re-align it. Tighten everything back up … and take another skim cut on the material. Repeat and re-adjust as necessary until the results are to your satisfaction. What should that be? As close as you can get it. If the material length in the chuck is short … it really needs to be spot on because obviously the error will get magnified on a longer piece of material. As with everything you do as a professional machinist … do it to the best of your ability.

One valuable hint : Place an indicator somewhere on the headstock to measure the amount you move the headstock with the adjusting screws. This will help you understand the relationship between the amount of movement with the amount of taper correction.

Another method which some people prefer … instead of using a piece of stock and turning the diameter … they will use a test bar. A test bar is a piece of stock that has already been machined and usually ground … it’s perfectly straight and true. They mount it in the chuck … indicate it in … and then use an indicator mounted to the turret which they then run back and forth along the test bar in Z as they adjust the screws on the headstock. This method works fine also … but you need a qualified test bar to start … and there are more variables that come into play. Is the bar indicated in and running true? Is your indicator on the turret reflecting the actual center of the test bar … etc.. For my liking … too many other variables … and a piece of stock is simpler, more readily available and cheaper.

So as you can see … this repair is not that hard … a little time consuming … but the result will leave you with a more accurate machine tool and a lot more money in your pocket … the amount you’ll save in a repair bill.

Hope this helps you recover from your inevitable visit to Crashville … and insures you are good chips … for years to come !!

Thanks in advance to everyone … and Happy Chip Making !!

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CNC Turret Alignment – Tips and Tricks


In this post we are continuing our series dealing with the aftermath of that inevitable visit to Crashville that we all make in our production lives. Our last post dealt with the spindle alignment … this post we’re going to take a look at turret alignment. Oftentimes these repairs cannot be accomplished without professional assistance ( and their tools ) … but there are some repair options available to the layman.

PS … Are you having turret indexing issues NOT due to a crash … check out this post link on weight distribution for your CNC lathe turret :

First … lets take a look at the types of misalignment that can exist.

Turret Body Misalignment :

How to Diagnose :
(1) Mount an indicator to the chuck face or spindle nose face … with the indicator point against the face of the turret as shown in the illustration below.
(2) Move the X axis up and down and check the amount of deviation along the face of the turret where the indicator is touching.


Repair :
This type of misalignment is very similar to the headstock misalignment we discussed in the last post. As the headstock is usually bolted onto the base … so the turret assembly may be bolted onto the X axis slide. As the illustration below shows … turret misalignment that is detected during the diagnosis … can be fixed by loosening the hold down bolts as shown and shifting the turret around till the alignment is repaired … very similar to the headstock alignment procedure.

Some turret bodies may also be pinned to the base using taper dowel pins. These pins would need to be removed … hold down bolts loosened and the turret aligned … and then the taper pin holes in both the base and turret body should be reamed in line until “clean” … and then the taper pins replaced. Not replacing and realigning the taper pins will result with the turret body being simply bolted to the base … and will shift with even the slightest nudge … not a stable situation and not recommended. No matter how tight you tighten the hold down bolts … if the turret is equipped with taper alignment pins … those should be repaired and restored.

Rotary Turret Misalignment :

How to Diagnose :
(1) Mount an ID tool holder on the turret
(2) Mount an indicator to the chuck face or spindle nose face … move the X axis so that indicator is sweeping the ID of the ID tool holder.
(3) Adjust the X axis so that the two points parallel with X axis slide movement read 0 … in other words, bring the ID tool holder to the centerline of the spindle.
(4) The remaining two points and their indicator reading will illustrate the amount of rotary misalignment in the turret.


In the illustration above … looking through the spindle and onto the ID tool holder. Points #1 and #2 can be aligned to zero by adjusting the X axis … as they are parallel to the X axis “slant” or movement. Points #3 and #4 will reflect the amount of rotary misalignment … they cannot be adjusted but require a physical repair.

 There are a variety of ways the turret mechanism may work … and therefore the type of physical repair required to realign Points #3 and #4 can vary significantly. The most common method involves a curvic coupling mechanism. One half  of the coupling is mounted on the turret mounting body … and a meshing coupling is mounted on the back of the turret face. When the turret indexes … the turret face unclamps from the matching coupling by moving forward … the turret indexes to the desired location … and the turret clamps as the coupling faces mesh together … and confirm the rotary turret alignment. When you visit Crashville … usually when the turret is in the clamped position … the turret rotates pulling the both halves of the curvic coupling mechanism with it. So now that even though the turret is clamped … the curvic coupling has been rotated and the rotary alignment is now off. So even though the turret mechanism appears to work correctly … unclamps – indexes – clamps … both halves of the curvic coupling have been rotated as a pair … and the alignment is off.
This image illustrates the curvic coupling mounted on the turret mounting body.

Oftentimes the coupling on the turret face can be accessed on the front face of the turret … but most often the turret face will need to be removed to access the matching side of the curvic coupling.

Repair of the curvic coupling is best left to a professional … as most times the turret must be removed from the body to access both side of the curvic coupling. The repair usually entails :

  1. Removing the turret face from the turret body
  2. Removing the taper pins on both sides of the curvic coupling … face and body
  3. Slightly loosening the hold down bolts for the coupling halves
  4. Remounting the turret face and physically moving the turret … until the correct ID tool holder alignment can be achieved.
  5. Removing the turret face again
  6. Reaming all taper pin holes in line to clean
  7. Replacing the taper pins
  8. Tightening up all coupling hold on down bolts
  9. Reassembly and recheck.

As you can see … best left to a professional with the correct tool-set.


Tricks of the Trade …
Rotary Turret Mis-Alignment Work Arounds

But fear not … there are some work arounds … not very professional, but work arounds … to get around the turret rotary misalignment issue.

 What effect does rotary axis misalignment have on my machining?

Rotary turret misalignment will show up in many different machining scenarios :

  1. Facing … you will leave that nub at the spindle centerline as the turning tool tip is either above or below centerline.
  2. Grooving – Cut-Off … since the edge of the grooving tool is either above or below centerline … grooving and cut-off operations do not machine easily with lots of tool rubbing and poor cutting. Cut-Offs will also leave the infamous nub at centerline.
  3. Drilling … since the drill tip is not on centerline, holes are oversize and in the case of a carbide insert type drill … machining is just not good at all with lots of rubbing and poor cutting.

Work Arounds For a Temporary Fix?

There a couple of options we have discovered through experience over the years that can get you by in a pinch … until the repairman shows up. Not guaranteed … but past experience shows that they can work … but the problem should be corrected properly as soon as possible.

  1. Turning – Grooving – Cut-Off Tools : Take an OD tool holder and machine the slot where the tool mounts to open up the tolerance. This will give you room to shim the tool in the holder to bring the tip of the tool onto center. We oftentimes made a holder that was oversize in both directions and kept it hanging around. When it was needed … we could pull it out and it gave us the ability to shim the tool in both directions … depending on which way was needed at that particular time.
  2. Drilling – Boring : This fix requires a little bit of work but is a good accurate fix. We would machine new bushings for the ID tool holders … first roughing them out on another machine either manually or with a CNC machine. To finish the hole in the bushing … we would mount an adjustable boring bar in the chuck of the misaligned machine … mount the rough bushing in the ID tool holder in the turret … and finish machine the bushing ID by feeding the bushing / tool holder over the boring bar mounted in the chuck. This will insure that the hole in the bushing in line with the centerline of the spindle. A little bit of work … but quite easy for a professional machinist.

So there you have it … your “crash” course in CNC turret alignment and repair. Of course … we always recommend that you employ a professional to repair the effects of your visit to Crashville professionally and correctly. But living in the real world we know that sometimes you just can’t wait. We hope that the points and tips mentioned here can assist you in keeping your CNC lathe Making Chips … and profits !!

Thanks in advance to everyone … and Happy Chip Making !!

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CNC Machine Maintenance – For The Not So Ordinary

cnc machine maintenance

Personnel who perform routine maintenance on their CNC equipment usually perform the same common checks and perform the same common tasks … those that I refer to as the “no-brainers”. Filling the way lube tank … greasing the hydraulic chuck … checking the spindle oil level … the common checks and tasks. Unfortunately they are usually the ones where the machine will generate an alarm to remind you … like when the way lube tank runs out.

In this post we wanted to spend a post and remind you of the not-so-common checks and tasks that also need to be performed … “stuff” you might either not be aware of or “stuff” you never really even think about. So we encourage all to jot these down on your CNC maintenance TO-DO LIST. What !!! What do you mean you don’t have a TO-DO LIST !!

One really good thing to do in regards to CNC maintenance and insuring your CNC machine is accurate and running at it’s top condition is to at least post a note on the machine that lists checks and tasks to be performed and at what interval they should be performed. Every day … once a week … once a month … etc, etc. The best method is to supply a log book at the machine that makes your personnel responsible for these tasks by requiring them to sign-in and confirm which tasks were completed and when. This will insure that the tasks are completed … handing responsibility off to either the operator or the programmer.


Here is our list of the not-so-common tasks and checks that should also be included in your routine maintenance :

  • Check the hydraulic pressure to make sure it is at the manufacturers recommended setting.
  • Check the hydraulic oil to make sure it is filled to the manufacturers recommended level.
  • If your spindle to machine tool has a cooling system … check the cooling oil to make sure it is filled to the manufacturers recommended level.
  • Clean the chips out of the chip pan on a daily basis … not just when it’s overfilled. Oftentimes an overflowing chip bin will push the chips into areas such as the ball screw cavity and cause those chips to be forced into the ball screw covers. So while you think there is still room left in the chip bin … actually the chips are being forced into areas you do not want them to go.
  • If your machine has a chip conveyor … grease the chain at least once a month.
  • Clean the glass on the window of the door and the light inside the machine every morning. Waiting till you can’t see only makes the job that much tougher … and causes excessive downtime because the job takes twice as long.
  • Wipe down the stainless steel way covers at the end of the shift … and lubricate them with hydraulic oil. In the long run … this is a huge maintenance cost avoided.
  • Check the electrical cabinet fans and filters … these should be cleaned at least once a month.

These are a few of the checks and tasks that should be performed frequently. They’re not always the “glory” items but are essential none the less.

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Way Lube System – Friend or Foe?

Your CNC machine is equipped with an automatic oiler system. Great ! You won’t have to think about oiling the machine and an alarm will tell you when the tank is dry. What a great device ? Right ?

Well, that is the design. Unfortunately, along with the “automatic” description of the system comes the “out of sight, out of mind” aspect of the system. Because many people know it is an automatic system, many people put it out of their minds and simply wait for the alarm to come up showing that the tank is empty and needs to be filled. But what if that alarm never comes on because the tank isn’t empty ? Why wouldn’t the tank be empty ?

As your machine gets older, the way lube system will require service just like any other mechanism. The main problem, which often gets overlooked, is that the “tank empty” alarm never comes on because the tank never drains and nobody ever notices it. Now your machine runs for months on end with no lubrication on the ways and when you finally notice a problem, it’s too late. Here is the “Rest of the Story …”

PROBLEM :  The machine’s ways are not receiving any way lube oil.


  • Positioning / Repeatability Problems
  • Axis makes noise when moving
  • Axis Drive motor overload alarm coming when the axis is moving


  • Way Lube Pump burned out.
  • Way Lube Pump distribution flow set too low.
  • Way Lube Pump filter CLOGGED
  • Way Lube line BROKEN
  • Metering Units are CLOGGED


(1) Way Lube Pump Burned Out : If the way lube pump is burned out, obviously there will not be any lube getting into the system. These pumps are usually set using a timer system. There is basically two types of timer systems used :

  • The pump is on a cam and the way it works is that the pump is always running. One gear turns another which acts like a step-down system and the second gear raises a “primer” lever. When the lever reaches the top of the stroke, the “primer” lever is released and the oil is pushed into the lines. This whole cycle can take 5-20 minutes meaning that even though the pump is always running, the lines get lube only every 5-20 minutes.
  • How to Check It : Take a flashlight and look in the tank or remove the oil tank. Once looking inside, you can see the main gear that should be constantly moving. It may be at a very slow pace, but you will see it moving.
  • The pump is set to an electrical timer set in the controls PC (programmable controller) or an actual physical electrical timer in the cabinet. This type of timer only supplies power to start the pump for every cycle.
  • How to Check It : On some pumps there is no primer lever but a light comes on on the tank when the pump is activated. Make sure this light comes on every 5-20 minutes or some other sign comes on to show the pump is activated every 5-20 minutes.

(2) Way Lube Pump distribution flow set too low : As stated above, the way lube pump usually is set using a timer system. The flow amount that gets distributed into the lines during every cycle is usually set and adjusted at the pump with a manual setting mechanism. This type of adjusting mechanism is usually a knob that can be turned higher or lower to set more or less flow. Also, just look at the primer lever. During the mentioned 5-20 minute cycle, you should see the primer lever raise slowly and then start to drop after reaching the top of the cycle. Check the stroke of the lever – short stroke, less flow.

  • How to Check It : The normal pump usage is in an 8 hour shift, you should fill the tank every 2-3 days. Also, you should see way lube flowing onto the ways. Always remember, the more flow the better. Yes, it may contaminate the coolant but that is better than ruining the ways and thus the machine just to save a couple of bucks.

 The photo above shows a way lube pump unit which includes a manual flow control device. Adjusting the white knob adjusts the amount of lube being distributed per one cycle of the lube pump. When this type of pump is working correctly, you can see the white knob rising slowly then retracting, pushing the lube into the lines. The amount of rise and fall, and therefore the amount of lube distributed, is determined by the flow adjustment.

(3) Way Lube Pump filter CLOGGED : The way lube tank usually has a filter between the tank itself and the oil line that starts the distribution. This filter is usually in the tank itself at the bottom of the primer lever or in-line right after the main distribution line leaves the tank. It will get clogged over time, especially if there is no filter at the oil fill hole or if someone takes off the filter when filling the tank.

  • How to Check It : Disconnect the main lube line where it exits the tank to feed the system or after the in-line filter if so equipped. When the cycle reaches the pump stage as outlined above, oil should flow through this connection. The flow should be strong at this point. If not, remove the oil tank and search out the filter or remove the in-line filter. They can often be cleaned with a cleaner but the best remedy is to replace it.

(4) Way Lube line BROKEN : Oftentimes a lube line in the system gets crimped or broken during machining or during service. These way lube systems are usually “pressurized” so to speak and if the pressure is released at one point, say at the broken line, the oil will flow all to that point, depriving all the other lines of fluid.

  • How to Check It : When the pump is in the pumping stage, the primer lever should fall slowly. This is due to the fact that it is pushing the oil into the system. If a line is broken, the primer lever will fall quickly as all oil is funneled to the broken line area only. On systems without a primer lever, the pump may have a pressure gauge on the pump. During the pumping cycle, the pressure should register for a couple of seconds as the oil is pumped into the lines. If the pressure is low or does not come up at all during the pumping cycle, a line in the system may be broken.

(5) Metering Units are CLOGGED : In order to create the “pressure” of the system needed for even distribution, each oil line leads to a “metering unit” where the flow is lowered and the oil is discharged. When the pump forces oil into the lines, they all fill and flow to the metering units where the flow is stopped. Each metering unit is set to discharge the desired amount or “drops” of oil and perform their individual duties. Since some areas require more lube, the metering units can be different for each line or area. Since these metering units have actual valve type components in their very small bodies, over time these units can be become clogged or the inner workings can become stuck.

  • How to Check It : This is a much harder area to check. The best remedy and prevention is to change these units every year as part of a yearly maintenance program. Because these units allow only drops to flow through, they are harder to see when troubleshooting. These metering units are usually located in “clumps” around the machine. Several lines lead to these central areas and lube lines are branched out from here to the various areas of the machine. Replacement metering valves should be obtained from the machine tool builder or dealer to insure that you are getting the correct replacement part. When changing these units, pay close attention to the flow arrow that is commonly marked on the units themselves. This arrow shows the direction of installation and flow. Check the original unit before removal and replace accordingly.

 The photo above shows an example of some metering units. These individual fittings are usually located in one or two main terminal blocks that feed certain areas of the machine such as the axis and ball screws. As the system fills with pressure and lube, these fittings discharge the lube at their pre-set flow rate into their lube lines. Over time, like cholesterol in the arteries, these units become clogged and no longer allow lube to exit and thus deny vital areas of the machine the way lube they require. As part of a yearly maintenance program, metering units in the machine should be replaced as a precautionary measure.

Due diligence and a little tracking will insure your Happy ( and ACCURATE ) Chip Making for years to come !!


 Check out our Real World World machine shop software at

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Quoting & Estimating
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…. and MORE !!!

CNC Machine Warm-Up — How? Why? When?

As former field service engineers … one of the items we always stressed to our CNC customers was the importance of performing a machine warm-up routine. Below are answers to some of their most frequently asked questions … which pretty much tell the whole tale about this activity.


A machine warm-up routine benefits both the machine and the machining in a number of areas :

  • Running the spindle and moving the axis give the oils in the machine … spindle oil and way lube … an opportunity to distribute and do their jobs. Especially in a colder environment … start of the day when perhaps the heat in the shop was reduced for the night … running the spindle and moving the axis gives the oils a chance to warm up to their appropriate temperature and “work” the way they were intended. The end result is improved machine life, operation and reduced down time due to break downs.
  • It stands to reason also that when the oils are working as they were intended … the accuracy of the machine can more easily be maintained. It is an unreal expectation to assume that you can walk in in the morning and start the machining and hold a tolerance of .0005″ … perhaps when the machine is brand new … but not in the “real world”. Starting your day like this will most likely result in offset adjustments being made due to the machine’s “cold” condition … and will begin the process of “chasing” size for quite a while. I heard countless times from customers how they spend 1-2 hours in the morning “chasing” size. Hello? Did you warm up the machine?


A lot of people assume that performing a machine warm-up routine is only appropriate after an extended “vacation” period … either by the personnel or by lack of work flowing to the machine. While a longer warm-up period is recommended after an extended break … an everyday warm-up routine is still recommended for the reasons listed above. Here are a couple of options for when to perform a machine warm-up routine :

  • Start of the Day … whether that’s at the shop opening or the start of the 1st shift.
  • After the machine has been idle for a time period of over 4 hours.
  • After an extended vacation period.
  • If the shop temperature is cold during the winter months … a short warm-up should be performed even after lunch  / dinner breaks.
  • If the machining requires holding a tight tolerance … a warm-up routine should be left executing during ANY breaks in the machining … inspection time, bathroom break, at machine deburring process, etc..



Matching the situations above requires an assortment of warm-up routines. No matter what the length of time … the warm-up routine should always include the following :

  • Spindle running
  • Axis moving along the full stroke of each axis.

The beauty part is that the various warm-up programs can be left in the CNC control and called up anytime as needed. Or in the case of just keeping the spindle warm … it may be a case of just manually starting the spindle and leaving it running while you walk away and attend to something else.

Spindle Warm-Up

After an extended break the spindle should be run through all the speed ranges with substantial dwell times in between speed changes. Start slow and work your way up with at least 15-30 minutes between increases. An example of a Fanuc style program might be :

  • G97 S100 M03
  • G04 X1200.0 ( dwell for 1200 seconds or 20 minutes )
  • S300
  • G04 X1200.0 ( dwell for 1200 seconds or 20 minutes )
  • S500
  • G04 X1200.0 ( dwell for 1200 seconds or 20 minutes )
  • etc. etc. etc. until a speed of at least 3500 RPM is obtained.

You can create a program like the above to be run after extended breaks … and a program with less dwell time to be run after shorter breaks.

As mentioned above … to maintain the spindle temperature during the course of the workday … manually starting the spindle at say 2500 RPM and leaving it running while you leave the machine can also be quite beneficial in maintaining machining accuracy.

Axis Warm-Up

After an extended break  ALL the machine axis should be made traverse the complete length of each axis … or if fixturing / workpieces are in the way the maximum length of the stroke that is possible … using various speeds. You don’t want to start the movement under full rapid traverse speeds … but rather work your way up during the warm-up cycle. The easiest way to accomplish this is to utilize the RAPID OVERRIDE feature on the machine. The G code warm-up program will call for G00 / rapid … but start the program with the RAPID OVERRIDE switch at it’s lowest percentage …. then work it up manually as the routine runs. A sample Fanuc style axis warm-up program might look like this :

  • G00G91G28Z0
  • G00G91G28X0Y0
  • G00G91Z- ***** …. incrementally move the Z axis as close to the table as possible.
  • G00G91G28Z0
  • G00G91X ***** …. incrementally move the X axis to the opposite end of it’s stroke
  • G00G91Y ***** …. incrementally move the Y axis to the opposite end of it’s stroke
  • G00G91G28X0 …… move the X axis back to the zero return / home position
  • G00G91G28Y0 …… move the Y axis back to the zero return / home position
  • G00G91X ***** Y ***** …. incrementally move both axis at the same time to their stroke end
  • G00G91G28X0Y0 …. move X and Y back to their zero return / home position.

The above routine gives you an idea … and feel free to make additions as you see fit. The main idea is to move ALL the axis along as much of their stroke as possible. Not just a “square” pattern … try to make “fancy” moves that can move all the axis through as much of the strokes as possible.

 If you don’t like or don’t have a RAPID OVERRIDE option … you can simple make a longer program using FAST feedrates … such as :
  • G00G91X ***** F100.00
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • G00G91 X**** F200.00

You can get the idea … repeat the program and alter the feedrates as the program progresses. Again … the good part is that once it is written, you can maintain the program in the machines memory and recall it as needed. No need to re-create it each time.

 Spending some time creating these warm-up routine programs … and instituting a policy of when and how they are to be run … can go a long way to improving your machine’s life … as well as your machining efficiency and accuracy.

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Happy Chip Making … and may you Make Chips and Prosper !!

A Major Hidden Cost When Estimating

We developed our KipwareQTE® quoting and estimating software from our real world experiences on the shop floor and running a variety of different machine shops. Over the years, one main category when quoting that is often misunderstood, under quoted and even completely ignored is perishable tooling.

Do you include perishable tooling in your costing and quoting?

If your quoting a part that needs 100 holes drilled … do you include the cost of the drills and center drills?

Our experience from talking with potential clients shows that 80% of estimators DO NOT include perishable tooling in their costs and estimates. A major mistake … that is directly effecting their bottom line … negatively !!

KipwareQTE makes it easy to include perishable tooling into your estimating process. How?
Two ways.

ONE – users can create a database of perishable tools and their associated costs. Then adding tools costs to the quote and estimate is simply a matter of pulling down a drop-down list and selecting the tools that will be used in manufacturing.

TWO – Using an estimated tool life … KipwareQTE® will perform all the calculations to include the complete cost for each of the tools and also calculate the number of each tools required for inclusion in the Bill of Material creation. That way the shop will be prepared when the job hits the floor.

Beyond the feature.

We like to think that thoughtful and important features like this illustrate what sets Kipware® and Kentech Inc. apart from our competition. A simple design, a meaningful feature … that can make the difference between making and losing money … and isn’t that what it’s all about.

We invite you to explore our Kipware® Business Software titles … and discover the difference that REAL WORLD MACHINE SHOP SOFTWARE can make.

Kenney Skonieczny – President
Kentech Inc.

Accurate Machining Cycletime Estimating – THE KEY

No matter what system you utilize to create your cost estimates and quotes … everything starts with an accurate machining cycletime estimate. The phrase … “Oh, that should take about two and a half minutes to machine.” … is doing more harm to your bottom line than you are probably even aware. This type of guesstimating … especially when it comes to machining cycletime … is throwing the whole cost estimating process that comes down the line into question.

If the machining cycletime estimate is not correct … you could be winning work … but unprofitable work. And that’s just what your shop doesn’t need … wasting time manufacturing parts that are losing you money. Taking machine time and employee energy away profitable work.

So what is the KEY to accurate cycletime estimating?

Having lived and “grown up” on the shop floor … we realize that the MAIN KEY to accurate cycletime estimating is to utilize the cutting conditions and parameters that can actually be reproduced on your shop floor … with your equipment.

It doesn’t do any good to estimate using an RPM or SFM and feedrate that your shop floor can never duplicate … or utilize a method of machining that your shop floor would never follow or duplicate.

Sure cycletime estimating software that has feature recognition and auto-determines the method of machining will get you a time quickly and get that estimate done quickly … but what good is it if your shop floor would never machine the part using the method the software determined?

Cycletime estimating software that boasts thousands of materials and speeds and feeds is expensive and seems powerful and complete … but if your shop floor can’t duplicate that “book knowledge” speeds and feeds … what good is it?


So Kentech’s KipwareCYC® software is different? How?

It certainly is … and I’m glad you asked.

First : 

KipwareCYC® is a database driven application … utilizing a user-defined database for machine specifications ( max RPM, rapid rates, tool change time, etc. ) and user-defined cutting parameters ( speeds, feeds for various materials and machining operations ). This insures that the calculated times accurately reflect what happens on your shop floor … the key to accurate cycleltime estimating. You create the database and input YOUR specifications and cutting parameters.

Second : 

Using the various outputs and travelers available from KipwareCYC® … the more you use the software, the more accurate it becomes. For example : the Routing Sheet that is automatically created from KipwareCYC® provides the operator / set-up personnel with a complete list of cutting parameters and times for each operation as the part moves through the shop. This means he has a targeted RPM, feedrate and time for each operation. If any of those factors cannot be achieved … a report back to the estimate creator will result in an adjustment to the database information … perhaps a revision to the SFM or feedrate or chip load used for a specific machining operation. Next time … the RPM and feedrate will be more accurate. So the more you use the software … the more accurate it becomes.

Ugh … Entering ALL that database information !!!

Actually … a couple of points that may have crossed your mind. First … we do ship KipwareCYC® with installed database information for common machines, materials and cutting parameters. But again … this is just to get you started … you really need to make the database information your own. Here is what we recommend.

Let’s say today you receive an RFQ for a 316 stainless part that requires some turning. You gather the machine specs for the lathe you’re going to use and grab the normal cutting parameters the shop uses for 316 stainless. One additional point here … most shops use a common insert that works well for them for specific machining operations … there really isn’t a need for a dramatic, all encompassing speeds and feeds database with info you’ll probably never use … let’s keep it simple and keep it real. So you enter that data and now … 316 stainless is done !! Next time you get an RFQ the info is all there and ready to go. With this system … you are building the database as you are preparing quotes and winning work !!! It’s a win -win … with long term benefits.

So … the moral of the story is?

No matter how you are arriving at your machining cycletime estimate … the one certainty is to insure that it is utilizing the cutting conditions and parameters that can actually be reproduced on your shop floor … with your equipment.

 If you are looking for a software application what will insure that key … we invite you to check out our KipwareCYC – Machining CycleTime Estimating software HERE.

Kenney Skonieczny – President

Kentech Inc.

3 Ways To STOP Your Machine Shop From Losing Money

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In today’s age … every machine shop is looking for an ADVANTAGE. Most, however, are looking for the “home run” … and overlook the advantages / solutions they trip over every day. It’s not always that big hitter but a lot of little things that can contribute to your shop losing money and profits.

We know that the task of turning around a non-profitable shop is daunting … so we decided to help by focusing on some of the small fixes … that can mean big profit reversals. Hope they help and get you thinking … and turning your shop around.

#1 – Break the “CYCLE”


The Problem :

For many shops, every day is business as usual. The same cycle … day after day. Doing the same things … producing parts the same ways … working with the same clients. Unfortunately, it’s the cycle of losing money .. and most don’t know how to get out of it … or are scared to make a change.

Also unfortunately … doing things this same old way won’t turn things around.  Most shop owners simply think that by just getting more business … they can turn profits around and solve any and all financial problems. The truth is … the more business you bring in … the more the existing problems will be exacerbated.  Probably … the more money and profits will be lost … the hole will just get deeper.

The Solution :

The first step is to step back … take a breath … and realize “Houston, we have a problem.” The first act of fixing a problem is realizing that there IS a problem … and being 100% committed to working to fix the problem. But how do you identify the problem?

You need to look deeply at every aspect of your business. All the things as a business owner you do every day need to be assessed completely. Most times … you already know the things that frustrate you and that you know “aren’t right”. Each week … take one … focus on it … and it alone. Try to come up with some ideas either yourself or in group discussions to move it along … and implement at least two.

Will they work? Will they be the right solutions? Maybe YES … maybe NO. But as I mentioned above … you need to break the CYCLE. Sometimes just changing things up highlights another road or opens another door.

Realizing that there is a problem … and being 100% committed to trying to resolve it … is an monumental first step.


#2 – Chasing Your Tail


The Problem :

RFQ’s are coming in the door left and right … and your sending out bids and quotes to match. At this clip business must be good. Right?

There is a huge difference between winning WORK … and winning PROFITABLE WORK. If your shop is losing money … the first place to start looking is in your bidding process. OBVIOUSLY ( doesn’t really need to be stated does it? ) … quote to high you won’t win the job … quote to low you won’t make any profit.

The Solution :

WARNING … SALES PITCH AHEAD. You knew it was coming … but it’s true. Spreadsheets and an outdated quoting and estimating process is almost all the time a big culprit. NUF SAID about this. OBVIOUSLY … we recommend a trip over to HERE and explore some options we have to offer. Created from our almost 30 years in a variety of manufacturing environments … including running shops from small to high volume manufacturers.

TURN LEADS AWAY. That’s right. One effective way to “fix” your quoting and estimating process is to turn leads away. Not every job or RFQ you receive is the right job for your shop. As mentioned above … sometimes getting more work will simply lead to losing more money.

PRE-QUALIFY. Invest some time upfront in qualifying those RFQ’s. Ask about their budget … ask when they plan on making a decision … find out who the decision maker is and make sure you’re in contact with the right person. A little bit of pre-qualification will save you a lot of time and frustration with leads who will never result in business.

TRUST YOUR PROCESS. You need to have a cycletime and cost estimating process in place that you can trust. Take some time to compare jobs you won … against the costs of actually manufacturing and delivering the job. Time consuming I know … but definitely time well spent. Once you know that your bids are turning a profit … that’s a process you can trust.  When you work up the numbers … that’s it. That’s the cost … period. No undercuts. No additional discounts. If you lose the job … good .. you wouldn’t have made any money anyway.  Don’t spend valuable time running after profit-losing business … invest your time in winning profitable work. It makes no sense in bringing in work just to bring in work. The mantra needs to be ONLY PROFITABLE WORK. Maybe … just maybe … this will open other doors and shed light on other problems … some you want to see and some you don’t. But reality is what it is.

#3 – Manage Your Cash Flow


The Problem :

Bad cash flow will sink any size business. The work might be flying out … but if the money isn’t coming as fast or faster, you can’t fund the process. It’s that simple … and it’s that important. It’s a job nobody likes … but has to be done. PERIOD.

The Solution :

Think of innovative ways to get paid faster. Discounts for early / quick payment … but build these into your quotes and estimates … we don’t want to effect the bottom line.

CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS. This is the first and best alternative. Be proactive on this … and clients who choose this method are your #1 clients. Let the bank or CC company worry about dept collection … not your cash flow. Sure the “big companies” will have an issue … but there are plenty of smaller players that can fill the gap.

ONLINE STORE. OK I shouldn’t even have to mention this … but I will. Your shop MUST HAVE a web presence. NUF SAID. If you don’t … get one … period. And if you manufacture any kind of product that can be sold online … a web presence with an online store that accepts credit cards is ESSENTIAL !! I can’t emphasize this enough. IT’S HUGE. No cash flow issues here … no collection issues here … no chasing orders here … the web site does all the work … 24/7. Even getting real innovative … accept RFQ’s through the site and have clients accept and pay through the site. There are really too many points and roads to point down here … but your business mind should be scrambled by now with all the innovative and new ways to grow your business and better manage at least a portion of your cash flow.


OK … it’s a start. Just some initial ideas we have experience with … and some solutions we found effective over the years. But hey … you’re a business owner. You’re an entrepreneur. You just need a shot in the arm. Hopefully … we have provided some food for thought … some stimulation … some energy. NOW GO GET ‘EM !!

Kenney Skonieczny – President

Kentech Inc.

Machine Shop Efficiency Series


In addition to this Blog we also host our Making Chips blog over on Google Blogger .. which has a lot of great articles and content. As we ramp up this blog … we thought a good way to get information flowing was to gather some of the most popular Making Chips posts here … to bring that content to our readers here as well.

We would like to start with one of all time most popular series … our Shop Efficiency series. Below are list of the (8) posts in the series and a brief description. Please feel free to browse the list and click the links to jump over the Making Chips and read the articles of interest.

Shop Efficiency Part One – Cutting Time VS Workholding and Fixturing … CLICK HERE

Shop Efficiency Part Two – Face Drivers for CNC Turning … CLICK HERE

Shop Efficiency Part Three – The Infamous Milling Vise … CLICK HERE

Shop Efficiency Part Four – Re-Thinking Your Lathe Tooling … CLICK HERE

Shop Efficiency Part Five – Re-Thinking Your Height Offset Strategy … CLICK HERE

Shop Efficiency Part Six – Multi-Function Tools … CLICK HERE

Shop Efficiency Part Seven – CNC Programming … CLICK HERE

Shop Efficiency Part Eight – Gauging Your Shop Efficiency With The Magnificent Seven … CLICK HERE

Well there you have it. Tons of great ideas and information … all related to shop efficiency. Hope you enjoy … and get a leg up on the competition.

Kenney Skonieczny – President

Kentech Inc.