The importance of redundancy in a small fabrication shop


On a recent Monday morning, I walked into the shop to get started for the day, only to discover that one of my main machines in the shop wasn't functional.  The Y axis servo motor on my CNC plasma table wasn't working.  Upon inspection, I discovered a blinking red alarm light.  This indicates a catastrophic hardware failure within the motor, and needs to be sent to the MFG for repair. 

The machine will be down for 1-2 weeks.  So what now?  One of the main ways my shop makes money is now not available to me, so do I panic?  Get mad?  Complain?  I could do all 3 but those wont help me.  Fortunately I have built up alot of equity with other fabricators around the country.  Within one hour of posting my misfortune on social media, I had 3 offers from other fabricators that are 3 hours away from me to use their tables to complete the work I needed to get done.  Of course driving 6 hours round trip was not appealing, so I checked in with my local steel yard, who had recently consulted with me on their purchase of a CNC plasma table, and they offered to let me use their table at no charge, and they are located 20 minutes from me.

Here is the table I was able to use for a few hours.  My friends at Maverick Metal and Trading, located in Ennis, TX.

Other reasons to have redundancy and backup options is to make yourself more efficient. One common job I have is to drill lots of holes in thick steel.  I have multiple machines to do that with.  But I also use a hand drill in some cases.  I use the large heavy machines to actually drill the hole.  And when complete, I will use a chamfer bit on a hand drill to go back through and chamfer all the holes front and back.  I have found this to be much faster and much more efficient than to do those operations on the one machine

So in summary, I cant emphasize enough, the importance of having multiple options to perform a given task, and backup plans to minimize the impact of eminent machine failures.  

 


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