5 Common Mistakes

When Buying CNC Equipment

October 15th, 2014


As the capabilities and applications of CNC equipment continue to grow, more and more businesses are looking to this technology to automate and upgrade their foam carving production processes.  While it’s getting easier to see the benefits, a business that decides to purchase or upgrade their CNC equipment is faced with the daunting task of navigating through the array of equipment the market offers.  Just take a look on the web and you’ll find everything from do-it-yourself kits to million dollar set-ups – with each supplier proclaiming their product to be the perfect fit for your application.  With many suppliers willing to sell you something whether it fits your requirements or not, it can be easy to get pushed in the wrong direction – but there are ways to protect yourself and end up with the solution that meets your needs and budget.   Being aware of some of the biggest purchasing pitfalls is a good start.  Here are some of the most common mistakes than can come back to bite you in a serious way.

1. Going in without a plan

Whether you’re buying a new house, choosing a new car or just going to the mall, going in without a plan is the first step to an impulse purchase. It’s no different with CNC equipment.  If you don’t know which products you’re going to offer and which markets you’re going to target, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out which equipment is the right fit.  CNC machines are capable of doing many things and many suppliers are willing to push you in whatever direction will get them the sale, so it’s very easy to get distracted. In order to evaluate the equipment effectively, you need to have a well thought out business plan before you start looking. Determine your plan and then find the equipment that’s going to help you best deliver on that plan – both in the short and long term. Don’t let the capabilities of the equipment determine your business plan.  It’s your plan that’s going to drive your business forward; as it’s a plan that will give you focus. Build one first.

2. Going Overboard

You’re excited about the possibilities. You can’t wait to get started. You like shiny things.  Fair enough – but when you’re looking for equipment it’s important not to get carried away.  That speaking robot looks like it can do everything from revolutionizing your production processes to serving drinks, but is it really necessary for your application?  Similarly, you might come across glowing recommendations for a certain kind of CNC machine for a certain type of application, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right fit for what you’re looking at doing.  This is why having a plan is so important.  If you’re not crystal clear on your requirements, going down the overkill path becomes much more of a possibility. Many purchasers have ended up with systems that sit idle because they are too complicated or too advanced for their work. Start with a plan and get the equipment that fits. You do have plan, right?

3. Not enough

Faced with so many equipment choices, many purchasers are inclined to go with the simplest solution in order to avoid the confusion.  While there is something to be said for starting slow and getting your feet wet, you don’t want your equipment to limit your business. Selling yourself short can be just as harmful as going overboard.  You’ll find hobbyists telling you that you can build everything you need on your own for a fraction of the cost, but for those looking at commercial applications, it’s critical that you have a solution that’s proven and reliable. These are just the table stakes. Finding the right balance between too much equipment and too little equipment can be tricky, but if you have a clear idea of what you want to create and where you see your business heading, it becomes a much easier task. Are you sensing a theme here?

4. Focusing on the cheapest price

We all know the dangers of going with the cheapest product. Whatever kind of purchase we’re talking about, a product is cheap for a reason. This isn’t to say that the cheapest solution couldn’t possibly be the right one, but when we’re talking about CNC foam carving equipment for commercial applications, choosing equipment strictly based on the price tag is a recipe for disaster. Be sure to compare the equipment you’re considering and get an understanding of why different pieces of equipment cost different amounts. Are the capabilities similar? Are the materials different?  Is the level of support and training different?  Price is certainly something that will come into the purchase decision, but it should only enter the discussion after you’re comfortable that you’ve found equipment that meets your needs.

5. Not considering the supplier

The capabilities and quality of the equipment you’re considering are important, but don’t make the mistake of leaving the quality of the supplier out of the equation.  Read a few internet forums and you’ll find an endless stream of stories about purchasers at the end of their ropes trying to get support or even basic technical assistance from their supplier. So in addition to the nature of the equipment, you need to consider the quality of the supplier. Do they know your application and industry?  Do they specialize in foam carving, or is it one of the many industries they ‘specialize’ in? Do they have the knowledge, staff and track record for providing strong after-sales support?  Given that many production processes also require numerous pieces of equipment, you also need to consider how well each piece of equipment can be integrated. Tracking down various pieces of equipment from various suppliers can not only be a headache, but there also potential integration issues.  Be sure that each piece of equipment you’re looking at can work together - or find a supplier that understands the process from start to finish, regardless of what equipment is involved. A good supplier will be able to save you a lot of headache down the road.

What next?

If the point hasn’t been driven home enough…go in with a plan. This is the absolute best way to avoid the pitfalls.  When you know what you need and why, you’ll be able to evaluate equipment based on your specific needs, instead of factors that may ultimately have no relevance to your business. Many of us like to save a buck, and many like having the best of the best, but these should not be the deciding factors when you’re looking at CNC equipment. Without a clear plan, you simply have no context for making a decision, which is a sure fire way to getting lead down the wrong path. If you fail to plan, plan to fail.

Back to all