1. Cost and Cash FlowThe price on a new horizontal machining center (HMC) such as our TW and MBM series can be higher than vertical machining center like our TA, TE, and M-ONE series. Additional investments in computers, software, tool management systems and inspection equipment are also required for getting a new horizontal machining center to get the maximum return on investment. Long-term productivity gains offset these additional costs, but careful cash flow management is crucial in the implementation stage.
Alternately, a vertical machining center (VMC) costs about half as much as an HMC, and a shop adding one additional VMC will be able to use their existing technology and tools with the new machine. When capital is tight or cash flows are sluggish, a VMC is probably the best choice.
In general, VMCs have faster setups, so a shop with many small customers placing small volume parts orders (or a shop that frequently bids on prototype work) will be able to change to the next job more quickly. These machines are also the best choice for large plate work.
HMCs has fewer setups, and can also tool multiple parts at the same time. The rotating palettes mean the machine never sits idle. Programming is complicated and setup takes longer, but complex parts can be produced quickly and accurately. Shops bidding on long runs or complex parts will see the biggest gains from an HMC.
Operators and programmers are more likely to be familiar with the controls of VMCs since they are more common in machine shops. For work requiring a high level of precision, experienced machinists will need to perform each setup. Shops in regions with a history of manufacturing and a skilled or semi-skilled workforce will be able to reap the most benefits from a VMC.
A shop purchasing its first HMC will almost certainly need to invest in training to maximize the return on the machine, since they are harder to use and fewer workers have experience with them. Programmers must be very highly skilled, however, the machine needs little input from operators once it starts running. A shop may need fewer staff members overall since a single HMC can often do the work of 2 or more VMCs.