How can I fill capacity on a multi-spindle machine?

Manufacturers may worry about how to fill the capacity of their multi-spindle lathe. After all, it is a significant investment, costing many times more than a conventional CNC sliding or fixed head lathe. How can you be sure that you’ll have the extra work to warrant its cost? Well, by investing in a multi-spindle lathe, you’ll be in the best position to differentiate yourselves from your competition and grow your business. How? By offering what is increasingly seen as the critical factor in our industry: a lower cost per part. 

Many subcontractors use similar machinery and manufacturing methods, they pay their staff at comparable levels and must adhere to the quality standards demanded by the component drawing. 

Reputations are hard earned and whilst they are appreciated by the customers you currently serve, this is a difficult virtue to convey to someone who doesn’t know you at all. Consequently, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate one subcontractor from another and established relationships between the subcontractor and their customer become hard to break. 

The most expedient route to gaining market share, which in effect means taking work away from your competition, is to offer cheaper parts. If your equipment, labour rates, material costs and contributions to the bottom line are broadly the same, discounting becomes a simple race to the bottom. 

A CNC multi-spindle machine changes that narrative because the unit cost of production is, more often than not, significantly lower. In this article, we’ll look at how a multi-spindle lathe can reduce the machining cost charged per part, whilst still maintaining the same ‘Return on Capital Employed’ (ROCE), by such a degree that the user can offer lower prices to the customer and yet increase generated margin. 

Multi-spindle machine vs. sliding head lathes

CNC Multi-spindles operate similarly to sliding or fixed head lathes, the major difference being that all operations are carried out simultaneously on the Multi. The speeds and feeds employed for individual cutting operations are comparable between the technologies, however, tool life on Index Multi’s is significantly better due to slide construction and the tool interface.

All tools are pre-set off-line, and all programs can be proven, through the Index Virtual Machine simulation system, in advance of introduction to the control. The MS solution does not require specially prepared bar material and unlike sliding head machines, bar remnants are minimal. 

How are multi-spindle machines cost-effective?

The mathematics is relatively simple, as shown by the example below which is based on an actual production requirement.

INDEX MS32:Sliding Head 32mm:
4-5x the cost of a sliding head
Hourly rate:
(ROCE over 4 years) £63.00
Hourly rate:
(ROCE over 4 years) £13.10
Cycle time:
14.7 seconds
Cycle time:
126 seconds
Parts per hour:
244 parts
Parts per hour:
28 parts
Machining cost per part:
26 pence
Machining cost per part:
47 pence

To achieve the same ‘Return on Capital Employed’ (ROCE), the machining cost for this part is 45% lower than when produced on a well know Japanese sliding head machine. To this price we must add the material costs, tooling costs (which will also be significantly lower on the MS32), contributions for labour, overhead recovery and of course margin. Whatever the total sales price for the part, in this example the minimum 21 pence differential is a matter of fact that doesn’t go away. If you offered 75% of this differential to your customer, just under a 16 pence reduction, you would still significantly reduce the time it would take to achieve your ROCE.

In short, you would be reducing your sales price whilst improving your margin! 

Filling capacity on a multi-spindle is not the problem, it is overcoming the huge barrier to entry that the price tag instills. But herein lies the advantage, most potential users will never be able to see past this issue, but for those with the entrepreneurial spirit to do so, a tremendous competitive advantage is ensured. 

We see countless examples of drawings that are sent through for time study, where potential buyers are trying to win enough volume, in advance of their purchasing decision, to make the task of deciding less daunting. We would urge you to think differently, if you already had an Index MS machine, who could stop you winning that business?

With one machine able to do the same work as many, shop-floor space and labour hours are reduced significantly. Output per M² of real estate is transformed and, at a minimum, the productivity per capita is quadrupled. Investing in an Index CNC multi-spindle machine facilitates organic growth for your company without you deviating at all from what you are good at, the production of quality turned parts. 

Are multi-spindle lathes just for large-order jobs?

Many shops are wary of placing such a large investment in a CNC multi-spindle machine. Not just because of the cost, but also due to the typical view that these machines are inflexible and unwieldy, requiring significantly longer set-up times and employing far more complicated programs. This has led to the misconception that these machines are limited to extremely large batch sizes. However, advances in technology have allowed for quick-change tooling and intuitive programming, pre-production simulation and process optimisation, all of which enable set-ups to be completed within a few hours. Consequently, batch sizes in the low thousands are not uncommon. 

Why invest in a multi-spindle lathe?

Improving your ability to compete is the key to gaining market share in a sector where differentiation is hard to convey. Once acquired, filling the available capacity on a multi-spindle machine is never the issue. There are over 2,500 Index CNC Multi-Spindles in operation around the world, there are only a handful of users who only have one, and this is normally because their first purchase was a recent one, and that speaks volumes. Colossal reductions in cycle times, with only a moderate reduction in speed of changeover (one set of bar related equipment as opposed to six) provides you a competitive advantage that allows you to stand out from the rest. Contact a Kingsbury representative today to discuss your multi-spindle interests and needs.

View the range of Multi-Spindle machines.

Read our guide on whether Multi-Spindle machines are user-friendly.

Have more questions? View our Multi-Spindle FAQs.