Thank you to all who participated in our Shop Productivity Survey!
Now it’s time to share the results. We surveyed CNCCookbook readers on what they felt were the most important areas to improve in their Shop’s operations. Here are the results:
It was a wide-ranging survey that touched on a number of topics. Predictably, the Hobbyists and Pros differed quite a bit on where to dig in to improve productivity. Let’s run down the key items.
Number 1: Better Setup Sheets for Pros, Better CAM for Hobbyists
Better Setup Sheets, which includes better training and documentation for Jobs was #1 by a pretty wide margin among the Pros. We’ve written in the past about Setup Sheets and done a Survey on what should be in one. We’ve also got a very cool product under development in our CNCCookbook Labs that directly addresses this area as well as others.
On the Hobby side, people are most interested in improving their CAM software. Perhaps that’s not too surprising given most won’t want to spend as much on CAM as the Pros do. It does point to some opportunity in the marketplace to address the disatisfaction, however. Our best advice is to consider using more than one package. We really like MeshCAM for keeping it simple, and believe it is the World’s Easiest CAM Software.
Number 2: Quoting and Tool Crib Operations | GCode Optimization & Verification and Better CAD
The Pros want better tools for Quoting Jobs together with tools to help automate and improve the Tool Crib Operations, which includes Inventory, Feeds and Speeds, and Tool Data Management. We offer tools to help in both of these areas. Our G-Wizard Estimator is aimed at Feature-Based quoting made cheap and easy. It’s based on our proven G-Wizard Calculator Feeds and Speeds engine, which only makes sense. Why would you want to generate quotes that aren’t based on the Feeds and Speeds you’d use to cut with? As far as Tools, of course G-Wizard Calculator is all over the Feeds and Speeds side of it. What is also true is we have some powerful Tool Table and Tool Data Management functionality built into both G-Wizard Calculator and our G-Wizard Editor product. Extending those areas further and even into helping manage the Tool Crib inventory only makes sense.
For more information on Quoting and Cost Estimation, be sure to check out our 2018 Survey Results.
For GCode Verfication and Optimization, which BTW, ranked #3 for Pros, we offer G-Wizard Editor which includes a powerful GCode Simulator. It checks for alarm conditions and even has Soft Limits to help you find problems in your code before it gets to a machine and ties things up or causes an expensive crash.
The Hobbyists are also looking for better CAD. There are some exciting new Cloud entrants to the market–OnShape and Fusion360. Be sure to take a look at those as they’re bringing tremendous power at better price points than we’ve seen before.
Number 3: GCode Optimization/Verification and Better CAM | Raw Material Management
We’ve talked a bit about GCode Optimization and Verification above. Better CAM is an interesting topic. Apparently a lot of folks wish their CAM was better. You might check out our CAM market surveys which reveal at least what the most popular packages are. Some of them are popular for a reason, and may be worth checking out. We even go through market share changes.
On the hobby side, I was surprised to see Raw Material Prep and Management. OTOH, I suspect this is mostly about the prep. This can be a pain even for Pro shops. Bandsaws, chop saws, and the like are needed to cut material to size. I know a few shops that also own Waterjets and these guys are in Heaven when it comes to the prep. For certain kinds of work, all that’s needed as the material comes off the waterjet is finish passes. For the hobbyist, cheap bandsaws get old. Best I can recommend is to look into one of the carbide bladed chop saws that are available. They’re really a nice upgrade from a cheap bandsaw for a lot of work.
Number 4: Version Control + Project Management and Collaboration | More RFQ’s
On the Version Control, Project Management, and Collaboration side for Pros, I totally understand. I use these functions constantly and I am largely a one man band with a little part-time help. I would be lost without it. I talk to machinists all the time who scrap parts because they ran the wrong version of a gcode program or who have trouble with project management or just making sure everyone is working on the right stuff. This is especially true for Job Shops where the targets and goals seem to constantly be in flux. Because of all that, we’re working on a new CNCCookbook product that is especially designed around those areas and built to “think” the way machinists think. Across all our existing products, we gather a lot of potent data. The other purpose of this upcoming product is to organize and coordinate the use and sharing of that data–everything from machine profiles to Tool Tables. That new product will be called G-Wizard ShopFloor when it is available. Sorry I can say more, I really am very excited about it, but we need to keep it under wraps until we’re ready to let people try it for themselves during a Beta Test.
As far as more RFQ’s for the Hobbyists, that’s another head scratcher. I am assuming folks want to make a little extra money on the side with their machine tools–help pay for the hobby perhaps. What I can say about this is I am friendly with a bunch of hobby machinists, with the folks at Tormach who crossover both the Hobby and Pro sides, and with the local Tormach dealer. If you want to make money with a CNC machine tool in your garage, it is totally doable. In fact, it is almost unavoidable if you can get the word out at all. Look to your hobby to help. Make some cool stuff for it and show the other friends you have with the same hobby. Post about it on online forums for those hobbyists. Pretty soon people will want to know if you’ll make those cool parts for them too. Just be careful what you wish for–it’s really easy to turn your hobby into a job if you’re not careful!
Thanks again to all who participated. We’ve got a raft of new goodies in the works that I can tell from the survey will make a lot of folks happy. I look forward to getting everyone’s reaction as we roll them out. I should have one for you in the next week or so as we are finally getting around to splitting out our Estimator (Quoting Software) from G-Wizard Calculator. It will remain free to GW Calculator users until we’re ready to start selling it, and then you’ll be grandfathered in with a very good deal. But meanwhile, having it as a separate product will make it possible to make and easier and more powerful piece of software focused on Cost Estimation. Stay tuned, much more news to come!
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