by Matt Krig
After 13 years of hitting the highest and lowest points, after so many memories created and shared, the machine I love so much spited me.
My spindle finally broke.
I wish I could say there were warning signs, but if I had a chance to look back, I don’t think I would have noticed anything then either. When something this devastating happens, without being prepared for it, you start thinking of what could have been. At the same time, you feel slightly naïve for not being prepared. As with any relationship, you become complacent and don’t notice the signs until it’s too late.
The days with my spindle were routine—the romance was gone and we were just a man and a CNC going through the motions of life together. I never thought I would be that guy who comes into his shop in the morning without a spindle. The spindle went out, yes, but it’s also tough to make them survive these days. The demands of life and work, along with family and kids, can take a toll on a relationship.
Naturally, I found some professional guidance to see if we could salvage anything. The technician agreed, there was still hope and a chance to fix what was broken. However, this meant my spindle needed to move out until we got everything resolved. I packed it carefully and dropped it off at our local FEDEX store to catch a ride to Ohio, where experts waited for it to see if they could spark some new life into my spindle.
My spindle was rebuilt, but building the trust back with the CNC was the biggest struggle. In fact, it was such a challenge that I decided to start over with a new XYZ Zero. The wounds have healed since then, but the painful memories of the past still linger. The slightest noise makes all of those feelings and anxiety rush back. Instantly, my mind races with questions and doubt for what will happen when I go into work, wondering if everything really is or will be okay. Can I really trust my spindle now? Am I worrying too much or too little? We still have cabinets to build together over the next 18 years, so we have to work together, but I don’t want to be one of those guys who settles with a machine because we have to stick to our goal. It’s not fair to everyone else or me.
On the good days, it’s like nothing ever happened to my spindle. I try not to lose sleep, but it’s hard not to wonder if my spindle will betray my trust once more and if I’ll walk into a living nightmare all over again. It took 13 years away from me, just like that.
I’ll never forget that painful day because my world fell apart in the blink of an eye. I just finished dropping my kids off at daycare and came in about 30 minutes later than the other guys. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew something was wrong. The guys told me there was a terrible screech during its warm up cycle so they shut it down. I ran it at a low RPM only to find a vibration and sound that was not typical. A local technician was called, and, together we sent it off to be rebuilt. It took over three weeks to be back up and running, and we’re still recovering from the disruption it created for production.
There is a silver lining to every story though so here is what I learned from this experience: have a backup plan and plan for the inevitable.
Over the last few years, I became way too comfortable while focusing on survival, then growth. Now I have companies where I can efficiently source panel processing, which is a big advantage. I know who I am not going to call and the lead times, along with the ins and outs of changing how we do and what we do. Finding a panel processor is a bit like finding a lawyer: you’re better off having one and not needing them than needing one and not having one. I recommend finding a partner company to work the bugs out with on some small projects before your back is against the wall. In our circumstance, we were about to release one of our larger projects for the year into the shop and instead had to find someone to help us out last minute.
With all that being said, I stand victorious in the end. I know exactly where my spindle is going and have a technician who can help me with what I am not equipped to deal with. Having an action plan to expedite the process to get back running fast is key. Make sure you know everything there is to know about your spindle and keep it on file and backed up somewhere else because odds are, you will need it someday. From that point, get quotes and turnaround times from spindle companies before you need it.
Lastly, have a conversation with your insurance company about catastrophic machine failure and business interruption coverage. I’m so thankful I looked into that a few years ago. Insurance does not cover the normal wear and tear, but in our case, we had an oil leak that contaminated the spindle bearings that caused a catastrophic failure to the bearing housing. The whole process was expensive and no fun for anyone.
Overall, I think we came out stronger since we now have a plan when our CNC is down, along with a way to get panels processed if we sell above our capacity. As always though, we wish we did not have to learn this great lesson the hard way.
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