Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a New Machine, Part 3

April 2, 2021 | Troy Clark

In our past two articles we have shared two of the three primary mistakes buyers of new machinery sometimes make. These observations are from our vantage point when assessing value and potential resale desirability. Not the sole focus when buying new, but certainly worthy to consider as we have seen it bring heartache once the machine has been expensed and is now surplus. The mistakes discussed thus far: opting for a chucker lathe instead of a universal (please buy the tailstock), and forgoing Thru Spindle Coolant when purchasing a milling machine/machining center. The third mistake we would like to protect you from making when buying your brand new machine concerns how many tool positions you attach to your system.

Mistake #3 to avoid:

When buying a new Horizontal Machining Center one of the many options you will be offered is the number of tool positions in the Automatic Tool Changer. Most OEM’s will offer a base level of 30 or 40 tool positions (horizontals offer greater amounts than verticals). And many shop managers or business owners will purchase the machine to fit the next contract. And the next contract tells them they only need 35 unique tools to accomplish the finished part. On the options list it will show the following, and you only get to check one of the boxes.

  • 40 Position ATC – Standard (Included on base models)
  • 60 Position ATC $X
  • 90 Position ATC $XX
  • 120 Position ATC $XXX
  • 240 Position ATC $XXXX

You may have floorspace considerations, you may have budget constraints, but if you check the first box and get only the base model ATC capacity for no specific reason – YOU HAVE JUST COMMITTED THE THIRD MISTAKE OF THE NEW MACHINERY BUYER. Please, for your shop and for your future resale value –BUY THE LARGEST TOOL CAPACITY YOU CAN AFFORD.


  • Any chance you might want to utilize this machine for multiple programs and parts down the road?
  • Does unattended manufacturing appeal to you (for that matter – multi-pallets may be a consideration as well… more on that in future blogs)
  • What signal would it send to potential customers walking your plant floor to see the beefed-up tool capacity on your newly installed horizontal?

I have never had a deal go south on an HMC because there were TOO MANY tool positions. Ever. Okay, sometimes a buyer has to shoe-horn a machine between beams and needs to keep it slim. Or people may not want to “pay for the upgrade” on any option included on a particular tool, but buyers always see the value in having a large Automatic Tool Changer. When it is in a spec on a machine we quote – the larger the ATC, the more interest in the machine. Manufacturers (used machinery buyers) get it. They need flexibility and this gives them exactly that.

Example: I have a customer that increasingly is moving toward automation and lights out machining. He buys Matsuura’s and DMG Mori’s. It took me a while, but I finally got the message. For this successful company – don’t call him unless the machine has 240 Tool Positions. Just don’t do it. His manufacturing demands placed on him by his customers simply require that he has the flexibility and usability that 240 tool positions offers him. He’s always planning on the future and so should you.

  • ROI considerations: ATC investments are like deciding to upgrade the kitchen. At point of sale down the road – estimate the depreciation costs reduced by 30%

There are exceptions to every rule, and there are exceptions to every suggestion. As a shop owner, or plant manager, you know exactly what you need and what you can afford. All I have are stories from the resale market and from customers who say share their “if I could only do it over again, I would…” stories. From where I sit the above innocent mistakes made at the point of purchasing a new machine have an outsized impact on shop floor flexibility and Return on Investment considerations when selling your machine down the road.

In summary, the three most important things to remember when ordering a new CNC Machine from your OEM rep:

  1. Get the tailstock and turn that chucker into a universal
  2. Thru Spindle Coolant will always pay dividends
  3. The larger the Automatic Tool Changer capacity the more flexibility and higher resale

We work with new machine dealers each week. They are great people and great at their jobs. Trust them when they tell you “I think you may want this option down the road.” You’ll thank me later.

(this is part 3 of a 3-part series titled, "Three mistakes to avoid when buying new machines")

Click Below Images to Read Part One and Two in this series.