What is a Laser Job Shop?
We define a laser job shop as ‘any commercial organisation that uses industrial lasers and complementary techniques for profit.‘ Membership of AILU automatically entitles such
laser users to free membership of the Job Shop Group.
The Job Shop Special Interest Group
We believe that making a success of running a laser job shop is more of a challenge than ever and the growth of the laser job shop group (established in 1999) to its current level of over 80 members has clearly demonstrated that there is a need and much to be gained from the group’s activities.
Mark Millar, Essex Laser
Job Shop Committee Chair
Job Shop Member Quotes
"The Association has much to offer any company involved in laser profiling technology" says JS SIG founder member David Lindsey . “For the membership costs each year, AILU represents excellent value for money,” Mr Lindsey advocates. “I personally sit on the Jobshop sub-committee and find it an invaluable resource for the sharing of ideas and networking but as is the case with many industry associations, it would be even more effective if we could increase membership levels. As a result of an AILU gas survey, a little brow- beating and threats to move supplier we managed a saving of £80,000 over a twelve month period."
“Visits to other AILU Job Shops have allowed us to implement some simple organisational and layout changes to the way we operate”
Neil Main, Micrometric Ltd.
“Our Electricity Survey highlighted that 2 members spending the same monthly amount on electricity had an 11% difference in overall cost per unit – highlighting a potential annual saving of almost £20,000”
John Powell, Laser Expertise Ltd.
“The annual AILU Breakdown Response Survey allows us to hold the laser suppliers to account for their level of customer support. Pressure from AILU Job Shops has resulted in positive improvements from the suppliers.”
Mark Millar, Essex Laser Ltd.
Benefits of membership include:
We run at least one informal business meeting a year for group members and invited guests, with key presentations on topics of common concern and interest.
We offer a Job Shop Forum on the web site for posting questions and answers plus a free over the phone consultancy service.
Sales leads from our web-based Products and Services Directory are automatically forwarded to all job shop members.
We conduct at least two surveys a year on commercial value to laser job shops. These surveys are free to participate in, and only participants receive the survey results, with total anonymity. Recent topics have included gas, electricity and breakdown satisfaction.
Jobshop SIG Committee Members
|Jonathan Horne||Laser Process Ltd|
|John Powell||Laser Expertise Ltd|
|Neil Main||Micrometric Ltd|
|Phil Carr||Carrs Welding Technologies Ltd|
|Cirrus Laser Ltd|
|Mark Hannon||Midtherm Laser Ltd|
|Mark Millar||Essex Laser Job Shop Ltd|
|Jamie Sharp||Laser Engineering UK Ltd|
|Dave Lindsey||Laser Process Ltd|
Chair's Report by Mark Millar
From AILU's The Laser User magazine (November 2018)
TO BUY OR NOT THE BUY, THAT IS THE QUESTION
The topic of new equipment has been on my mind of late. This is perhaps something that managers in our industry think about often; because the cost of laser cutting machinery is so high they are big investments to justify, yet without the latest kit you can feel that you are being left behind.
I was at a customer’s site recently and their five war-era manual milling machines were stacked out. I mentioned that surely new milling machines are available that would process these parts much more quickly; the response was “The Boss isn’t one to waste money on new machinery”. I can sort of relate to that, but I hope there is a middle ground where your purchases match your business model. However, getting the balance right can be tricky especially when large sums of money are involved and job shop turnover can be such a rollercoaster.
Despite having a fundamentally simpler method of laser generation and beam delivery, fibre lasers are still the same sort of cost as CO2 lasers. Whilst fibre lasers are often sold on the premise of being cheaper to run, what are significant, and often ignored, are the repair bills. For fibre lasers these are still a bit of an unknown, even now, but we have all heard the horror stories. I know of a fibre laser that required a replacement head, which was £60,000. Just let that sink in for a while. I could buy a pretty nice car for £60k! So it looks like the repair bills for the fibres are a bit more “lumpy” - fewer and further between but much more painful when you hit one.
With our CO2 machines we are used to regular breakdowns and medium-high parts bills to repair them, but these costs are easier to budget for. If you keep any industrial machine long enough though, it ends up a bit like Trigger's broom - you’ve changed so many of the parts, that not much of the original is left. The question then should be, did I start off with the right broom? Our CO2 machines have been great and highly productive but where is the tipping point, when do they need to be replaced or an additional machine purchased? For now I’m monitoring the breakdown costs and down time.
How are you justifying your next purchase? By planned orders, turnover or cutting hours per month? Perhaps you are calculating the extra potential profit from additional capacity? There are lots of tempting deals, cheap finance, grants etc. but take care that you don’t get stuck into a long term payment plan that you can never break free from. That shiny new toy could soon turn into a money pit that you resent.
We are also seeing a huge influx of cheap lasers coming into the market. These are becoming a viable option. While the CO2 lasers were so complex the handful of OEMs had little competition, but because the fibre source can be bought separately, lots of companies are just bolting one onto a CNC control and away they go. As the control systems get better this is likely to finally give the OEMs a run for their money. Could this cause the price of the machines to crash? Or could these machines cause the price of laser cut parts to fall even further? Maybe the real questions should be, are they any good and can you get by with the level of support or availability of parts?
For now most of us are still using equipment which has very high costs associated with it, no matter what the sales person told you about how much a new machine will save/earn you as you were hypnotised by the sparks flying and the promises of 6G accelerations. Don’t forget to budget for those expensive repair bills, especially with the fibre machines.