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Considerations for machine tool maintenance

28 May 2013

Manufacturers make big commitments when investing in the latest CNC machines. Customers demand quality and timeliness of delivery, objectives that can be compromised if proper maintenance of machines is not carried out.

Concerns have been raised about the quality of maintenance being performed by some low-cost, unqualified, third party repairers that can lead to safety hazards for users and potential damage to the reputation of machine and control system suppliers.

The Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) has started to discuss some of these concerns and has drawn up some simple guidance for users seeking reliable contractors for their CNC machines’ maintenance and repairs. In the long run, properly conducted maintenance will yield economies in terms of improved operational performance and less down time.

Essentially, the MTA’s suggested guidance takes the form of common-sense ‘Do’s & Don’ts’ advice to users. In the first instance the key message for employers, supervisors and maintenance personnel is to follow the basic advice given in machine suppliers’ instruction manuals. If a problem persists they should then contact the supplier for qualified service support. 

Customers should understand that they achieve value for money by going through proper channels, whereas final costs can be much higher if they go to unqualified third party repairers. The importance of carrying out health and safety due diligence before contracting any machine maintenance or repairs cannot be overstated.  Upholding workplace safety and preventing poorly trained personnel from giving the industry a bad reputation must be paramount.

The basic points discussed by the MTA for machine users to ask in relation to third party repairers can be summarised as follows:

•  Does this person have all the necessary accreditation and insurance in place (who is responsible if there is an injury due to his/her actions)?

•  What experience does he/she have?

•  Can he/she really change bearings and repair computers?

•  What certificates does he/she have to repair my particular machine?

•  Why does he/she spend so much time on the phone?

•  Can I risk my operator's safety with this person?    

•  Is he/she ISO 9001 compliant and does he/she keep training and safety records ?

•  What damage can he/she do to my investment and livelihood?

•  Would it be cheaper in the long run to get qualified personnel from the manufacturer with unlimited parts for diagnosing this problem?

•  I spent thousands of pounds on this investment - Why risk it?


The MTA is a trade association for companies working in the engineering-based manufacturing sector. Many of its members are involved in the construction and supply of manufacturing technology – items such as machine tools, cutting tools, metrology(measuring) equipment and CAD/CAM software. Others deploy these technologies, and some are involved in providing services to the industry.