Determining the Year of Manufacture on a CNC Machine Tool can take more than finding it tagged on the Machine

Finding the Year of Manufacture on a piece of equipment is an important part of the machine valuation process. 

While perfoming appraisals for the equipment of an entire machine shop, I recently came across an identifiaction issue that is worth sharing. Trak CNC Machines, manufactured by Southwestern Industries right here in America, have become more prevalent in the machine shops that I have been valuating.  Trak (some of you will remember it as ProtoTrak) manufactures CNC Controls for milling and turning machinery.  They also manufacture CNC Vertical Knee Mills, CNC Bed Mills, CNC Lathes, and CNC Machining Centers.

A model that must be popular (because we see many of them) is the Trak DPM, their CNC Vertical Bed Milling Machines. Here is an example of what a Trak DPMS looks like:

In order to find out how old the Trak DPM Machine that I was appraising, I located the serial Number Tag. On TRAK bed mills, the serial number plate is located on the right side of the machine, on the machine base, between the table and the electrical box. Shown here:

In this photo the serial number line is blank, but fortunately for me, the machines I was valuating were not.  Here are exmples (modified for confientiality) of typical Trak DPM Serial Numbers: 13DK301 and 11CR62000. No date is provided on this tag which shows th serial number and electrical information for the machine.

Hoping that the date identification would be simple, I looked elsewhere on the machine for a tag with a date.  It didn't take very long to find one. Another tag with a serial number and date was easily found on the rear of the machine's Control Display Pendant. These tags gave Serial Numbers that were considerably different than the tags on the side of the machines, and they were dated.  One was dated 2013 and the other was dated 2020. 

So now I had all the information I needed to proceed in valuating the Trak CNC DPM Machines... or did I?

Something didn't look right to me, the 2020 machine looked older and much more worn than the 2013 machine did.  So I contacted Trak to get to the bottom of things.  It is worth noting that the people at Trak were very helpful in getting my questions answered. 

The serial number that matters in identifying the machine's Year of Manufacture is the one on the side of the machine column.  The first two digits of that serial number identify the year. So the years of manufacture using the examples above are as follows: 13DK301 (New 2013), 11CR62000 (New 2011). 

So why was there a 2020 date on the Control Pendant tag?  If something goes wrong with the CNC Control Pendant on a Trak machine, instead of having a service person travel to repair the control issue on site, they have a simple exchange program. You exchange your old pendant for a new one. 

Of course, the replacement pendant date will then be much newer than the actual date of manufacture for the original machine.

From what I can see on their website, this complete exchange costs only about $1,300 and it looks to be an easy plug-and play swapout that the the machine owner can do themselves.  Of the four DPM machines that I recently appraised, two of them had controls that had been swapped out.  So this will be something you most likely will come across when valuating Trak CNC Machines. 

Having the correct year of manufacture is important. In this case, a little research helped me avoid misidentifyling a CNC machine as being made in 2020, when it was really made in 2011.  As appraisers, we provide Opinions of Value, but these must be based on facts.  If the facts are wrong, the opinions made using them are flawed.  

The best lesson to take from this is to make the phone call to the manufacturer. You will always learn something useful and may avoid making a costly mistake.