Manual indexing methods have long been gone from most commercial factories, but for smaller boutique companies that wanted a more handmade look for specialty items, manual indexing can be in use. The ability to create specialty items that were hand-machined is a point of pride for these companies, which may deal in repairing antique items, for example, where the owner does not want to rely on computer-assisted work for authenticity. However, if you run one of these companies, sometimes you have to make a decision as to whether to switch to CNC machining instead.
You Want to Expand Your Business
Handmade goods take a while to make, and if you're trying to make them manually, they're going to take even longer. If you want to expand your business and produce more goods, you're faced with training many more employees in a field that needs incredible manual skill, or you have to tell customers that the lead time you need will be huge. It would be easier to expand if you could churn out items quickly. One solution is to use both methods; have handmade methods available for those truly special projects while using the CNC for items that need to look authentic but that don't actually have to be handmade.
No More Manual Parts
It's also possible that you might be facing a parts shortage of your own. Even manual machining and indexing uses tools, and if any of the companies you get your tools from go out of business, you could be looking at not being able to replace your own machines. (And if you don't have the capability to machine them yourself, you aren't going to be able to replace them.) You can check around for other manual workshops who might have spares, or you may have to start moving production over to modern CNC methods.
Your Customer Base Is Having Budget Problems
Hand-machined goods are expensive because workers need to be compensated fairly for the time they spent doing the work. But if you've noticed your business dropping because your customers just couldn't afford you any longer, it may be time to work out a deal. Again, look into adding CNC capability so that you can produce cheaper goods faster for those who don't need the whole handmade-from-the-start quality.
Indexing machines are getting better and better every day. Start checking with manufacturers and retailers such as Hales Machine Tool Inc to see what options they offer for smaller workshops.