You can defenitely make money with a shaper, just set it up, make sure it isnt going to crash, and let it go while your turning a part on the lathe. It's like having two people in a shop running two pieces of equipment. You dont need to be right there to run a shaper like a milling machine does, so you can do multiple things at once. With the correctly ground bits and a good and tight machine, you can get a better finish and more precise cuts than you can with a milling machine, which makes it invaluable for making stuff that is going to be scraped into precision. I have a few people that keep coming back to me because they like the finish that my shaper gives over a milling machine's drunken monkey looking circles froma fly cutter, the shaper gives a ground finish, even in aluminum. Also, on alot of operations, Ive found a shaper can actually go faster than a bridgeport when dealing with custom profiles like V grooves and such. Also, just grind a tool bit and your good to go, or order a custom endmill, pay quite alot, wait a week for shipping to get the new cutter, and spend more time waiting on a cutter for the mill rather than just doing the job on the shaper, lol. The downtime and cost of that stupid cutter is what would hurt you the most in a production environment.
Ive used a bridgeport for a while, but got a little 7" shaper and that thing is probably the most used machine in the shop just cleaning up some casting while Im making something on the lathe. It's defenitely alot cheaper when it comes to cutters. I needed to do a 3/32" slot in a piece of steel the other day around 1" deep, with an endmill, that would snap it off probably, and would take quite a while with a slitting saw, but I just put the lathe parting tool holder in the shaper and turned it on just letting it cut down into the part like it was parting it off. It worked great and was defenitely alot faster than the slitting saw or endmill imo, lol.
The only thing I have to say about the shapers are tho, the HSS lathe bits seem to be getting more and more difficult to find good bits. With everything going to carbide insert tooling and CNC everywhere, HSS is kinda dissappearing from the market slowly, which really sucks and you normally have to special order it. I know of a place or two to get the bits locally for really cheap still, but yea, the places to buy it is slowly dwindling away.