From aerospace to the defense department, organizations and businesses around the world require precision manufacturing to complete tasks. Without precision manufacturing, operations and processes come to a grinding halt. This problem affects the productivity of businesses and organizations, as well as their bottom lines. Yet, relying on just any precision machine shop to provide the needed parts or prototypes can lead to a new series of problems. A customer may require a large quantity at a given time, or have to change the specs of the order.
A customer should be sure that the machine shop they choose is able to handle the number of challenges that may arise during the machining process, and have the resources, communication, and quality control necessary to handle those challenges. If the precision machine shop can’t handle these issues, then the customer can waste valuable time and resources. Here are 6 factors to use when looking for a quality precision machine shop:
Any machine shop can claim they make everything under the sun for every industry imaginable. Yet those that are proud of the quality of their work and strive to please their customers will allow a business owner to see the types of prototypes and parts that are manufactured in their shop. When a customer can look at examples of previous work, it gives them a visual representation of the craftsmanship and attention to detail that is given to every piece, even when working with large runs of 2-dimensional parts during tight deadlines. The machine shop that is chosen should be able to provide these samples on demand as well as confidently talk about the industries they specialize in.
Working with a machine shop that is knowledgeable and has experience about the items needed in a specific industry gives greater peace of mind that they can handle any task thrown their way. They have already demonstrated and honed their skills working with a wide variety of materials commonly used in the specific industry. So the machine shop should create the precise cuts required that fit into the customer’s specifications.
Communicating specifications for parts and prototypes to the precision machine shop should always go beyond the initial order contact. Changes to the project can happen at any time. If the machine shop misses the call, the customer will have their doubts about working with the shop ever again and will share their dissatisfaction with their own clients that may prevent the machine shop from obtaining additional orders. A quality machine shop should focus on four specific aspects of customer communication:
While a customer should look for a machine shop that is knowledgeable about crafting parts for certain industries, they should also focus on how flexible the machine shop can be for specific jobs. The customer doesn’t want to jump from one machine shop to another due to in-house limitations concerning the types of materials a machinist can work with or the types of equipment that are available for order runs. The machine shop should have the equipment, skilled machinist and experience to get the job done in the fastest time possible without compromising on quality. They should also be flexible in their abilities as they can offer different size runs from small prototype machining projects to large scale productions while working with a wide range of materials.
Quality is the number one concern for customers no matter what type of parts they order. They want to ensure that the precision machine shop has created the control measures to eliminate production errors at every step of the process. Yet if a machine shop is hazy about what quality control standards are used and can’t place any of their assurances in writing, customers should seek out someone else. A professional precision machine shop will be more than willing to talk about quality certifications such as AS9100 and IS0 9001 standards. They will have detailed information in writing about the equipment used to detect specification accuracy, such as coordinate measuring machines, and what their control standards are when their rejection rate begins to rise. The machine shop should be forward about their failure rate and their objectives in reducing this rate so it meets suitable levels.
A quality precision machine shop is only as good as the equipment and technicians on staff. Customers should research about the types of equipment and software that are currently used to make the parts and prototypes desired, then ask the precision shop what equipment is available on the shop floor. Find out if different equipment is used during the production run, such as Wire EDM, CNC Machining and Manual Machining. This information is vital as there will be places in the process where a more hands-on approach is required for tooling prototypes. Also the machine shop should be well versed in different software capabilities where they can make modifications to the model design upon request.
Yet it is not enough to have the equipment and software on hand and nobody capable to use it. Technicians should have a level of certification to use the software and equipment efficiently. Their knowledge of every piece of equipment they will use during production, as well as how they use quality measuring equipment, should be at a proficient level so that they do not hamper the customer’s bottom line.
After checking out the machine shop capabilities, customers should speak with other people who have ordered products from the machine shop. Find out what reviews these previous customers gave on review sites. Ask if the machine shop can provide company names so a potential customer can speak directly to the previous customer. Questions to ask may include the following:
Speaking directly to previous customers can provide further insights about a particular machine shop. They can offer their opinions on the processes the machine shop implements to please customers, and whether these processes align with the customer’s standards of quality and efficiency.