So how does a small machine shop become a larger machine shop? When you start small with limited staff and machines, it can seem to be quite a task to grow your company. How do you make the right decisions in purchasing new equipment and expanding your offerings?
Know Your Core Business
If you are at the stage where you need to purchase some new CNC precision machines, take a moment to evaluate your core business. Answer these questions:
- What types of products do you receive and fulfill the most orders for?
- What are the specifications for those products?
- What is your average production rate for those products?
- What companies buy the most of your products?
Once you have answered these questions, you can determine if the purchasing of a new machine will have a positive impact on your current business or if you should focus on other areas of your business prior to making a purchase.
Avoid Common Expansion Traps
While having the newest CNC machine can be exciting, it does no good if it is underutilized. The most common traps when buying new machinery include:
- Machines that do a part of your manufacturing process, but are underutilized – don't buy an expensive machine that does a small part of your process if you could realize more gains by purchasing a machine that covers a larger part of your manufacturing process
- Insufficient staff to operate the new machine – this can come from two situations; either not having people to work the machine or having the people but no time to train them
- Taking on jobs that are too far outside your core competencies and production facilities
Purchase Machines that Can Do Secondary Tasks
When evaluating your next CNC machine purchase, look at equipment that can do your primary tasks as well as tasks that reduce or eliminate later tasks in the process. For example, if you use lasers to cut piece parts you may reduce the need for smoothing rough edges at the end of the production run.
Invest in Training Your Staff
Before you purchase a new machine, or as you are purchasing your new machine, make sure you set aside budget for training your staff. A well-trained employee is more efficient and can start using your new investment as soon as it is installed. Having a well-structured, employee training culture can actually lower your overall employee costs while you increase your productivity with the new machine.
Expand Your Offerings Step-by-Step
Look at the contracts that you are fulfilling to see what else you could offer your customers. For example, if you are machining pipes for them, find out what they are using those pipes for and offer to provide other components as part of the job; this will expand the amount of product you provide, the revenue from that customer, and your value to your end customer.
It does no good to have the best machine shop if no one knows about you. You have to be able to market your services to your target customers. Have an effective advertising strategy in trade shows, magazines, and online media. Consider contracting out the marketing to a knowledgeable group to establish your presence if you don't have that competency in-house.