What to Look for in a Custom Machine Shop--An 8-Point Machine Shop Evaluation Plan

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What to Look for in a Custom Machine Shop--An 8-Point Machine Shop Evaluation Plan - Monday, November 30, 2015

Looking for a custom machine shop that fits your needs?

Custom Machine Shop

Custom machine shops can be as unique as the parts they’re machining. The simple reason for this is that the staff, qualifications, materials, and equipment will vary from shop to shop.

So—what are you needing from your custom shop? The 8 points below will help the average machining client conduct a comprehensive machine shop evaluation. Companies operating within industries with their own specific requirements, however, like medical, semiconductors, and defense companies, may have more stringent requirements.

1. Machining Capabilities

An obvious element to look for in a shop is the ability and equipment to machine the type of pieces that you’re looking for. Ask them for an itemized list of their machines (this may be available on their website) to help you determine whether the shop suits your needs. If you’ll need complex geometrics, look for a shop with a 5-axis machine.

2. Assembly

If you’ll be looking for a more start-to-finish type of service, then you’ll want to look for a shop with custom assembly services that can be catered to how you do business.

3. Processing Strategies

A shop’s strategy for processing machining requests will be critical to your evaluation. Look at their different volume capabilities, cycle time, setup procedures, and workflow. Turnaround time will be especially important.

4. Training and Equipment Gains

A shop that is continually training and retraining their staff will stay more up-to-date with advancements in equipment and machining techniques. So, look for a shop that is continually adding equipment and continually training their staff on technique advancement.

5. Management Technology

Smaller shops might use more traditional product processing techniques (like spreadsheets), but larger shops require more thorough task and product management technology (like ERP) to ensure their supply chain, planning, machining, routing, and shipping/delivery is effective. For longer-turn around projects look at their communication model, and ask if there is a single contact that will handle your orders.

6. Quality Assurance

Machining isn’t done willy-nilly—these parts need to meet specific quality standards, most notably ISO 9001. While selecting a shop look for an ISO 9001 certification and any other industry-specific qualifications such as Medical ISO 13485 or Aerospace AS9100.

7. History and Future

Look for a company that not only has a history of growth and long-term customer retention but also a future growth trajectory. The long-term nature of their business will help assure that their receivables stays above water compared to their payables, so as not to slow your projects down due to lack of funding.

8. Degrees

There is something to be said for technical training. While on-the-job training is critical, there’s no replacement for the technical training and knowledge that comes with an advanced degree. Specifically, look for shop employees with mechanical engineering degrees and industrial technologists.

The eight points above will help you create a vital comprehensive machine shop evaluation. In addition to these points, be sure to include any industry-specific requirements that you’ll require.


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About Digital Machining

To help you evaluate us based on the above criteria, we’d like to introduce to you the Digital Way. The Digital Way was designed to be your first and last stop for machining. By offering a breadth of services from specific machining and milling to assembly, we’ve built our company into a full-service machine. In addition to being full-service, we also employ six (degreed) mechanical engineers and Industrial Technologists with a variety of other training and degrees.

Our philosophy is to get things done right—the first time…every time. We pride ourselves on quick turnaround times while adhering strictly to ISO 9001 standards. In the interest of offering top quality products, we have gone above and beyond simple ISO 9001 ‘compliance’ standards, and instead have opted for regular third-party standards verification. All our staff embrace our consistent audit processes wholeheartedly.


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