How to Shop for the Right Precision Machine Shop
There are approximately 29,900 job shops in the United States and ThomasNet lists more than 8,000 companies under precision machining. So, with the enormous range of resources (and distractions) related to precision machining services, what should engineers and purchasing agents look for when sourcing precision components?
How does the precision machine shop rate on quality? Do you need an ISO Certified qualification? By the nature of the description “precision” components, you would most likely want your component manufactured in a certified machine shop, especially if you are an OEM or selling to an OEM in the medical and aerospace markets. Because of requirements for identification, liability, and perfection, medical and aerospace will most often require certification and need unique identification of parts. These markets will often require specific certifications like ISO 13486 for medical.
Depending on the quantity of products that need to be produced and shipped, capacity needs to be considered. For small and short runs, a small shop with limited machines and machinist may be able to turn around your order more quickly. Large orders and complex parts may require unique equipment and more expert machinists. Most precision machine shops provide an equipment list on their website or data sheet. Look for a company that has vast capabilities in diverse types of machining and top-quality resources—like varied materials—to meet all your component requirements.
3. Inventory Management
Since most precision components are used as part of another product or equipment, the manufacturing cycle may have a varied schedule. Some machine shops will offer ship-to-stock, Kanban, and other inventory management system that can coincide with the timely requirement of your product.
4. Value-Added Services
Many companies are looking for vendor consolidation where the part can be completed in-house and does not have to be shipped to other vendors for finishing, assembly, or other secondary processes that ultimately add to the cost and quality control. Some precision machine shops may have value-added partners who add the depth of added services and expertise for their customers.
5. Kitting Services
Does the machine shop offer kitting services? If your product is part of an assembly that ultimately goes into your completed product or equipment, kitting services can save time and money if the precision component is packaged or kitted together with other components or products. A reputable kitter usually has an established kitting program in place to provide you preferential and reliable schedules and stock availability.
It is impossible to sift through the thousands of available machine shops in the United States, but if you keep these 5 top points in mind, they may help you focus on which company best fits your needs.