Some folks enjoy people watching. I enjoy shop watching. That is, I like observing the contrasting styles and approaches that various successful shops have adopted. It’s an interesting aspect of my job.
One month I’ll visit a shop that swears by a certain equipment platform, machining strategy or business practice. The next month I might tour a shop that’s 180 degrees different. For example:
Shop A: We perform on-machine probing because it offers instant feedback about our process.
Shop B: We don’t probe because our goal is to get as much spindle up-time as possible.
Shop A: It makes sense for us to use turn-mills because we can get most, if not all, machining operations done on one machine.
Shop B: We have become so efficient at setups and change-overs that we prefer to turn on lathes and mill on mills.
Shop A: We take great strides to maintain a clean and orderly facility.
Shop B: We do what we can to stay clean, but our customers care more about receiving good parts than how clean our shop is.
Shop A: We’re bringing non-machining work, such as anodizing, in-house so we have better control over it.
Shop B: We concentrate on being the machining experts and leave the specialty operations to dependable, skilled vendors.
Shop A: We use high-end cutting tools to push our machines as hard as we can.
Shop B: We don’t use high-end cutting tools because our operators lack experience, and we don’t want to risk breaking a costly tool.
Shop A: We’ve settled into a machining specialty—a niche that nearby shops can’t fill.
Shop B: We want to have the flexibility to take on a wide variety of jobs.
What I take from all this is that while it is comfortable to stay on one path, it pays to consider others that could possibly get you to your destination more quickly or easily.