Distributed U.S. Sourcing Matches China’s Price

Ability of broker-like service to organize the capacity of various independent shops provided for low-cost domestic production.


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Manufacturing portal MakeTime sees hidden capacity in U.S. machining businesses. It is the higher-end capabilities such as five-axis machining currently seeing high demand, the company says. Meanwhile, frequently in those very same shops, simpler milling and turning machines sit unused. Taken as a whole, the unused capacity waiting in shops throughout the country is like a whole other outsource nation, albeit one within the United States. And in the case of the parts seen in this photo, that virtual outsource nation won business from a real outsource nation, China.

MakeTime is like a broker for machining services, connecting open capacity in U.S. shops with machining buyers. Director of Business Operations Ryan Kelly says the parts shown were made for an aftermarket automotive accessories company. They had been sourced from China, but the overseas sourcing necessitated large order quantities and came with unreliable timing on deliveries. The buyer was therefore open to alternatives.

“The customer came to us with no time constraints, so we approached this project with the idea that we’d get the parts made as cheaply as possible,” Mr. Kelly says. After distributing the job among various shops, MakeTime collected production data from them to identify the shops able to make the part most efficiently. When the cost-effectiveness of this ultimate set of suppliers was combined with savings in logistics and carrying costs, the result “brought the final costs in line with Chinese prices,” he says.