Where You Focus Determines What You Do In Your CNC Machine Shop

Recent discussions with representatives from four successful shops revealed that their purchasing and strategic business decisions are largely shaped by the needs of their customers and employees.


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If you are familiar with our annual Top Shops benchmarking program, you know we have an Honors Program in which we select shops in the top-20-percent benchmarking group that are particularly notable in one of the four main survey sections: machining technology, shopfloor practices, business strategies and human resources. This year’s winning shops in those categories are Baker Industries, Hirsh Precision Products, Ripley Machine and Hastreiter Industries, respectively.

We did something different this year to honor those companies. We invited a representative from each company to visit our office in Cincinnati, Ohio, to discuss the benchmarking survey, their operations and the industry in general. (You can read their responses in the article starting on page 90.) We also took them to nearby valve manufacturer and past Honors Program winner Richards Industries to snap the photo used on this month’s cover.

Although our discussions addressed a range of topics, one overarching theme emerged: Focusing on customers’ and employees’ needs has ultimately shaped their business decisions.

Sometimes, your customers might not know what method may be best for producing their parts. It is possible that, compared to conventional manufacturing methods, new, perhaps atypical technology could result in better-performing products. Offering thoughtful design for manufacturability (DFM) advice may do the same while reducing their overall manufacturing costs and/or speeding time to market for their new products.

To meet or, hopefully, exceed customers’ expectations in such ways, your employees must be given all the tools and training necessary to perform their duties as efficiently as possible, and they must be afforded the opportunity to suggest improvements to processes and procedures. The key is to be open to suggestions and provide timely feedback so they know their ideas are, indeed, being considered. The first time a person’s suggestion is ignored is likely to be the last suggestion you will get from him or her.

The key in all this is communication and transparency. Regular meetings with your employees helps ensure that the entire operation is up to speed with respect to customer projects, and it helps reinforce the company’s focus on customer satisfaction. In addition, regular talks with customers gives you the opportunity to educate them about any new capabilities you have added. This is valuable in persuading them to consider your alternate, albeit advanced, manufacturing technologies to possibly win new work.  

Consider your customers and employees as you discover new machining equipment, processes and strategies in our magazine or at trade shows such as this week’s International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). Think in terms of how you might be able to apply new technologies to better serve the needs of both.


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There’s Still Time to Register for the Top Shops Conference

The Top Shops Conference is going on all day tomorrow at IMTS (West Building, Level 3, Skyline Ballroom, rooms W375 D-E). There’s still time to register and attend insightful sessions delivered by machine shops for machine shops. Register here.