Why Take the Top Shops Survey?

Here’s why it’s valuable to participate in our fourth-annual Top Shops benchmarking survey this month.


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Do you really know how well your machine shop stacks up against industry leaders? How does it compare in terms of machining strategies applied? What about set-up time? Spindle utilization? Quote-to-book ratio? Human resource practices? Take our fourth-annual Top Shops benchmarking survey, which runs now through February 28, and you’ll have a good idea.

Top Shops aims to identify optimal shopfloor practices, as well as operational and business metrics that define world-class discrete-parts manufacturing. Participation enables you to see where your shop excels and, more importantly, where you should focus your improvement efforts.

You can access the survey at survey.mmsonline.com/topshops. The survey prompts for equipment, process, human resource and financial information, and also includes a few open-ended questions. We do not ask for specific financial figures, such as gross sales or net income. Instead, we ask you to supply financial measures as percentages, including net income per gross sales, annual sales growth rate and capital equipment expenditure per gross sales. Our thought is that this will encourage greater participation from shops that aren’t inclined (or allowed) to provide financial data. Nonetheless, all survey responses will remain confidential.

After the survey closes, we’ll generate a series of free data reports that will be sent only to those who participated in the survey. These reports will separate the survey data into categories including type of machining business (job shop, contract shop or captive operation), number of employees and number of parts produced. In addition, we’ll create an Executive Summary that will compare responses between the Top Shops benchmarking group and the rest of the survey participants. This benchmarking group represents the top 20 percent of machining businesses, determined by totaling the points assigned to select business- and technology-related questions.

Top Shops includes an Honors Program highlighting a successful participating company in each of the survey’s four sections, identified by responses to survey questions and follow-up interviews by me. Those shops will be profiled in an upcoming issue of Modern Machine Shop.

JD Machine (Ogden, Utah) and WSI Industries (Monticello, Minn.) were two of the four Honors Program winners in 2013. Matthew Wardle, president of JD Machine, says he and his management team use the Top Shops benchmarking data to help guide change at their shop. Some of the information they closely review includes profit margin, sales per employee, spindle utilization and the lean manufacturing practices leading shops apply. In fact, they use the benchmarking data as part of their strategic planning and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis as they set goals for each new year.

Benjamin Rashleger, WSI’s president, says benchmarking helps ensure that the performance level of the NASDAQ-listed contract shop is on par with its competitors. He says it also enables the shop to stay on top of ever-evolving and ever-improving machining technology and processes. Benchmarking should be part of all shops’ continuous improvement efforts, he asserts.

Go Online and Participate

The survey can be completed online or by printing and filling out the questionnaire, and then faxing or mailing it to us. The online survey includes instructions for doing that. In fact, you might find it helpful to first print the survey before entering your information online so you can see all the questions that you will be prompted to answer.

Feel free to e-mail me at dkorn@mmsonline.com if you have any questions about the survey. Also, consider visiting our Top Shops Zone at mmsonline.com/topshops to access the Executive Summary from last year’s survey, read articles about key survey findings, and view profiles of the Top Shops Honors Program winners for 2013.