10th Annual Top Shops Benchmarking Survey for CNC Machine Shops Now Live

Our magazine’s annual benchmarking program has blossomed since we launched it a decade ago. Celebrate with us by taking this year’s survey, which is currently live, and joining us at our IMTS Top Shops Workshop.


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Time flies. It seems like only yesterday that we introduced our Top Shops benchmarking program. In fact, it launched back in 2010.

Flash forward to today: The annual program has expanded to become an even more valuable tool for helping U.S. machine shops grow their businesses and become more efficient operations.

The foundation of Top Shops remains the online benchmarking survey, which is open now through February 24. If you’ve participated in the past, thank you. I hope you found it helpful and will participate again this year. If you haven’t participated before, all it will cost you to gage how you rate against leading shops is a bit of your time.

Take the 2020 Top Shops survey at survey.mmsonline.com/topshops.

The confidential survey is divided into four main categories — machining technology, shopfloor practices, business strategies and human resources — and prompts for key performance indicators, best practices and technology applied in both the front office and shop floor. It does not ask for specific financial figures, such as gross sales or net income. Rather, financial measures are asked in terms of percentages, including sales growth rate and capital equipment expenditure per gross sales.

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Survey participants receive a free report comparing their shops’ responses with all others who participated.

Initially, we offered participating shops copies of a generic yet helpful Executive Summary, which compared answers from the top 20% of surveyed shops (determined by tallying scores from select survey questions) with the other shops surveyed that year. Now, we provide each shop with a custom report that compares its data with all others that completed the survey. The report also includes a shop’s overall survey rank and indicates in what areas the company is particularly strong, is on par with others, or perhaps should target for improvement.

In addition, our company’s Gardner Intelligence group now can, for a fee, cut Top Shops data in a variety of different ways to present precisely the information you might want. For example, perhaps you’re only interested in seeing your data compared with shops that serve the aerospace industry, or those that use horizontal machining centers, or those that are located in the same region as you, etc. It’s also possible for shops that don’t participate in the survey to purchase general reports from Gardner Intelligence a la the previous Executive Summary.

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Scott Volk (middle) and Scott Harms (right) from 2019 winning shop MetalQuest hosted a special event at its Hebron, Nebraska, operation with Governor Pete Ricketts in which the Governor toured the facility and learned about the shop winning the 2019 Top Shops award. (Photo: MetalQuest)

Another part of Top Shops that has changed a bit is the Honors Program, which awards one participating company in each of the survey’s four aforementioned sections. These four shops are identified by responses to select questions and follow-up interviews by me, and are profiled in the magazine and on our website. In addition, we offer a prize package of Top Shops swag as well as a press release template that can be modified and sent to various press outlets to get the word out about winning the award.

top shops

The three-day Top Shops Workshops at IMTS 2020 will include panel discussions from current and past Honors Program winners.

We now invite winners to ride along with us as we take Top Shops on the road. In 2017, we introduced the Top Shops Conference, an annual event that includes presentations from successful shop owners and managers as well as other industry experts. Our fourth event takes the shape of a three-day workshop at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago mid-September. This year’s workshop will be spread out in short afternoon programs on IMTS Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, leaving you plenty of time to see the show. Each day will include a combination of the most popular elements of past Top Shops events. For example, Steven Kline, Jr., our company’s chief data officer, will highlight trends spotted over the 10 years we’ve conducted the survey and key drivers of overall shop performance. There will also be panel discussions with an audience Q&A. Representatives from past Honors Program winners will comprise Tuesday’s and Thursday’s panels while 2020 Honors Program winners will comprise the Monday panel. (Remember: It could be you if you participate in this year’s survey, hint, hint.) Each of the three program days will end with an OEM panel discussion highlighting supplier challenges and opportunities followed by a networking happy hour.

But again, this all starts with the survey. Please consider participating in our 10th edition, and email me at dkorn@mmsonline.com if you have any questions.