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03-10-2012, 06:22 AM #1Cast Iron
- Join Date
- Feb 2010
- Indianapolis, IN
OT: What does a small machine shop actually do?
Ok, this is a bit of a difficult question to ask for several reasons, first I think i am a big ignorant about a machine shop, which is why I am asking. Second, i feel like I will catch some flack because I am a member here but not in a machine shop, although i have a shop with machines in it, so I dont really know the day to day operations of a machine shop. Lastly, I am sure it varies, but here is what my question is based off of.
Add new machine equals work less, right?
I have ready many threads like it where people are putting in loooong hours, and making lots of "runs"
Problem is nobody says what they are making, and what parts take a 72 hour run on a CNC, and what they are turning out with a 70 hour workweek on several cnc mills/lathes.
Whats a typical day to day operations look like for the smalltime machineshop, and what is the basic list of equipment that a moderatly equipped small machine shop has to offer.
Over the course of time, as i build my business and experience i have daydreamed about doing side jobs besides gunsmithing utilizing the tools and machinery i will have. Mill, lathe, surface grinder, hot blueing, parkerizing, welding ect. but i dont actually know what being a "machine shop" actually entails.
03-10-2012, 06:45 AM #2
Pretty much whatever comes through the door. I do a lot of hydraulic repairs. Rods, glands, pistons and cylinders. My mainstay is prototyping for a company. Here, make this! If they're not happy with the design, they tweak it a little and I make it again or they forget about it and go another route. Do a lot for the labeling companys. Off feed rolls, turret spindles and just plain "gizmos". Joe Blow off the street needs something turned, milled or welded. If I have time, I'll do it. Start at 5am every day. Usually 12/14 hrs a day. Getting tired, but there's no one in the area that will turn things around quick. Mostly because they're CNC and won't do one offs. Very few people in this neck of the woods even know what a lathe is, let alone know how to run the damn thing. Always someone spouting how they ran a CNC somewhere. No, they pushed a "stupid button". The best CNC machinists generally came out of little ratholes like this. They've had hands on experience. I'd do it, if I wasn't so damn old.
Oh yeah, machines. Three mills, two lathes, 8x24 s. grinder, welders, ID OD grinder, tap disintegrator, and tons of support crap like measuring stuff, big blast cabinet, band saw.
03-10-2012, 07:09 AM #3
Ray-good for you. I am in my '60s worked on and off in machine and welding shops all my life, it seems to me that the breed of fellows that say-bring it in the door ,I will fix it- seem to be less that years ago. I agree tech stuff is great, CNC and all , but just still need the internal mechanical sense that make a great repair/mechanic/machinist.
03-10-2012, 07:38 AM #4
im in the mid 20S i work in a machine shop all manual lathe and mill. we have 1 20x60 1 20x40 lathe a 24 x 80 and a 28 x 120. we are mainly doing alot of work in 2 specific market. we repair big machinery that work in the quarry in the town and also work in a shop with welder that do ALOT of work for food line and things for the food shop. this is 2 WAY different world but after all machning is machining.
we just recently bought what we call up here (yeah a french canadian) a hybrid lathe its a 20x80 standart lathe with a fagor controler for small series of piece and complex shape. it work like a dream and this way we can affort to do whatever we want.
we usually do everything. if poeple come in and ask somethign we will do it. we do cold metalizing, welding everything that need to be done to repair or build something strong and that will last a long time from scratch.
03-10-2012, 08:13 AM #5
Miserable cold has me in with time on my hands...so here goes!
A day in the life of my one man band:
I do mainly contract work-70 or 80 different parts for a local place. They go thru 50 to 100 of each part per year, so I run batches of parts, which they take 5 or ten at a time based on their needs. It has been lean for the last couple years! It used to be 10 to 25 of each at a time.
A run of parts can be 25 at a time, up to a couple hundred, based on the part, material available, and the amount of time available. It is not pleasant to get a request for 25 parts and have 18 in the bin(they expect immediate delivery, which works well when I make large batches ahead of time)Sometimes small numbers are made to fill an order, but is inefficient! But the near immediate delivery helps them to be Lean, and keeps them sending me blanket orders!
Some parts are complex(comparatively-others make Much more complex stuff than me)and some are simple. Ex: one part is an assembly of a turned and bored round and a milled, drilled and slitted block tig welded together, and other parts may be just a modified screw. Some batches take days, others take under an hour.
My machines are all old! But they were cheap, and are all paid for. If work dries up, the shop can sit till things pick up again! Here is the list:
Bridgeport and Index vertical mills, Burke and U.S. machine tools horizontal mills. Lathes: Prazi, South bend 10k, Hardinge T10, Monarch 12 CKK, Warner&swazey #3, B&S 2G screw machine. Power hacksaw, vertical bandsaw, belt sander, surface grinder, tool& cutter grinder, 4' sheet metal brake, 42" power shear, sandblast cabinet, 4 ton punch press, shop fridge and air compressor. Mig and Tig, Stick welders,Torches too. Just stumbled on an aluminum spool gun too!
A typical day in the shop:
Start a fire in the shop stove, go in and breeze shoot with the parents- the shop is in their 2 car garage, so it is important and proper to maintain good interaction. Consult the Job List( weekly undated as requests deplete stock) and make some parts, or continue a run from the day before. Requires discipline to do real work when there are various projects here and there, and to keep things neat and organized. I've fallen into the habit of a 20 minute nap after lunch, and it sure helps! About 5 or 6 pm a beer is enjoyed with my father(he is in and out all day if little is going on for him) and the work day is over. Pretty basic.
The shop doesn't quite pay the bills lately, so other work must be done. Ex: Cut and sell firewood, auto repairs(can still fit a car in the shop) Scrapping when the opportunity arises, masonry with my dad in good weather, outside welding jobs, etc. We are working on some odds and ends to sell online, and are pursuing other customers too.
It has been a struggle, but has been very enjoyable too! Calling the shots is great, as well as being able to spend quality time with my parents. I'm proud of the good relationship I have with them. It would be horrible to be employed by anyone again. Hope this helps!!!
03-10-2012, 08:32 AM #6
Yup, discipline is a key word for this job. Perserverance and dedication are a couple more, but honesty tops them all. If you ain't got it....yer screwed!
03-10-2012, 08:38 AM #7Diamond
- Join Date
- Jan 2005
I'm a bit surprised that so many guys do 'whatever comes in the door'.
If I were running a shop, I would aggressively seek out good business - easier said than done, admittedly - so I could turn away crap business when it arrives.
I'd be out soliciting customers rather than waiting for them to come in the door.
03-10-2012, 09:02 AM #8Aluminum
- Join Date
- Dec 2011
- bis nd
I was woundering what your guys difention of a machine shop is. I was just at an old freinds bis he opened a year ago to check it out and see if he could grind a shaft for me since I dont have a tool post grinder and i thought he could comercial machine shop. On the door it siad machineing but ass I toured it they were lost on how to fix shaft no grinder they have an cheap manual lathe over in the corner surface grinder not hooked up. But what they do have is a cnc lathe, cnc mill, flow jet table, plasma table and some welders. some nice stuff and they got some real clients. but to me ther a manufacturer all they do is make new parts. when I think machine shop I think a bounch old grease machines that you can fix just about any thing with or make anything with. Repairing a shaft to making a one off prototype
03-10-2012, 09:12 AM #9
It's not really that way. At least for me. I've got 8 excellent customers that keep me much more than busy. But once you're established, people seek you out from word of mouth or whatever means. I'm a sucker for helping whoever. I'll be the first to say, I'm no whizzbang miracle worker, but I'm in awe of the professionals that can't do shit. Sometimes it makes you feel good to get a job done (that can't be done) for that "walk in" that can't tie his own shoes. We've all met them. Six figure salaries and dumber than a hoe handle.
03-10-2012, 07:49 PM #10
you also never know when you say to a guy that you cant work for him since his job he have to get done suck, you never know if he will not come back with job like this every day or just became your new #1 client. every job that keep you busy help you out to pay the bills.
i prefere to not be picky and being able to pay my bill. btw there is 2 kind of machine shop the out that make piece in series (priority to cnc) and shop like i work where we repair things and get them fix (repair shop) this is 2 different world.
03-10-2012, 09:10 PM #11
Ok, only the second time I'm trying to post this - so 1st - the new format here, Ummm..oh yeah, SUCKS.
OK, back to topic -
I'm a one man band shop and my part lots vary from one-sey- two-sey jobs to 10,000+ part runs. It all depends on what my customers want.
Unlike most (it seems) that start with a conventional mill and lathe, I started with CNC's right away, as they're what I know best. In fact, I do most of my 1-2 part runs on them as I'm just faster on them than the conventional equipment. I started my shop when the family business was outside my grasp and being run into the ground. I took a home equity loan and bought my first CNC - a Pratt and Whitney TriMac VMC, which I still have. A few years later, I've got that plus a Mori-Seiki SL3-H CNC lathe with barfeed and an Okuma LB15 CNC lathe.
I do have conventional equipment as well, namely a Bridgeport and a Hartford lathe, but I rarely use them as I'm so much faster on the CNC's.
I rarely do repair work, perhaps once or twice a year max. I mostly make parts for a variety of industries, including the valve biz, hydraulics, packaging, and others.
03-11-2012, 09:48 AM #12Hot Rolled
- Join Date
- May 2011
- southern in.
I tried to reply to this thread, but it would not allow me, but it will allow this. What gives?
03-11-2012, 10:47 AM #13
03-11-2012, 12:39 PM #14
As for me. I do a lot of repair stuff for a rather large company. I rebuild there air cylinders, install new bearing sleeves and bearings in some of there motors, I also make some replacement parts for there machines. I do some onsite machine maintenance for same company. This company is world wide and makes two different machines to do there work in house. I was able to go in and say hey you guys just replace part A with a new part, for less then half I can rebuild it like new.
As for whats in the shop. I am in a 28X60 poll barn with two Bridgeport one is set up with Ericson quick change taper tooling and collets Vari-speed head, the other is just a plain old step pulley R8 set up. This gives me one that is very true and tight ware the R8 is more for jobs that I dont need to hold a super tight tolerance. Then I have a Millport 1340 lathe, good size blast cabinet, 8X10 cut off band saw, more hand tools then I can count. Plus a lot of Maintenance / repair tools ( pullers, seal and bearing drivers, etc ). Then the welding gear Stick, Mig, Tig, and gas. I plan to add-on to the building and hope to put a 48X 120 CNC plasma table in some day.
03-11-2012, 02:04 PM #15
My business is only about a third machining, with the rest being welding and design work. Actually, that's the way it used to be; now it's probably two thirds repair work, most of which is welding. The nice, fat design and build jobs pretty much dried up a couple of years ago. I'm on a short slide into retirement, though, and when I get there it will be more machining on fun stuff for me, friends and family.
The machining I have done is almost all one-off stuff, making tools, prototypes, replacement parts, test equipment and assembly machines. I've had some jobs making a few dozen of something, but I'm not competitive at that, and really don't like doing it. Some representative stuff is on my website, BDashFab.com.
03-11-2012, 04:42 PM #16
OTH If you made a bad choice a small machine shop. blows your tolerances, gives you finished parts whose bearing fits are out of round, whose seal areas have jaw marks, has a couple extra holes. They screw up the material you give them and start over with mystery metal from their rem box, turn assemetrical V threads, make tapers on the straight parts and make deliberate tapers straight. They'll weld up diameters machine undesized in materials having high carbon contents, make right hands parts left handed, mill key seat and keyways off center, polist surfaces having open tolerances and make precision fits look like 30 miles of bad road in a rainstorm.
Worst of all they freely manufacture excuses, assemble alibis, fabricate lies and deceptions, over-run schedules, mislaid irreplacible samples, loses sketches and drawings, or when you arrive in person after three weeks of emails and telephone negotiations no-one there ever heard of you, the boss isn;t here, we're busy now, we have to close for lunch, and the office dog sprinkles you pant legs when your next appointment is at the lawyers for a deposition.
All this has happened to me one time or another. This is just to let you know that there is nothing in particular to make a small machine shop exaulted in the annals of commence. But most of them try and most of them will do you good work.
This is to say that a small machine shop is a human activity and as such is fallible As you gain experience your awe will diminish to a wry acceeptance of the people and an understanding of the lore. It takes time, maybe a couple years of diversified experience but you'll get it.
03-11-2012, 05:04 PM #17Diamond
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
- Upstate NY -In the Flats next to the corn fields
03-11-2012, 05:31 PM #18
03-11-2012, 09:53 PM #19
Not sure if I qualify because I've always had a factory job as my primary income...but have done repair work and made parts for (minimum) profits at times.
A lot of what I've done is just repair or renew worn out, replace missing parts of machines. Make special tools for fixing other machines. Improve stuff that's breaking too often. I too will attempt work on nearly anything that's brought to me for the challenge and for the learning experience. I've made jigs and fixtures for checking parts, assembling parts.
I would say some type of welding capability is almost mandatory...I can't imagine going thru the day without the ability to "stick stuff together" more or less, permanently.
I've recognized I don't do well as a job shop, so I've cancelled that off my list of things to try. Latest bent is to try to develop a couple of small product ideas I have and see what develops
03-12-2012, 07:57 AM #20
My shop has always been a job shop. We do a little bit of everything that comes in. I do alot of basic repairs, fabricating new shafts, repairing shafts, electric motor shafts, embells, pump housings, and one off custom parts that people want made. I also do welding. Some of my repairs or modifications require a great deal of welding. If you want to see examples of my work check out my thread in the pictures forum. My machine shop