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Doing work for other shops

antoniog

Plastic
Joined
Nov 4, 2021
Hello, I’m currently working at a shop that I’m starting to feel a little bit stagnant in. My father used to own a machine shop (1 VMC, 3 CNC lathes, Bridgeport and surface grinder) and has since retired. He’s kept his shop somewhat intact since it’s on his property and only goes in there for small hobby work or to drill some holes in whatever he’s working on. I’m thinking of starting to work for myself with my fathers machines and eventually making products of my own but I don’t feel like it’s the best idea to dive headfirst into that. I’m thinking of subcontracting myself out to other local-ish shops and I’m considering where to start my search. I’m thinking about doing work for fab/welding shops since it seems like it would be mostly just cleanup/prep work/drilling lots o’holes for them. Nothing too difficult aside from possibly the tooling for cutting welds. How feasible/realistic is this idea? Are there other kinds of shops I can look into? Wood shops? Other machine shops/xometry/mfg is an obvious choice here but I’m also staying open to alternatives. Unfortunately I do not own a manual lathe. Thank you for reading!
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
Do you have ideas for products?

If so, why the hell would you want to do job work instead of developing your products? The two are not intertwined. Job work does not lead to products, it stagnates your products as it requires the attention you would otherwise apply to products.
 

antoniog

Plastic
Joined
Nov 4, 2021
Do you have ideas for products?

If so, why the hell would you want to do job work instead of developing your products? The two are not intertwined. Job work does not lead to products, it stagnates your products as it requires the attention you would otherwise apply to products.
I think it’s fair to do jobs for other people in the meanwhile of developing and making my own product in order to keep the lights on and food on the table. I don’t think it would be a permanent intertwining of course but I’ll need the support I can get for the early phases of making my own products
 

vincent eggleton

Aluminum
Joined
Jun 28, 2016
Would your father let you take the equipment or would be allow customers to go there?
What if the customer shows up before you arrive or after you leave would that be an issue?
Do you have any potential customers that would be lined up or would keep returning?

I would not even consider scalping customers from your current employer because you never know how your current boss or customers would feel. I know a few people that have trained or paid for training for employees only to have the employee break off and try to take there customers. It just seems like a bad way to start a business to me.

I am a younger guy and my father has given me his equipment (tool and die) to start out as well so I have a glimpse of some understanding of where you are coming from. The main issue I have had as a job shop is keeping a steady line of work coming in and paying on time. I started my business in 2014 and I have been mainly making dies to start off before Covid. during Covid it has been smaller jobs. I am very lucky that my father is helping me and he haseven giving me some of his older customers. (he has 55++ years of experience) My shop equipment is not at our house and its kind of nice to have peace on the weekends. (always take calls)

My advice for what little its worth is the opposite of GARWOOD. keep your day job for the steady income for now and after normal work hours go to your fathers and make sure the equipment is good or not in need of repair, common consumables bins/stock empty?

Have a good talk with your father and figure out where the equipment is going to end up (in writing!) and how or what you plan to do about drive up customers. Depending on your relationship with your father it may work out well or you could be like many other people who say they would never work with or for family ever again.

I have never found any part like GARWOOD says that I could focus and run to sell online for a really good profit. I seem to only make the prototypes or we make a die for the customer. I see parts jobs getting out sourced over seas sadly. BUT if you happen to have one please let me know!
 

antoniog

Plastic
Joined
Nov 4, 2021
For clarification, there’s no chance I would be stealing work from the shop I currently work at. Over 90% of their work comes from one company that deals with semiconductors and that would require certifications on my end that I do not have any plans of being able to achieve in the meanwhile. If I were to get certified, it would be far down the future from the current place I work at. I will probably have to move some machines to an industrial space since they probably wouldn’t want customers coming onto their property (VERY understandable) and also adding to their power bill. My ultimate goal is to work for myself instead of working for someone else. Are other kinds of trade shops (wood, welding, etc.) a reasonable place to walk in and ask if they need help? Or should I stick to “real” machining jobs? For reference I am located just south of the Bay Area in Cali.
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
My advice for what little its worth is the opposite of GARWOOD. keep your day job for the steady income for now and after normal work hours go to your fathers and make sure the equipment is good or not in need of repair, common consumables bins/stock empty?

Have a good talk with your father and figure out where the equipment is going to end up (in writing!) and how or what you plan to do about drive up customers. Depending on your relationship with your father it may work out well or you could be like many other people who say they would never work with or for family ever again.

I have never found any part like GARWOOD says that I could focus and run to sell online for a really good profit. I seem to only make the prototypes or we make a die for the customer. I see parts jobs getting out sourced over seas sadly. BUT if you happen to have one please let me know!

I'm not understanding how your advice is the opposite of mine? It reads to me like you are recommending exactly the same thing I am, but you are giving advice from the perspective of a job shop that has never made products.

To reiterate, my advice is to stay on as an employee while getting something going on the side and in addition, it's pick one or the other- Products or Job work.

I think success in any kind of manufacturing biz requires top sales ability. If you're an employee you probably have no idea if you're good at this or not, that's why keeping the day job is a smart move.

If products is the goal I wouldn't get my hopes up if that isn't the driving force behind going into business. "...eventually making products of my own." sounds like products are an afterthought and unlikely.
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
Are other kinds of trade shops (wood, welding, etc.) a reasonable place to walk in and ask if they need help? Or should I stick to “real” machining jobs? For reference I am located just south of the Bay Area in Cali.

Why would you think your potential customers were hidden in certain industries? You need to play salesman to all of them.

The successful job shops I'm close to have such an incredible spectrum of customers they cater to. There's no " Yeah! Go talk to wood shops, they'll definitely make you rich!"
 

BugRobotics

Hot Rolled
Joined
Jun 22, 2015
Location
Denver, CO
Garwood's advice is spot on. If you have the luxury of getting into your own products with little overhead go for it. Splitting between outside work and your own projects is kind of a crap shoot as most of your time will be spent hitting deadlines or dealing with your clients. I've spent quite a bit of time juggling the two and it's frustrating.
 

EMTech

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 10, 2022
Location
South Bend area
Why would you think your potential customers were hidden in certain industries? You need to play salesman to all of them.

The successful job shops I'm close to have such an incredible spectrum of customers they cater to. There's no " Yeah! Go talk to wood shops, they'll definitely make you rich!"

YES!

Regardless of industry, work to find customers who can pay well and with whom you enjoy working.
 

jatt

Aluminum
Joined
Dec 14, 2009
Location
Australia
Why would you think your potential customers were hidden in certain industries? You need to play salesman to all of them.

The successful job shops I'm close to have such an incredible spectrum of customers they cater to. There's no " Yeah! Go talk to wood shops, they'll definitely make you rich!"

Thats kinda it in a nutshell.
Look thru the books around here and the work is coming from a variety of clients.

Dont have any particularly large contracts or anything. Like the mix we have, if one gets a bit quiet, then it doesnt equate to a disaster.

Mining services, fab shop, RV yards, transport, govt contractor are where most of mine comes from. Keeps one well and truly amused!
 

vincent eggleton

Aluminum
Joined
Jun 28, 2016
Garwood I am sorry I must have miss read what you wrote. I was busy working on something else at the same time I was thinking of what to write and got distracted. Just as an FYI we have and do make runs of parts on our cnc equipment but typically any part your going to make in any real quantity you try to make a die for to keep cost down.

I agree that trying to make one product and bring it to market is very time consuming and/or costly and you should stick to just focusing that or pick to be a job shop. one or the other.

Like every one else here I also agree that there is no certain one place to advertise for job shop work. You would be surprised at how many people from all walks of life need work done once they figure out that almost anything they can imagine can be built. Some times it feels like I get a bigger quantity of customers from a google business listing but I seem to get more return customers by referrals from welders and fab guys in my area I have done work for. That has also been very nice because they some times filter out some of the waste your time types or non paying customers. Most of our dies lately have been out of state but I feel if I could get past the secretary at the local places and talk to some one who is more in charge I could get more die work at the local places.

Google is free and paper cards are so cheap to have printed I just post mine up everywhere. I have even tried to drive around the citys next to me and hand flyers and cards out. I give them out to friends and customers after I have done jobs for them. Word of mouth still works. GOOD LUCK!
 

Doug

Diamond
Joined
Dec 16, 2002
Location
Pacific NW
Make your own products huh????? Sounds good, should be easy too. Yeah, maybe I'll devote this week end to coming up with some products that'll sell like hotcakes and make me rich quick.

Anybody ever dealt with the general public? In case you don't know, the customer is always right, do you have the people skills to deal with that attitude? You want them to come to your shop to look at the product and waste half a day trying to make a sale? Oh, okay, sell online. They pay with a credit card or Paypal and want to return the product for refund, how do you handle that? Credit cards and Paypal favor the customer in a dispute. Warrantee on the product? Liability insurance covering the product? How about product support when customers can't make it work?

In the unlikely event the product is a big seller how do you protect against others who will for sure copy your product? Patents, copyrights, can you afford to defend these?

$10 or $1,000 product? Let's say a one man shop, full time might need to gross $100k/year (gross, not net). With a $10 product you need to sell 10,000 a year, that's 192 a week, can you pack and ship that many? $1,000 product, how many impulse-buy in that price range, you need to ship two a week?
 

neilho

Titanium
Joined
Mar 23, 2006
Location
Vershire, Vermont
Lotsa possibilities for making and marketing a product. Problems, for sure, but all solvable. If it was easy, everybody'd be doing it.

There'll always be people that take up time and don't lead to direct payment. Most of them well meaning. One always has to do PR, accepting payment can happen in a multitude of ways, development is expensive, marketing takes time and luck is involved. Evolution and problem solving is something us machinists are pretty good at with materials/machines, but maybe not with people. Garfield is clearly good at it, but someone who has a history of only making parts for others and has to see the money immediately is going to have a difficult time.

I do both job shop work and make a tool/product for a niche market. It's a good balance for me - job shop work is available and fills the schedule as needed.

There are competitors that I have to stay ahead of - I think of us as a collective, striving towards excellence :D , however, my competitors do not - one was pissed that I "stole" his design and demanded royalties. I didn't realize I had at the time, was only duplicating and improving what a customer told me was no longer available. I took pissed off man seriously till finding he had no patent and that he had only "improved" a previous design, primarily for price point and ease of machining. Meanwhile the designer whose work he copied is still pissed at both of us but was not above incorporating some of my improvements into his latest design. He's so mad that he won't sell attachments to anyone that owns my tool, even though they interchange.

So first pissed-off-man designed an even cheaper tool, ordered parts in big quantity then promptly died, sticking his heirs/company with parts for 500 tools that no savvy user will buy because they're time consuming to set up and hard to keep in alignment, all out of spite.

A long story, but this is typical of product development and sales, far as I can tell. One has to stay ahead of competitors and sales and marketing is to be learned. If you aren't willing to take it on, don't do it. It's not for everybody, but I think it's a ton of fun.

I sell both direct and through a distributor that's passionate about his business, has used the tool for years and is very upfront with me about what works and what doesn't and suggests improvements. I'm lucky to have found him and he thinks the same of me.

So yeah, if you have a product you think will work, go for it and do it in a way that suits YOU.



Anybody ever dealt with the general public? In case you don't know, the customer is always right, do you have the people skills to deal with that attitude? You want them to come to your shop to look at the product and waste half a day trying to make a sale? Oh, okay, sell online. They pay with a credit card or Paypal and want to return the product for refund, how do you handle that? Credit cards and Paypal favor the customer in a dispute. Warrantee on the product? Liability insurance covering the product? How about product support when customers can't make it work?


In the unlikely event the product is a big seller how do you protect against others who will for sure copy your product? Patents, copyrights, can you afford to defend these?

$10 or $1,000 product? Let's say a one man shop, full time might need to gross $100k/year (gross, not net). With a $10 product you need to sell 10,000 a year, that's 192 a week, can you pack and ship that many? $1,000 product, how many impulse-buy in that price range, you need to ship two a week?
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
Make your own products huh????? Sounds good, should be easy too. Yeah, maybe I'll devote this week end to coming up with some products that'll sell like hotcakes and make me rich quick.

Anybody ever dealt with the general public? In case you don't know, the customer is always right, do you have the people skills to deal with that attitude? You want them to come to your shop to look at the product and waste half a day trying to make a sale? Oh, okay, sell online. They pay with a credit card or Paypal and want to return the product for refund, how do you handle that? Credit cards and Paypal favor the customer in a dispute. Warrantee on the product? Liability insurance covering the product? How about product support when customers can't make it work?

In the unlikely event the product is a big seller how do you protect against others who will for sure copy your product? Patents, copyrights, can you afford to defend these?

$10 or $1,000 product? Let's say a one man shop, full time might need to gross $100k/year (gross, not net). With a $10 product you need to sell 10,000 a year, that's 192 a week, can you pack and ship that many? $1,000 product, how many impulse-buy in that price range, you need to ship two a week?

So that's how products work eh? Lol!

I think the part that flew right past you, the part that successful product producers pick up on early on is there is some strategy to it.

The points you bring up could be problems, but maybe not. And frankly, those are all easily solvable things or even complete non-issues.

Patents? Fuck patents. You laid it out real simple there. If you can't defend it what's the point? Patent isn't going to stop anyone from copying it.

Make it anyway. Make it great and do a great job of customer service.

Fuck up customer service and you are done. I don't care how good your parts are. That doesn't mean "the customer is always right". it means you use STRATEGY. It's situational and you make a judgement based on what happened and your desired outcome.

WRT selling large quantities of low value goods, that's probably not a great business plan. Low value products can be a good idea if they compliment higher value products you also make. Generally, it's a real poor strategy to get into making something and look at it like "I'm going to sell $10 widgets. So I need to sell 10,000 of them annually to pay the bills". That's retarded. Nobody thinks that way.

I remember meeting this fidget spinner guy. He was right at the start of that crap and he was so bitter at how it ended for him, bitter that the market was flooded with cheap junk before even half of the machines and tooling he bought to make the parts were amortized. I was like, you couldn't see that coming? That sounds like the stupidest business idea in the world to build fidget spinners in the USA.

Your strategy should start with how much money you want to make, how much capacity you have for inventory burden, manufacturing capacity, customer support and shipping. If it doesn't add up it's not a product. It's a waste of your time.
 
Last edited:

Ox

Diamond
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Location
West Unity, Ohio
So that's how products work eh? Lol!

I think the part that flew right past you, the part that successful product producers pick up on early on is there is some strategy to it.

The points you bring up could be problems, but maybe not. And frankly, those are all easily solvable things or even complete non-issues.

Patents? Fuck patents. You laid it out real simple there. If you can't defend it what's the point? Patent isn't going to stop anyone from copying it.

Make it anyway. Make it great and do a great job of customer service.

Fuck up customer service and you are done. I don't care how good your parts are. That doesn't mean "the customer is always right". it means you use STRATEGY. It's situational and you make a judgement based on what happened and your desired outcome.

WRT selling large quantities of low value goods, that's probably not a great business plan. Low value products can be a good idea if they compliment higher value products you also make. Generally, it's a real poor strategy to get into making something and look at it like "I'm going to sell $10 widgets. So I need to sell 10,000 of them annually to pay the bills". That's retarded. Nobody thinks that way.

I remember meeting this fidget spinner guy. He was right at the start of that crap and he was so bitter at how it ended for him, bitter that the market was flooded with cheap junk before even half of the machines and tooling he bought to make the parts were amortized. I was like, you couldn't see that coming? That sounds like the stupidest business idea in the world to build fidget spinners in the USA.

Your strategy should start with how much money you want to make, how much capacity you have for inventory burden, manufacturing capacity, customer support and shipping. If it doesn't add up it's not a product. It's a waste of your time.



One particular line in there saddens me to hear you say, and moves you down one notch on my respect-o-meter.

I'm sure that we will get past it, but ....


------------

Think Snow Eh!
Ox
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
One particular line in there saddens me to hear you say, and moves you down one notch on my respect-o-meter.

I'm sure that we will get past it, but ....


------------

Think Snow Eh!
Ox


I wrote products, not parts(not job work). A product, as I'm using the word, is describing finished goods for sale to the masses, not parts made to someone else's print.

There are lots of finished, packaged, shipped Amazon Prime products for under $10. Guess how many of those are made in USA? Most of that kind of stuff you couldn't pay for the box, the shipping and Amazon's cut if you made it here so it isn't made here.

I've never had parts made overseas. Closest I've come to that is using a heat exchanger core made in China with tanks and mounts I formed, machined and welded on. I am sold out of all my low cost products currently. The lowest retail price item I had, sold for $31 shipped and was basically a piece of 3/4x2 CR steel flatbar with a few tapped and counterbored holes black oxided and laser marked. I haven't made more of the cheaper stuff in the past year because the high value items have sold so well I've focused on those. I have to revisit all the low cost stuff, recalculate all the margins and adjust pricing.

I'm not advocating people offshore their parts. I'm pointing out that most people are aware there are barriers to producing low cost products here.

The OP seemed like his plan had something to do with products. Sounds like he has an opportunity to get something off the ground. He never answered the question if he had ideas for products or not. If he does then I'd suggest he uses this opportunity to develop them. If he doesn't have any real drive to develop products then I have no further input, not my schtick.
 

Plane Parts

Aluminum
Joined
Apr 21, 2019
Do what you need to do in the meantime to put food on the table. Then spend a few hours a night just tinkering around your father's shop. Keep an eye out for projects your employer can farm out to you. You may be surprised there are parts they hate making that they would gladly give you. Phase it in to your self employment goals and be honest with your employer that your goal is to run your own shop. You will be surprised how open companies are to this sort of arrangement. From my own experience I made simple parts on my cheap home CNC for my employer which allowed them to use a much more valuable machine to make more profitable parts. It worked out for everyone. 15 years on I still make parts for them and I am full time self employed with my own shop and employees.
 








 
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