- Dec 7, 2009
- Wisconsin USA
How about some pictures of the 90 machines??? automotive work or not...
I own an automotive machine (since 1963) as well as a second "industrial" machine shop. Our auto machine shop hourly rate is $135. Most of our machines are specialty equipment for faster, more efficient, and more accurate engine work - about 50/50 mix between manual and CNC (including 5-axis for cylinder head porting, 4-axis for block boring & decking). We do use a few "common" machines, such as lathes, and BP mills. Cleaning and inspection ( magna flux, dye, dr-mag, and pressure testing). Heat treating, stress relieving, TIG welding (alum, magnesium, stainless) is a big part of rebuilding todays engines. Since '63 we specialized in high end import /exotic engine and hi-performance engines. In 1980 we added Harley-Davidson & other motorcycle engines to the mix, and in 2000 we added larger diesel engines. Most motorcycle engine jobs start with a minimum budget of $3k, with the hi-performance auto engine jobs ranging from $15k to $40k. Stocking quality parts is a necessary part of the biz - a bare minimum inventory of about $100k will get you started.We are in the process of setting up a business out of our hobbyist machine shop. Before I go any further let me clarify that this is by no means your average hobby shop. It's over 6,000 square feet and filled with over 90 (mostly manual), heavy duty machine tools.
I know that when we open our doors for business, we are bound to get automotive related work, specifically engine related stuff. I myself am a gearhead but having never resurfaced a block or polished a crank, I am looking for advice. We don't have any specific machinery for automotive work; we only have general purpose surface grinders. So since a Chevy 350 small block is physically too large for us to handle, let's say a guy walks in with a small motorcycle engine that he wants rebuilt. How might we do a job like this? What are some things to consider? How much is too much to charge for a job like this?
Is automotive work the most profitable discipline for a shop in it's infancy? What are some other ways to bring in steady cash? How about marketing? We have tried our hand at the lottery too many times now and we need a way to make money with all this steel and iron sitting around!
I realize I have asked several loaded questions here... I greatly appreciate any small bit of advice you contribute.
This is a shop born from a friends hobby. He just happens to be the best hoarder east of the Mississippi!You can treat it like any other repair work. "Our shop rate is $120/hr and this looks like a couple hour job" . Then they will say "Jimbo's engine shop only charges $17 for that." You can explain they have just the right machine to do that job and you have not spent the $75k to buy one for yourself because you don't specialize in that kind of work.
I do some manual repair work. I have never, ever, ever done any commodity type automotive specific machinework because engine rebuilders have the right machines for it, they have all the specs and they charge almost nothing to do it. I send work to those guys (including lots of my own) and they send a shitload of work to me.
Now if this is outside the scope of small engine stuff- like cutting liner counterbores, line boring a tugboat engine, angle matching a V8 intake on a race engine, welding up and machining a cracked bellhousing or any manner of stuck/broken bolt removal then that's good work for a repair shop.
90 manual machines in 6000 sq ft sounds like something you'd see on that TV show Hoarders. 5 or so manual machines, 3-5 CNC's ten tons of tooling and a couple forklifts sounds more like a one man business, but maybe I'm not seeing it.
This shop is a little bit of an odd place. It's more like a private makerspace at the moment that spawned from the owner's own hobby, old machines.Blunt but honest questions.
1. Are you trying to get into the machining business, or just looking for an excuse to not sell your toys?
2. I’ve been in pretty large successful shops that don’t have 90 machines, much less manual ones. What are we talking? Having 30 identical clapped out Bridgeports isn’t any better than having one or two if there’s nobody to run them all and no work for them. On the other hand, if you had a large number of uncommon machines that bill at a high rate AND you’re proficient with them, then you might be on to something.
I ask because I am not sure where the money is to be made in this business. Coming from a gearhead, I figured a large part of the trade is intertwined with automotive stuff. Government work is also a possibility but it honestly sometimes seems to far to reach.When you open your doors, you're only bound to get work that you take. If you don't know how to do automotive work, why take it? People take less kindly to you scrapping their engine than they do to scrapping out a spacer machined from a $2 block of aluminum.
There's a whole ocean of things people might pay for that you COULD do that you won't. Some guys don't do racecar stuff. Some guys don't do medical. Some guys aren't willing to catch and butcher an employee when a customer comes through the door needing a new kidney. Takes all sorts.
We had an advisor come into the shop some time ago. He said there is a lot of risk doing automotive work for that exact reason. He said don't get too caught up in fixing other peoples junk.How do you end up with 90 machines and nothing automotive? First step in automotive work is the cleaning dept, its nasty work, are you setup for that?
Edit: The only people that pay well for automotive work is the hot rodders, when they blow shit up, guess who they blame.
I suppose manufacturing a product would be much more profitable in the long run assuming that demand for the product is adequate. I created a google business profile in hopes of getting work in and we have maybe only averaged 2 or 3 calls per month, most are niche automotive jobs.Way back in the day when I was starting out you had to have a business phone line to establish wholesale purchasing accounts for materials. Along with the business phone line came a free one line listing in the Yellow Pages under a choice of categories. I chose my listing to be under machine shops.
As soon as the new Yellow Pages came out I got at least a call a day for weeks wanting to know how much the charge was to turn brake drums. I had to explain I wasn't that kind of machine shop. Eventually the calls dropped off after a month or so.
Apparently, there must have been a number of small auto repair outfits without brake drum lathes looking for inexpensive sources.
Anyway, that was a long time ago. I wouldn't bet there's still much of a demand for automotive related machine work. I mean, how often do your hear about individuals rebuilding their own car engines these days? There's probably still a demand for performance type engine work, but that would seem to go to shops with a reputation not a new start up without much experience.
I think many of the more competent kids are being downright forced into university under the false belief that blue collar work is somehow not admirable or sustainable (god I hate that word).The public education system still thinks little Johnny F'up will do well in the Votech classes and work on cars, someone needs to drag them into a modern shop and show them what is involved today. And if they can't do math, they can't work in a machine shop either.
Seems like automotive work in the machine shop is dead. I want to figure out a way to bring in money to help my boss pay rent. This is mostly a hobby for him and I but it won't be for long if we cannot pay the bills.Former neighbor was doing engine rebuilding/ machining with right the gear to do the job. Last time I spoke to him he was doing servicing on taxis. His words, " I do better with stuff like oil changes nowdays than the former."
What else do u wanna know?
I saw this video too. Very cool, I guess these old engines didn't use bearing inserts?saw an interesting one on the Haggerty site in f book......reconditioning a Model A motor ........work done at a specialist shop in Michigan ......pour new bearings in block and rods ,line bore ,rod journal bore ,rebore cylinders,etc,etc ......seems the shop does all flathead Fords ,and nowt else......some young guys there too......no worries about electric cars.
Not many engine shops in our area. I suppose that is for a reason...Why do you think you would get automotive work? Those guys tend to go to engine shops.
You can see the pictures on this website.How about some pictures of the 90 machines??? automotive work or not...
Thank you! I will look into that for when we inevitably get profitable automotive jobs.I own an automotive machine (since 1963) as well as a second "industrial" machine shop. Our auto machine shop hourly rate is $135. Most of our machines are specialty equipment for faster, more efficient, and more accurate engine work - about 50/50 mix between manual and CNC (including 5-axis for cylinder head porting, 4-axis for block boring & decking). We do use a few "common" machines, such as lathes, and BP mills. Cleaning and inspection ( magna flux, dye, dr-mag, and pressure testing). Heat treating, stress relieving, TIG welding (alum, magnesium, stainless) is a big part of rebuilding todays engines. Since '63 we specialized in high end import /exotic engine and hi-performance engines. In 1980 we added Harley-Davidson & other motorcycle engines to the mix, and in 2000 we added larger diesel engines. Most motorcycle engine jobs start with a minimum budget of $3k, with the hi-performance auto engine jobs ranging from $15k to $40k. Stocking quality parts is a necessary part of the biz - a bare minimum inventory of about $100k will get you started.
A lot has changed over the years in the auto machine shop biz. Today's engine casting are much thinner/lighter, so work holing and pre-loading critical. Greater dynamic balancing is a huge must for a successful job. Other change: we no longer grind valve seats - instead we us dedicated CNC U-axis machines to more accurately control seat profiles. Why" greater engine efficency (HP / TQ) and new engines detect inefficient cyl combustion,set a trouble code light, or fail an emissions test. < these are also why cylinder heads are no longer simple resurfaced when warped. The compression ratio for each cyl must be nearly identical, or the ECU will fail emissions or set a trouble code. So we use heat treat ovens to straighten the heads, especially over head cam(s) cyl heads) prior to surfacing.. All engine blocks require toque plates installed to preload the block before boring and honing the cylinders - most engines also use bed-plate type main bearing cap/saddles, which are also installed before boring & honing. Due to stricter emissions, ring packs are placed higher on pistons, so the rings have become very thin. And to increase MPG, piston ring wall psi has decreases significantly. This makes honing super critical. A surface profilometer is a must is an engine is to survive as many miles as an OEM engine (typically 400k miles) or deliver big HP. Honing is now down with diamond stones, instead of old-school vitrified hone stones. our Sunnen Diamond hone is CNC controlled in order to hit the correct Ra, Rz, Rpk finishes consistantly.
Most "stone" grinding wheels have long ago been replaced with CBN wheels on our Dual Mass Flywheel grinder, Crank grinder, Valve refacing grinders, and surface grinder, T&C grinders. Cleaning is the most difficult and least profitable part of our auto machine shop - meeting EPA requirements come at a huge investment/cost.
Three significant things that make auto machining differ from industrial machining:
1. the work pieces are "unique" - no two worn cranks are the same, no two cylinder heads are worn the same - unlike a billet of aluminum or other stock that is generally a "known" element. So you must have the means to inspect, evaluate, and determine how to "fix" each piece of an engine so it operates synergically with all the other parts.
2. for most engine parts you only get "one shot" to do the job correctly. Unlike industrial work, where you might run off a test piece to set up the cutters, etc, or is you scrap a part, its not the end of the world make another part. With automotive parts, if you screw the pooch while re-sleeving a customer's 1965 Ferrari V12 block, or a set of ported AFR heads with berylium valve seats and titanium valves, you may thing you just ruined a NASA rocket part. - except the auto job you quoted won't be anywhere near enough to cover even a fraction of the cost to replace a modern engine block, or cylinder head, etc. For example, you can quote a job machining 303 billets, without prior inspection - but with automotive work, you can't quote without a thorough and costly inspection first (unless you want unhappy customers/unprofitable sales).
3. most automotive machine work is sold thru consultative selling/marketing. In other words, if you expect to make a profit in the biz, you must do the higher end work, otherwise your just taking a long slow path to bankruptcy. And to make it in the hi-end market, you typically must be known as an expert in your specialty area. Most marketing is done thru sharing of your knowledge - often at no charge, with hopes of getting a job down the road. This "sucks" a lot of the profit out of automotive machining. (our smaller industrial shop grosses 35% less than the automotive shop, but nets about the same.) If you think quoting an industrial job takes up your time, wait until you quote a few engine jobs.
With todays ECU controlled engines, light casting, etc, engine work requires a huge commitment. Can you do a few "down & dirty" jobs? of course. Will you be efficient and profitable doing them? very unlikely. With your mix of machinery and knowledge of engines, I would not recommend making such work a large part of your biz plan. Focus instead on what you really know well and can do most efficently. You may find selling many of your machines to acquire a couple of state-of-the-art CNC VMC, etc let you make widgets with an economy of scale that is very profitable. This is what we did when we established our industrial shop.
Regardless, if you decide to take on more automotive work, I recommend you join Automotive Engine Rebuilders Assn and subscribe to their Prosis data base (it has all the size & torque Spec, procedure updates for machining, as well as tech bulletins, revisions, upgraded part info, engine component identification info, and pattern failure notices). Also feel free to contact me with any auto machining questions thru our website at www.automotivemachine.com. Wish you the best of luck!
Sorry about that. Just finished my finals so I can get to all the messages. There is a lot to digest here.Love it when people ignore all the questions and fail to acknowledge the time people took to offer advice. Thanks OP!
We got a lot of our machines from estate sales. Some came very cheap, but that didn't include the insane rigging and shipping costs. We only rent the space that the machines reside in.In 70 I opened my first parts house in a new 6k sq ft bldg. Way more space than I needed for parts. The Idea was to put an auto machine shop in the back half , just like larger NAPA stores had. In the meantime I had a friend who owned an auto machine shop and did all the engine work that came my way and I made a 20% mark up just for pick up and delivery. At that time the parts sale was about 3:1parts to labor. So the machine shops were probably making more off parts sales than labor.
Every year I would run the figures to see if it was more profitable to put in my own machines. Most machinery sellers would sell on a lease/ purchase agreement so you could get an immeadiate tax deduction instead of a deprecation schedule and you wouldn't have to lay out a lot of cash to buy the equiptment out right. Never did make economic sense in the 15 years I had it before I sold it. Now the simple drum and rotor machines and flywheel grinder made lots of money because of the volume and related parts sales. No machinist to run them either, I could train a couple of my guys easy enough.Most rotors now are so cheap they are not worth turning even if there is enough meat left to turn.
You can see the pictures on this website.