Very large 1-person manual shops - is this unusual?
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  1. #1
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    I recently stopped by a machine shop in another town, just to see what they did. Turned out to be a one-man shop ... but the shop was equipped with around 8 lathes and at least as many mills, plus various other machines, every one of them manual. He did repair and other custom work for local industry.

    Several months ago, I had stopped by a machine shop near me, which again turned out to be a one-man shop, all manual machines ... but his shop is even larger. He has on the order of 12+ lathes, some of them very large indeed, and about the same number of mills, plus all sorts of other very large equipment. And he is constantly buying more!

    Hmm, two very large shops run by one person in a relatively small radius. Is it usual for one-person shops to have this many machines? Am I correct in thinking that everytime either of these guys is working, there are 20+ machines sitting idle in their shops?

    Please note that I am neither complaining nor critiquing; if anything, I am envious! [img]smile.gif[/img]

  2. #2
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    Chances are each owns the building and the equipment and machinery are left over from a time when they had a larger workforce. You see this in sheet metal and fab shops too.

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    Yea,
    And when they are on a smoke break, there are 21+
    machines ldle.
    Kap

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    Yeah.....The older they got the less interested they became in dealing with people problems.....


    I was a job shop foreman for about 10 yrs. When I started my shop I rented a small space for one person. When well meaning folk ask, "How soon till you hire some employees?" (meaning how soon till you're REALLY succesful) I always answer "Never, I hope....." (I did my time babysitting )

    The problems machines give you only require logic to solve....."machinists",thats another story...


    Ted

    ***not as anti social as he's coming off here.....

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    Brian, from Versa Mill, who posts here, and Sean, the Deckel moderator, both have shops like that.

    In most cases, its a personal decision, that one just doesnt want to put up with the inherent compromises in having employees.

    Sometimes it works- there are a few one man shops that crank out lots of work, make money, and are sensible, if a bit eccentric.

    I knew a guy like that in California, who fabricates art for famous artists- he had a 10,000sq ft shop, equipped for machining, fabrication, wood, and plastic work, including a 12' shear and brake, lathes and mills, cnc panel saws, and so on- and he hated other people being around- never could work with anybody. So he worked entirely alone.
    But he did very high end work, and often kept an artwork as partial payment, some of which became enormously valuable. So he could pretty much call his own shots, and did.
    He made plenty of money, and bought machines that enabled him to do it himself.

    But for every guy like that, there is the guy who lives in his office, no family, no real work to speak of, just sorta marking time til he dies. He knows if he sells the shop, he will have NOTHING left to live for, so he lingers on, even though no real business walks in the door.
    Usually guys like that get displaced by developers or high real estate taxes, and the machines just get scrapped.

    there are also wealthy hobby types- for instance, I once heard about the huge, well equipped shop that the owner of Fluke had built for his large scale model train hobby- no need to make money, and only the best tools.

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    ...or it could be....the work just dried up...

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    no need to make money, and only the best tools.
    Sw-e-e-e-t.....


    Ries...I guess we were pecking away at the same time.... ( for the rest of you I'm NOT the rich art guy....)

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    Is it usual for one-person shops to have this many machines?
    Sort of a hard to control urge, you gotta watch that one, see where it can take you [img]smile.gif[/img]

    It sounds exactly like the sort of workshop more than a few PM members would have, myself included, if there was no limit on the availibility of cool machinery for sale, space or money.

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    As Ries mentioned, Brian at Versamill pulls that trick, but for his situation in manufacturing a product line it is advantageous to have a machine already set up for just one purpose and leave it set up for that purpose all the time. And if the machines are cheap enough...like Excello automatic boring machines (ungodly expensive new, but practially free today)...why not ?

    I was set up that way to some extent when I manufactured tapping machines. Shipping out hundreds of machines a year, all by myself. I had Moore jig borers and other drilling machines set up just for one purpose all the time. But I did sub out alot of the parts, and only did select parts in house and the rest was all assembly, testing and boxing up.

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    How does a one man shop both run parts and go out to sell his services? How does a small shop bid for work? Do you have a "in" with a bigger shop that gives you its surplus work
    -tired of working for the man [img]smile.gif[/img] -

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    It's rather intriguing when people think that you "have" to expand or become bigger. There's a thread going on the 9x20 group complaining about the publisher of Model Engineer magazines business model. There has been another complaining about Myford saying something like "they should make them cheaper so they could sell more".

    Surely if somebody is happy in what they do they are doing better than most. Insisting or wishing that they change their "business model" is ludicrous.

    Chris P

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  18. #12
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    Jamesweed, dunno about jobshops but in my case I did some magazine display ads and had a small booth at trade shows...mostly just IMTS in Chicago every two years, but occasionly would do a regional show.

    I also had a network of "reps" who sometimes netted some distributor sales for me. Reps can be found advertising in "rep" magazines sometimes, but mostly just word of mouth thing...like see a similar product and find out who reps that product.

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    What's that about tapping machines?
    Did you make small battery-operated Sammy Davis Juniors?
    He was already small to start with.

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    "How does a one man shop both run parts and go out to sell his services? How does a small shop bid for work? Do you have a "in" with a bigger shop that gives you its surplus work?"

    If you get a good reputation for doing quality work at a fair price, (especially in the right niche) you won't have to "look" for work again. Works finds you. It can take some time to get to that point though.

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    DW, here ya go...SWMBO with her yeller dancing shoes reading for tapping...


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  23. #16
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    There's an idea in business that you either "grow or die". Personally, I don't understand it.

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  25. #17
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    There's an idea in business that you either "grow or die". Personally, I don't understand it.
    my humble guess, is that this is why there is a lot of junk made today. and why there are not that many companies in business that have been around for a long time, like 100 years or more. I've found that those that have, make a pretty nice product on the whole.

    take beer for example: Most popular beer in bavaria is Augstiner. They don't advertise (don't need or want to), and they don't try to sell much out of their home area. That stuff is like gold if you bring a few cases across the border to italy I have been told. Says on the bottle "oldest brewery in the world"

    Shame that all anyone can think here is big big big. Those people must not get much satisfaction out of life


    As to the topic at hand,

    I'm totally jealous of anyone who has that kind of space and equipment. I'm working on getting there slowly, but I think I am going to have to marry a very kind, rich, woman before I do.

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  27. #18
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    A local guy here has a "one man shop" but has his teenage kids help part time, and has a part time retired toolmaker who just wants something to do. The owner is amazing, I dont know how he has time to keep everything running, and still quote jobs, do the paperwork, get material, get tooling, etc. All he does is some small military replacement parts and odd short run production jobs that come in the door. He doesnt advertise at all, not even in the phone book. He told me he made over 23,000 pieces in the months of november and december. The dude must not sleep or something. The place is not a model of efficiency or throughput, but it is always humming!!
    He has 3 older Hurco milling centers, a couple older slant turns, probably 4 manual mills and 4 manual lathes, and typical support equipment. He does own the building and rents half of it to some auto body guy.

  28. #19
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    I know of a few one man shops in or around Lou. Ky that are thriving. Some hire trusted help part time. It is hard to find someone that shares your work ethic and habits. When I work for/with someone I try to do it as they would or how they want it. To many employees don't respect the owners rights and requirements. I am retired and have a small shop and now that I have reached full retirement age and have no cap on my earnings I intend to get more customers but I still want to keep it low volume.

  29. #20
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    The larger 10-20 man shops can't find more decent help. BECAUSE...The big 100-200 man shops steal away any machinist that has -any- machining skills and pays them more with better benefits.
    Where and how would a 1 man shop find and be able to pay a decent machinist competitive wages and some benefits these days?
    It could also be those 1 man shops would love to find a couple-3 good guys to employ but have given up hope of finding any.

    dk


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