Finding high volume work
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  1. #1
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    Default Finding high volume work

    Hey guys,

    How do I connect with a customer who needs high volume milling work with CMM inspections completed?

    The short and skinny: I set myself up for what I thought would be a good high-mix, medium volume one-man-band job shop. I had connections with shops I'd worked with in the past and some help from a few mentors got my foot in the door. Unfortunately everything from that era turned into RFQs for really low-volume one-off jobs. I learned a lot, but I couldn't reasonably keep up. A lot of my "good ideas" turned out to be wasted investments, and some things turned out to have immense benefits with small costs. I enjoyed working my own shop, but I also enjoy working for someone else and letting them pay me too. I don't regret it; my employer is awesome.

    Yet I still have the shop: a Robodrill, 5-th axis table, tool probing, fancy tooling system, and a Renishaw Equator. I have my own projects, but I've found it faster and easier to knock them out on a bridgeport.

    High school graduates soon, and I've got some kids I want to snag to run parts. Right now, I've got nothin for a new guy. There's great programs out there to pay half their wages in Vermont, but I don't have work I can leave them with; it's all programing and layout intensive.

    Does this customer exist? How do I go about finding and connecting with them? I'm aware this would involve a low margin; a lot of folks here have alluded to high volume being a boring and not-so-profitable venture. I think we could excel at boring; with the Equator, I could employ SPC and really dial in a process. I can palletize part loading. I could use the tool probe to manage tool life. All the good stuff. If I can get the spindle turning and gainfully employ a shop hand, I'm at least back in the saddle.

    As a note: I'm located in northern Vermont. I commute to central NH every day, and have frequented Connecticut in the past. My PM profile and Tapatalk have marriage issues and keep telling me I live in the A-land islands.

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    I honestly expect that you will be SOL. You are looking for a real diamond - a job that is high quantity/high complexity, but simple enough that you can have a kid run it, and small enough that you can keep up with demand on a single spindle. You are also looking to find a customer who doesn't know you, but is willing to place a large job with a small garage shop that doesn't have any redundancy.

    My experience is that on the very rare occasion an outfit is willing to give a 150k PO out to strangers in garage shops, it is because they are extremely price-sensitive, and they know that every aging machinist with a VF2 in their garage will be battling to be the low bidder.

    Certainly, this type of job is out there. It's not impossible to find; I just suspect that it will be entirely dependent on forming a relationship with the right customer. The only way I know to form relationships with customers is to take the difficult jobs and low volume work that they have a hard time placing... AFAIK, there is no shortcut for those of us who can only afford to start with modest equipment - you're going to have to spend time in the trenches doing BS work and building a reputation.

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    Maybe a screw machine shop doing secondary ops?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Booze Daily View Post
    Maybe a screw machine shop doing secondary ops?
    I didn't see anything like that in the OP's machinery line up.....

    Also, why would the screw machine shop not have the equipment to 2nd op ?

    They keep the profit.

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    Its a secret. Very Hush Hush. We all do it.

    Buy a machine, hire a monkey, get stupid low tolerance
    work and let a monkey run it while we go off and work
    a real job.

    None of us actually run our own shops. They just run
    themselves, and we all go work at another shop, and that
    guy leaves us monkeys to our own devices and goes and works
    at another shop.

    I don't think that's how it works.

    "Give me a huge contract... To run in my garage.. I won't be there,
    but I do have Steve-O, he got a B- in shop class and will graduate in
    the fall after summer school.. He's going to run the shop."

    And YES, I'm busting your balls. If I knew the secret, I'd be running
    parts right now, but I've got a headache from dealing with stressful
    brain scramblers. 600+ dimensions on one casting (qty 18). A f'd
    up off axis mess for a qty of 3. Another casting for a qty of 22.
    Another casting qty 2. Another casting qty 14. A simple sheet job
    qty 32. Another qty of 3. And a HUGE ONE!!!! HUGE!!!!!! qty of 72.
    length and a simple thread, and a hole with a tolerance that I could hit
    with a hand drill.. with a tape measure... in the dark... while drunk... and
    blind folded... during an earth quake... in the middle of an eclipse.

    If you do find this monkey work.. please pass on the info.

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    You might find some chances as a volume bridge for a shop that is on the cusp of needing to bring in another spindle. Maybe you keep them going while a machine is on order for 3 months. Brother and Fanuc are pretty fast at shipping from what I have seen, so there may be limited opportunities there. YOu would also need to already know the shops with that kinds of work. Maybe talk to the Robodrill reps about what shops might be drowning in work and willing to drop their fixtures on your machine for a month or two. It is likely going to be pretty boom/bust and not a great way to run a business though.

    Otherwise you need your own product or to team up with someone needing production of their own product.

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    Note: This is from the perspective of 100k/year parts, which are hard to pull with a single shift on one machine. However, I think some of the same concerns apply. If this doesn't help, the good news is that the opinion is free.

    Not that I have any moderate to high volume work to dish out at the moment, but back when I did I had a general rule to not offer high volume work to people I like. Something about turning a part that is $100 in quantities <100 to something that's $1.75 minus periodic contracted price decreases at anywhere between 5k and 5M/year tends to make people grumpy. Never mind that the material alone will cost $2 unless you have enough products that your material usage is 10x what it is just for this part.

    I don't see an issue with the labor source. A lot of the people I've seen working high volume automotive were making 1.5x minimum wage and a lot of them didn't speak/read/write passable English despite being employed in the US. With the right system it's doable.

    Where I see an issue is getting past a purchasing agent. Our purchasing reps wouldn't have given you the work unless you had substantial other business under the same roof. Things happen. You could be hit by a bus on your way to the grocery store tomorrow, we could find an issue in your part 6 months in and decide to put you on the hook for all of that, etc. They want a big enough pile of cash behind the curtain to come out whole (notice the lack of concern for you being whole) when something goes wrong.

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    Are you sure you want such work?
    It is down and dirty pricing.
    One has to be oriented to it. The jump from job shop to production run is a gap that many try and few succeed.
    Of note production guys have a very hard time going to tiny orders so it works both ways.
    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobw View Post
    Its a secret. Very Hush Hush. We all do it.

    Buy a machine, hire a monkey, get stupid low tolerance
    work and let a monkey run it while we go off and work
    a real job.

    None of us actually run our own shops. They just run
    themselves, and we all go work at another shop, and that
    guy leaves us monkeys to our own devices and goes and works
    at another shop.

    I don't think that's how it works.

    "Give me a huge contract... To run in my garage.. I won't be there,
    but I do have Steve-O, he got a B- in shop class and will graduate in
    the fall after summer school.. He's going to run the shop."

    And YES, I'm busting your balls. If I knew the secret, I'd be running
    parts right now, but I've got a headache from dealing with stressful
    brain scramblers. 600+ dimensions on one casting (qty 18). A f'd
    up off axis mess for a qty of 3. Another casting for a qty of 22.
    Another casting qty 2. Another casting qty 14. A simple sheet job
    qty 32. Another qty of 3. And a HUGE ONE!!!! HUGE!!!!!! qty of 72.
    length and a simple thread, and a hole with a tolerance that I could hit
    with a hand drill.. with a tape measure... in the dark... while drunk... and
    blind folded... during an earth quake... in the middle of an eclipse.

    If you do find this monkey work.. please pass on the info.
    I do not understand what was said above...

    Thank goodness

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarbideBob View Post
    Are you sure you want such work?
    It is down and dirty pricing.
    One has to be oriented to it. The jump from job shop to production run is a gap that many try and few succeed.
    Of note production guys have a very hard time going to tiny orders so it works both ways.
    Bob
    And, when it goes away, you are left in a pretty ugly spot!

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    I'm getting to high(ish) volumes of certain parts..............I'm getting hounded to get the prices down. My pencil is pretty darn sharp to keep the customer happy and my wallet happy. But it may get to a point where I either tell the customer to go elsewhere or start down the road Wheelie is on..............don't really care to do that as it piles on a whole lotta issues I don't want. Bigger building and a few more machines for done-in-one................... I'm more than happy to turn my attention and efforts toward my other customers that have much better margin on much lower volumes. I'd rather print money than mint pennies......................................

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    Quote Originally Posted by david n View Post
    ..I'm getting hounded to get the prices down.......................
    In high production work the requirement that the price drops every year is not uncommon.
    The "theory" being that as time goes by you should be improving your processes and getting better so your make cost should be lower.
    Many (or most) longer term contracts have this price reduction built in.

    Also high production work tends to be just in time so now you need PCL (production control logistics) or sit on excess finished stock for the ups and downs.
    This another great idea to shove the costs down the supply chain.

    It is a different world all around. Outside the box of a normal job shop and that often leads to nightmares.
    The shift from high production to small runs is also hard to make work so this nightmare not one sided.
    If used to and dialed in to minimum 500 to 10,000 piece runs 1 to 10 parts becomes a problem that you are not set up for or efficient at.

    In high volume there often will be an ask for QC certificates and all that mess. Many ways to skin that cat but be prepared for it when looking for this work.
    Bob

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    We don't have the sort of jobs you're looking for, but on a positive note we're finding all our vendors are fully booked up for many weeks. Lead times that are way too long for us. That means there have to be some opportunities if you can find them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by david n View Post
    or start down the road Wheelie is on.............
    Dont do it! I'm sitting here scratching my nuts wondering how I am gonna pay for all this capacity.
    Got exactly zero sleep last night. Not because I was flinging chips either.

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    Only thing you can do is look under every rock because you never know where it's going to come from. Last place I worked landed a unicorn customer ($3M+ a year of aluminum parts +-.010 everything) but it started from an online RFQ for a low profit widget. It took several years to build up to that too. The only bad thing with that was you could easily go from 3 shifts 6 days a week to guys painting walls and weeding flowerbeds when the unicorn got slow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wheelieking71 View Post
    Dont do it! I'm sitting here scratching my nuts wondering how I am gonna pay for all this capacity.
    Got exactly zero sleep last night. Not because I was flinging chips either.
    I'll move on to different work before I go down the road you are on.......................you seem to have the drive to get it done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by david n View Post
    I'll move on to different work before I go down the road you are on.......................you seem to have the drive to get it done.
    I do. As do you. I've seen your hustle. Until there is nothing to get done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarbideBob View Post
    In high volume there often will be an ask for QC certificates and all that mess. Many ways to skin that cat but be prepared for it when looking for this work.
    Bob
    I do tooling for the inspection dept of a company that makes satellite parts.

    The buyer e-mailed with an RFQ for some satelite part and a questionaire.
    Questions like
    Does the company have a quality manual, NOPE
    Does the company have measurement instruments calibrated to a traceable standard, NOPE
    Does the company have wheel chair access NOPE (my shop is a death trap for the less than able bodied)
    When can Quality control do a site inspection NOT IN MY LIFETIME

    So as can be imagined I'm still only doing tooling for inspection.

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

    If your running out of a garage, and a customer wants to do a site inspection, then that's going to be a no-go for the customer.

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

    What happens if you get a large production job,with a tight deadline, your hired help(s) flake out and you end up running the job? If that were to happen it's possible it might effect your present employment ,coming in tired after running all night/coming in late/taking too many days off. If you like working at the present job, I'd be very carefull about jepordizing that job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobw View Post
    ...

    And YES, I'm busting your balls...
    Iíve been on PM long enough to know that was coming, I was pretty much asking for it.

    Itís definitely a catch 22. As someone else mentioned, Iíve worked for smaller shops that donít get the high volume stuff without going through a lot of smaller jobs. In all cases, they didnít do great with the jobs because, well, they were tooled as high mix low volume shops.

    Am I sure I want to open this can of worms? Yea kinda. I like the idea of process improvement having meaningful impact. My full time work, saving 1 second of cycle time saves $20k a year, more or less depending on part numbers. I donít have a niche, or at least I found out the hard way the one I had was a bad idea.

    I have thought about chasing supply bottlenecks. Firearms accessories came to mind, but the further I can stay from that the better. I also donít mind the job eventually going away. Right now itís all collecting dust, so something is better than nothing.

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    how about a compromise? a lot of my customers want low volume work done a high volume prices.

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