How was 2018, what's coming in 2019? - Page 3
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  1. #41
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    My 5 year wall was in 2009, so don't feel too bad. As for make your own parts I totally agree, but it is way easier to say than do. There is a lot involved that you can't imagine until you do it, and you have to think a bit more about liability.

  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidScott View Post
    My 5 year wall was in 2009, so don't feel too bad. As for make your own parts I totally agree, but it is way easier to say than do. There is a lot involved that you can't imagine until you do it, and you have to think a bit more about liability.

    Liability is a very big issue. A friend with deep pockets had an idea to manufacture a gizmo that's used with a relatively safe power tool. Given his financial situation he has a target on his back so needed liability insurance. Lowest quote on insurance per gizmo was 3 times his anticipated retail selling price.

    As to general business conditions 2018......two of my customers are 50+ man shops manufacturing discretionary purchase products, they haven't recovered from the 2008 recession. The rest seem to be doing well.

    My longest term customer, 34 years, wants to retire, but can't stand to give up the business which keeps getting better year by year (patented products used in heavy construction and commercial marine vessels).

    Myself, I've been semi-retired for a few years and thinking about getting back into the business full time. I liked being in the machining and product development business. And like my 32 year customer I hate seeing all that money passing me by. Besides back in the day I was motivated by needing to put aside enough money for my kid's college now it's the same for the grand kids since their parents don't seem to be saving.

  3. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zahnrad Kopf View Post
    You are also more than likely too inexpensive and laid back for your own good in this regard. It is NOT because your do not value yourself. However, I do believe it is related to just how easy going you are. You probably do need to raise your prices and be more aggressive in your desire and hunt for work for your business to be more successful.

    Wow. That's a very interesting post!

    I think it might be related to doing something I actually enjoy. If my business was cleaning horse stalls or something unbelievably boring like being a security guard, I'd have no problem charging an outrageous sum. F*@# it, I'd rather be at home anyway.

    But when it's something I enjoy, the money doesn't really matter. That's what makes me a poor business person I guess. That and I'm either introverted, or I just hate people. Dealing with people is an essential requirement of any service based business. I'll probably never be good at that part.

    FWIW, it's not the end of the world here. Just a little slow. I think you could look back over the years and find similar posts from me in the depths of winter.

    Also, I don't regard what I have done as a failure. I've kept the doors open and the lights on for going on 6 years. I bought a house, got married, had a kid, just about got my wife a masters degree, and I have no debts other than a very reasonable mortgage.

    God willing, I intend to own my own building by the end of 2019. My goal was to own something by now, but it just has not worked out. But, it's a motivator!

  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    Wow. That's a very interesting post!
    I am glad that you thought so.


    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    I think it might be related to doing something I actually enjoy.
    < snip >
    But when it's something I enjoy, the money doesn't really matter.
    I know. And I know, for two reasons. The first is that it is blisteringly obvious in person. The second is that I am the same exact way. It took me YEARS longer than it should have to get over that. People took advantage of it for decades. "What does it matter? I'm having fun, and helping someone at the same time." I had TONS of friends. And they were all thrilled to death to know someone that could literally make anything for them. Most times for the price of a case of beer. And I was in the exact same place. Never really had any money or big accomplishments.

    The problem is that friends don't pay the electric bill. And friends don't pay the mortgage. And when we are THAT laid back about it, we don't really feel like beating the pavement with Mutt'n'Jeff and hunting down those customers that WILL pay those bills.

    I have very few "friends" these days and I am so much more happier for it, while the bills are paid as well.


    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    FWIW, it's not the end of the world here. Just a little slow. I think you could look back over the years and find similar posts from me in the depths of winter.

    Actually, that was my very first singular thought when I read your opening post. "Ah! It's mid-winter. Ewlsey is getting reflective about "progress" again. This will last until someone annoys him."


    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    I've kept the doors open and the lights on for going on 6 years. I bought a house, got married, had a kid, just about got my wife a masters degree, and I have no debts other than a very reasonable mortgage.

    God willing, I intend to own my own building by the end of 2019. My goal was to own something by now, but it just has not worked out. But, it's a motivator!
    I think that you'll find that if you were to poll the people that actually interact with you, you will find that we all consider you quite intelligent, very skilled, and incredibly successful in much the same ways that _you_ consider yourself successful in your priorities of life. What's more, I'll bet dollars to doughnuts ( or a glass of milk, in this case ) that you would find that everyone has at one point or another wondered just why you have not decided to work just a little bit more toward making your own success, financially and in the manner of more steady, consistent work. There is so very clearly great potential there when viewed from this vantage point.

    I sincerely hope that this answers your question(s) and that I've not overstepped. ( there's something one will RARELY ever hear come from my mouth! LOL! )

  5. #45
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    I know next to zero about running a job shop for profit, but I have observed a thing or three about the economics of commodity vs specific suppliers.

    And this issue is why job shops tends to be Hyper Efficient at what they do, and many other profitable shops either make their own product, or are the sole effective supplier for somebody else's product. In either case, the mfg operation has captured part of the returns to the ip/design/branding effort.

    For somebody like ewlsey, I wonder if a little more marketing in the "at total whit's end? already fired three incompetent vendors this week? have skills will drive...."

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  7. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_machine View Post
    For somebody like ewlsey, I wonder if a little more marketing in the "at total whit's end? already fired three incompetent vendors this week? have skills will drive...."

    LOL. It's kind of like that...

    It's more like: at whits end with this antique machine, anyone who knew anything about it is now residing below ground, we desperately need it to work, but we only have $35 in the budget.

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  9. #47
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    $35 in the budget, you found the rich ones...

    Charles

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    2018 was good overall. Our shop suffered some as I spent a lot of my efforts on our other business. It had a record year. The shop did ok but not as good as 2017. We were having a lot of issues with our lead machinist constantly screwing up. He no longer works here so that issue is fixed.

    2019 is proving to be frustrating. This week I've lost a hard drive in one mill, a tool changer board in another, and I came into the office this evening to do some cad/cam for a customers part and my 6 month old office computer has died. It's making me want to buy a brand new mill or two but like the above $35 budget isn't going to cut it.

  11. #49
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    From your posts, you sound like a bright guy with a wide range of interests and competencies -- maybe (it's a hazard for many) too broad?

    Seems like your best bet, if you want to do a wide range of interesting one-off projects, is to have successful customers in booming segments. Don't know what's around Peoria these days other than farms and Caterpillar -- but further afield in Il. there will be companies doing medical prototyping etc. You also sound a bit like the guy who might run some industry or university R&D prototyping shop -- the go-to problem solver??

    As you already know, companies and industries come and go. So this lousy year may not be so much a reflection on your own potential upside, as your location and choice of customers. Most every successful person and company I know, took about three times trying, learning, trying again to get things right.

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  13. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zahnrad Kopf View Post
    There is a certain amount of insight that I gained simply from interacting with you. One thing that some people just will not understand right out of the gate,( from posts on a forum ) is just how laid back you are. Frankly, in my opinion it is part of what you are experiencing, too.
    I can relate with this (and your next post re friends etc), being laid back in many ways is great, but it can hurt in business. You can get a reputation for being 'cool', some folks might not even realise theyre pushing you.
    I remember one time in particular, I was going through it personally att (divorce), and had worked out that Im not so great at expressing my feelings. This new customer came in on a referral with his Audi Quattro. We walked round the car discussing what was to be done, then he said those words! "Oh, and while youve got the gun out..." Pointing at some rust bubbles on the corner of the bonnet (Thats 4-5 hours in magic mode to put right properly). Calm as you like I said "You realise youre taking the fucking piss right!". I cant express how unlike me that is. Anyways the guy was apologetic and had the work done at my price, and I learnt something in the process, although I did dial it back some

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    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    LOL. It's kind of like that...

    It's more like: at whits end with this antique machine, anyone who knew anything about it is now residing below ground, we desperately need it to work, but we only have $35 in the budget.
    lol.
    I think you just need to find the right doors to knock on mate. Even the big high end doors you might not think need a guy like you. Knock on 20-30 youre bound to get a few come back.
    Your worth to them is to be their goto guy. Theyve a choice, "Do we ship that machine out for 3months at a cost of 50K, or get Doctor Wes to come in with his magic angle grinder for 2 weeks?". Your role to yourself, actually, lets make that to your family and loved ones to sidestep any self sabotage nonsense that might be going on , is to get your hands on as much of that 50K as possible.

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    and never forget, there are ways to pay that are not in the budget (and I don't mean booze, sex, or other sketchy things)

    need that machine to stay in business? only have $35? I'll take a 3% or 15% stake in your company, or its revenues, or perhaps real estate it owns.

    or "sell me the machine for $1. I'll fix it. And install an interlock on it. And then lease it back to your for $z per month."

    also, the shop floor guy who thinks it is a crises and only has $35 may be the wrong person. the spiffy dressed lady in accounting who actually runs the plant may know full well she can replace it for a few $K, but sadly has had no luck replacing the floor guy running around with his hair on fire. THAT person is the one you want to have you at the front their contact last. it won't be "fix this antique for $35" will be "spend $X of your time finding and installing the best replacement, which we will fund from a differnet budget. also get the F***ing antique out of here." find that person who really runs the place, get them to see the value of calling you and paying you....

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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_machine View Post
    and never forget, there are ways to pay that are not in the budget (and I don't mean booze, sex, or other sketchy things)
    Hey, now!!! I've written code for tequila :-)

  18. #54
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    I think I just lost a quote to Canada because I couldn’t guarantee metals prices.

  19. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    FWIW, I know it's not a good idea, and not what is considered normal. I don't really care.

    I'd rather do what I want to do and make $0 than plod along doing something I don't find interesting.

    I'm sure you will have more to show for your efforts in the end. That also doesn't bother me.
    Understand all that, and hope things pick up for you. Treasure the time you have with your son, nothing better.
    If you can find a product/family of products in a field that interests you, no matter how small, it might be a start. You sure have talents, and I'll be wishing you (and all the rest of us) success!

    My business can be seasonal, and this time of year can be pretty slow. I'm hoping the late Feb/March pickup hits hard again this year. My biggest wholesale customer has had about a 10-15 percent hit this last year (for several reasons) and that has me concerned a bit. I'm going to try to revive a few products to take up some slack.
    I'm 64, and had planned to work forever. A man that mentored me worked into his 90's, and I really admired him for many reasons. Unfortunately, I've been dealing with triple-hit lymphoma and bone marrow cancer since Feb, and required chemo and stem cell transplant. Now I have a bit of a different perspective, and physical/mental challenges have me feeling uncertain at times....

    Hoping a little or a lot of luck runs your way!!

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    2019 is looking a little better. Got the hard drive replaced today in 1 mill and the other mill with the tool changer issue fixed. Tech support even managed to fix my office computer. It had an auto update that sent if off the deep end. Hope you guys start looking up too.

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  22. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miguels244 View Post
    I think I just lost a quote to Canada because I couldn’t guarantee metals prices.
    Neither can we, we just quote accordingly and take the hit if it comes to that.
    Pretty sure many of your US competitors would do the same, ain't rocket surgery.


    I use a lot of stainless, its up about 25% the last few months, I'm losing some $ on the margin and part price went down on top of that... but I'm finding ways to get them done better and faster.

    If you really want to see volatile prices, keep pushing socialist ideals.

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  24. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by SND View Post
    If you really want to see volatile prices, keep pushing socialist ideals.
    I generally enjoy your posts, but could you take this crap elsewhere?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    I generally enjoy your posts, but could you take this crap elsewhere?

    No room for others opinions?

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    We are seeing a change in the mix of our work.

    We provide controls and equipment to roughly 40 percent of the container glass industry in the US and our glass bottle customers are getting squeezed by cheaper import beer bottles and food container jars from China. The tariffs are helping here, but not enough to stave off a growing number of plant closures and reduced volume of production in the US . . . plus, people are also drinking less beer and changing how they drink beer (refillable growlers are the rage in Portland for instance). Business is slowing dramatically for our largest customers in this segment and we are running below 50% of average for what is normally 30-40 percent of our business. On the positive side we are joining another large glass OEM with an international footprint to collaborate on more projects and hopefully this will reverse the decline in our business here.

    The paper industry is less active for us as well, although this has more to do with our customers buying newer production lines rather than retrofitting and upgrading older lines which has historically been our sweet spot in this industry. We are selling more specialty machines into this industry for processes like installing plastic caps into the ends of the rolls of commercial towel at 45 rolls a minute, or auto splice units for tissue paper lines to reduce down time associated with parent roll changes. So work here has more NRE and is less profitable.

    On the flip side we are gaining needed approvals in aerospace tooling supplier networks having achieved DPD compliance, adding CATIA to our design suite of tools, and gained approval of our quality program. We are building wing join control systems and positioning hardware for the 767 line now along with test stands for testing bevel gear sets and flap jack transmissions.

    Also doing more specialty manufacturing cells for applications like CNC laser welding diamond sintered blocks to chainsaw chain, CNC grinding applications, aerospace fastener manufacturing, along with some fun stuff with renewable energy and the recreational/ entertainment industry. (We have an a pair of applications in front of us now that pose an ironic set of engineering challenges) . . . running 2400HP of submersible pumps and coordinating underwater flaps with music and lights to create a moving wave for a surfing attraction at a mountain resort . . . and a completely unrelated project controlling a roughly 1MW permanent magnet generator mounted in a floating wave energy capture mechanism able to withstand stormy sea conditions in the Pacific Ocean.

    It will take two wave energy generators on the coast to power a wave generator for surfing in the mountains . . .

    2018 was a decent year for us and 2019 is a bit murky at this point with lots of new stuff on our plates. And not being one to shy away from taking a bit of risk, we are implementing a new ERP system starting in February, taking our first real $tab at engaging with a marketing firm in March, and moving to a new facility in May (I hope - construction delays abound). If we survive 2019, we will be on a good trajectory for 2020 and beyond.

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