The role and definition of the U.S. machine shop has been in fluctuation over recent years. With increased over-seas competition from countries like China and India, offering in many cases, lower cost services due in large part to lower labor rates, the China cnc machining shop has suffered an identity crisis.
Perhaps in years past a machine shop was a much more uniform conception for a purchaser to understand. A visit to the local “machine and weld” shop offered solutions to their short-run needs and it was only in high-production circumstances or in necessity of a complex component that the purchaser would take a more involved approach to sourcing services.
However, via industrial revolution in countries like China and India, the common U.S. machine shop was now being drastically undercut. Overseas labor rates coupled with lower shipping costs and lead times than ever before rendered many domestic services dead in the water. The two alternatives offered nearly identical output and employed totally identical processes; thus the U.S. shop was stuck competing over labor as it offered no distinction in manufacturing processes. This limited the viability of the U.S. machine shop to rush orders, low quantities and dire need situations only.
For a machine shop to offer competitive solutions in this new era of manufacturing, either there would need to be an adjustment in U.S. labor rates or an exhibition of ingenuity to offer processes distinct of that from their competition. Thus the modern role of the machine shop needs to begin to lend itself towards specialization in order to accomplish work with measurable efficiency.
As the Internet extends it’s long arm into the realm of the purchaser’s consciousness, the machine shop will encounter yet another phenomena, as the regional market becomes extinct. Services will have to become favorable nationally, even in lower quantity orders as manufacturers push for greater efficiency in their own markets.
The machine shop must evolve if it is to remain effectively viable. In order to do this job-specific processes must be implemented to lessen cycle times and improve efficiency over general CNC and atypical machining methods. Those generic processes will move from being the norm, as it stood in days past, to being relegated to support a shop’s primary operations. Instead, efficient solutions need be sought by meeting the needs of the manufacturer in the most direct route possible. Eliminating the waste from “making do” with generic CNC machine tools and processes means less time to do the job, and increased productivity through equipment and tooling that is purpose-designed to do the job at top efficiency and matched to the size of the production run.