We often reflect on the expectations vs. the realities our customers keep in mind regarding their machine shop partner relationships.  While many expectations are obvious such as quality, speed of deliver and price, we wanted to take a moment to dig a bit deeper into what we believe are the true buyer expectations vs. realities of today’s modern machine shop.

First off, from a new business development perspective, most machine shops are found through organic and paid online web searches on Google, Bing, or your favorite search engine. By plugging in relevant search terms for your needs, you can usually see results from both local and national machine shop services. But when you run a search and see the myriad of options, how do you know which machine shop best suits your long and short term project requirements?

When searching online for a machine shop, it is sometimes difficult to navigate through the buzzwords and determine the best fit for your needs. The list below is a handy guide on what to expect and what in the real world are the realities when looking for the best provider for your needs.  In talking with our customers, below are 5 key take-aways we’ve learned regarding their expectations and the realities they have experienced.

Expectation 1:  Can The Shop Build To Drawings vs. Automation Only?

Many machine shops have significant limitations when it comes to parts production beyond certain tolerances because they rely on automated systems that interpret designs solely on the 3D model while ignoring a print.

If your product does require the interpretation of a drawing, and the need is that the parts created must match their print, then it makes sense to choose a machine shop that can readily achieve spec-manufacturing.  The reality is most machine shops are moving toward automation which is good on one hand, but will limit them on the other

Expectation 2: Does The Shop Sperate QA From The Fabrication Team?

During machining, the QA team is responsible for validating operations via in-process inspection (IPI) as well as performing final inspection, to approve or fail the part.  By separating the machinist or fabricator from the formal inspection with a quality assurance team, parts shipped out-of-spec or with missing features are significantly mitigated.

The reality is many small machine shops rely on the machinist to play a dual role as a machinist and QA specialist.

Expectation 3:  The Ability To Upload, Specify, and Submit Documentation

Obtaining a quote for component manufacturing should be as easy as submitting a form online. Just as important as uploading a 3D part model is the ability to specify the part requirements. This can include attaching drawings and instructing which materials, features, finishes, and quality requirements are necessary.

More sophisticated machine shop services have features like 3D viewers and other tools to enable a part review. By enabling the user to configure their quote, there is less chance of miscommunication or misinterpretation on the project. That means fewer mistakes and unhappy customers.

The reality is machine shops are technically challenged and do not offer the ability to accept online documentation from their website.

Expectation 4: Can The Shop Offer A Variety Of Materials?

Some alloys are fairly common, but can the shop offer a variety of materials?  Some shops may stock more exotic materials but will likely price these parts on the higher end.

Shops that stock a variety of materials is a great indicator that they have the manufacturing expertise to take on your current and future work.  By gaining knowledge of what the manufacturer is comfortable with, you can make a better choice on building a good relationship.

The reality is many smaller machine shops gravitate to offering only a select few material types, which will limit their ability to service your requirements as you grow.

Expectation 5:  Does The Shop Require a Minimum Quantity?

It is very important to know the flexibility and capacity of the machine shop you are choosing.

You need to consider the programmer capacity and machine capacity which can be a bottleneck as well as a pricing factor when getting a quote. Some larger manufacturers may have imposed minimums which makes it difficult for a low-volume production run. On the other hand, very small shops may be great for the first dozen parts but can have challenges in competitiveness and delivery with high volume production.

The best of both worlds are shops that are flexible enough to run custom low-volume jobs and big enough to handle increased production. These shops will have rates that are competitive for low volume runs, but can also guide your product into higher volume production as your needs increase.

The reality is most shops are either geared for low volumes or larger volume runs.  So be sure to gain this intelligence before pulling the trigger


Buyers of machine shop services tend to have similar expectations beyond quality, price and delivery.  Our experience tells us that customers look beyond these obvious value points and look for the 5 expectations we have listed above.  Our best advice is to think through your expectations when sourcing a machine shop, so you don’t get disappointed in the long run.

We hope this post has provided you helpful information when it comes to understanding the expectations vs. realities of sourcing a professional machine shop. Krenz Precision Machining is a leading full service, turn-key machine shop offering design, prototyping, components manufacturing all the way through Assembly.  To speak with one of our technical experts, please call 1-440-237-1800.  And thank you for reading our post.