The machine shop world is ever evolving and the impact of which can significantly alter the course for buyers and sellers alike. We are often asked by our clients our view of what machine shops will look like a year from now. This post is intended to provide you with our view of where the machining industry is going and how that will impact you as a buyer. Below are 7 key thoughts on the subject.
Robots…Robots…Robots. Robots have certainly made their way into the manufacturing world. But they can be unattractive if they have to be dedicated to a job, because the mix of work is now changing too rapidly for this to make sense. But robots that are easy to redeploy are attractive. Flexible automation is the catch phrase we keep hearing. In fact, flexible everything is what we are hearing all over. Collaborative robots are taking industry by storm, precisely because they are so easy to program and useful in so wide a range of tasks.
ERP Will Be The Trend. No doubt about it, more and more component manufacturers we talk to are implementing ERP systems to automate the information flow, eliminate waste and delays and errors from manual data input. Knowing exactly what’s going on at every machine and department in the plant—in real time and from the office, plant floor or at home—is worth thousands of dollars per month to most shops. Managers no longer are daunted by the morning data dump of a huge printout of the previous day’s results. Customized dashboards distill only the most relevant data into a display on a computer, tablet or phone that can be understood at a glance—even at home.
3D Printing Is On It’s Way. Most machine shops now get it that they could probably benefit from 3D printing. Many machine shops not only know that some short-run work should be printed rather than machined, but also that some parts need not be metal but can be polymer.
Everything Is Kinda Okay. Cautious optimism is the tone we are hearing from the industry and we suspect this will continue throughout the next year. This is the tone we are hearing from most machine shops as they describe their current business and future prospects. For many, the coronavirus did not disrupt their work as much as they feared. Some customer orders continued with barely any interruption. Still, the view ahead is clouded and gives some metal shops pause.
Working The Night Shift. A shop that expands—as some machine shops definitely are doing—will have a hard time doing so by staffing an additional shift. The better option—and is equipment and systems allowing shops to keep producing into the night hours with zero employees present which takes us back to the discussion of automation). Smart machines and smart factories—mechanical automation and digital automation are looking more and more like opportunities that cannot be ignored or delayed.
Ownership Shift. In the metalworking field, new shop owners are coming into the space through retirements and acquisitions by other shops, investment groups and individual entrepreneurs and we see this trend continuing for some time. That has been happening in the industry for a while. Multi-plant operations are more and more common. So is empire building by private-equity firms and others who see roll-ups as very profitable. One new trend in metalworking is the “one-man shop,” made possible by advanced technology.
Marketing…Marketing…Marketing. Machining businesses are catching up with other types of companies in terms of marketing and business development, primarily focusing on social media and website marketing. In the past, metalworking shops have been weak in this area as their local or regional connections got them much of their work. Into the future, we see machine shop owners getting much more serious about marketing and business development. One concern is the patience factor. Marketing and business development takes time to develop. We believe that the successful shops will deploy long term tactics to drive their business forward. We’ve even seen many that have been inclined to “build their brand” by renovating their plants or outfitting new spaces with ample lighting, new floor finishes and rigorous housekeeping to convey a modern and fresh look.
As technology has it, automation is changing the machine shop world. Considering the explosion of additive manufacturing, ownership changes and advancement in marketing and sales, the trend is clear that the machine shop world is evolving. We believe that those shops that are early to adopt will reap more efficiencies, cost savings and deliver higher value to their customer base.
We hope this post provided you helpful information as it relates to the future and key technologies that are shaping the machine shop world. 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.