November 30, 2023

A machine shop wouldn’t be a real shop if it didn’t have at least one lathe and one milling machine.

The problem (or maybe we should call it the opportunity) is that these machines are not being used in a way that is maximizing their profit potential. Here’s how to put money in the bank with a lathe and milling machine.

Five steps to putting money in the bank when you have a lathe and milling machine

#1. Realize that the profit is in the marketing. You have to be able to bid on (and get enough profitable jobs) to allow you to be choosy about future jobs.

#2. Wow your customers by delivering way ahead of schedule. Most shops deliver acceptable quality and workmanship, but most don’t deliver on time and if they do, it’s just barely on time. Beat the scheduled delivery and you will impress the heck out of the customer.

#3. Communication is key. Keep your customer informed. For example, if the customer makes a change and this is going to cause a delay in the promised deliver date, let him know this at the time he makes the change. Don’t deliver late and then blame it on the change he made.

#4. Realize that customers want a turn-key solution to their problem. You need to be that solution. For example, if the project involves painting and you don’t do painting, you can sub-contract this and deliver a finished product to the customer.

#5. Own your customer and be their only machine shop. Almost no customer needs just one machine shop job done. One major part of your marketing is that when you get your foot in the door with one job for a company, take care of numbers 1, 2 3 and 4 above with a vengeance and you will own your customer.

The most important part of making money with a lathe and milling machine is #1 above — the marketing. Don’t think of yourself as just a machinist or engineer. Put on your V.P.of marketing hat at least half a day a week (even if you are just a one or two man shop, you still have to be V.P. of marketing part of the time).

Call your previous customers and see if they have any present or upcoming jobs for you. Take the time to visit your customers if they are local. Make sure they are aware of all the services you can offer them. All of this is part of marketing your lathe and milling machine operation.

Bottom Line: When you take care of everything described above, soon your customers will not even call other machine shops to bid on jobs — they will just call you and then you really will own the customer and you will have the most profitable lathe and milling machine in the universe — at least, in your part of the universe.