Stecker Machine Blog

Top 5 Benefits of Strong CNC Machine Shop Vendor Relationships

04/28/2021 | Ken Jones


Solid client-vendor relationships are vital for any company. So much depends on them: quality, customer service, efficiencies, low costs, supply chain integration, future growth, and much more. Not having them invites miscommunication, contentiousness, quality issues, and missed deadlines. In fact, organizations should nurture vendor relationships similarly to how they focus on customer loyalty. 

While CNC machining — a type of precision machining — is basically no different, it does have some slight differences when it comes to meeting quality and performance demands. In this article, we’ll explore certain machine shop-specific reasons why their vendor relationships are so vital to success.

Top 5 Benefits of Strong CNC Vendor Relationships:

  1. Overall Excellence
  2. Partnership > Vendor Relationship
  3. Momentum
  4. Trusted Materials. Affordable Decisions.
  5. Taking on Challenges

1. Overall Excellence

High-end CNC machine shops have the desire — and capabilities — to be a one-stop-shop for a customer’s machining needs. From machining to painting to impregnating to balancing (and more), a CNC machine shop is proud to be a centerpiece for many customers, providing whatever is needed.

That positioning, however, requires excellence in not only CNC machining but also sourcing from vendors that supply materials, services, equipment, and support. The shop is only as strong as its weakest link as customers judge the performance of the entire project, not just the machining.

High-end CNC machine shops use vendor scorecards to evaluate on-time deliveries, pricing, and quality. Those main three components of a scorecard accentuate the benefits of a great relationship (or shine a light on a poor one), yet there are many aspects to consider.

2. Partnership > Vendor Relationship

While we’ve framed this discussion around strong vendor relationships, the best ones are really quite more than that; they become mutually beneficial partnerships.

The only way to elevate to that level is to excel in two key factors: communication (timelines, project details, challenges, etc.) and transparency (capacity, budgeting, financial stability, etc.). These two keys may require time to develop, but it’s obvious when two sides are moving in the same, common direction.

Many partnerships develop with local vendors. Both the machine shop and the vendor are dedicated to supporting the local economy, plus projects are easier to manage, lead times are shorter, and transportation costs are lower. Yet, of course, partnerships are not entirely dependent on location.

3. Momentum

Openness inspires more openness. Success drives more success. When a vendor-machine shop relationship is strong, it naturally develops momentum and grows. It quickly becomes clear the values each company holds close and how they affect the way they conduct business.

Momentum also inspires companies to go above and beyond when called upon. When a vendor receives consistent orders and on-time payments, an occasional rush project isn’t seen as a hassle as much as an opportunity to perform and impress a valued partner.

Yet, how can you predict if a new relationship has the potential to develop into a true partnership? The vetting process can be lengthy and in-depth, covering many aspects of a business relationship. If the vendor isn’t already ISO- or IATF-certified, the machine shop will perform a full site audit to ensure their quality meets its acceptable standards.

In addition to standard audit questions, determining the answers to not-so-obvious questions can help filter out vendors that may not meet the shop’s standards:

  • Are they willing to be financially transparent?
  • Is the facility clean and organized?
  • Do employees appear to be happy and excited about work?
  • What is the average length of employment among staff members?
  • When/why do they feel price increases are justified?
  • What production management software system is used?

4. Trusted Materials. Affordable Decisions.

One clear-cut necessity of a successful CNC machine shop is high-quality castings supplied by foundry vending partners. Top-end foundries work closely with machine shops on new projects, assisting with design parameters and changes. For instance, a slight change in fixturing may not only help the foundry produce a better casting, it also makes the part more machinable for the CNC machine shop.

Because precision machining involves removing material from a workpiece, or blank, the tooling used must be best-in-class. Close relationships with tooling vendors may shorten the needed tool delivery time; cutting an 8-week lead time down to 4 weeks.

Approximately 70% of a product’s manufacturing costs are design decisions. It’s vital that a part’s casting and tooling costs are explored during the casting design stage.

These vendor examples (foundry and tooling) may make up most of a design’s costs, yet other CNC machine shop partners are important to achieving overall excellence: balancing, painting, deburring, vacuum impregnation, hydraulics, plating, robotics, and on and on. So many relationships impact a project’s production which, in turn, benefit customers.

5. Taking on Challenges

CNC machining equipment is truly state-of-the-art. High-end machining isn’t possible without using best-in-class CNC machining equipment: CNC machine tools, milling machines, CNC lathes, robotics, and other equipment.

Yet, it’s not a CNC machine shop’s equipment that makes it elite. Certain rare machine shops have a passion for taking on challenges; mostly to expand their skills but also because it’s usually not easy; they need to achieve something more. These shops are usually in growth mode: adding equipment, building a diverse workforce, and developing strong vendor relationships, a key to reaching this level of confidence.

Want to dig deeper into the CNC machining industry? Discover the benefits of high-quality, precision machining in our CNC Machining Industry Guide.

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Ken Jones

About the Author

As a Sales Account Manager, Ken works with customers from RFQ to delivery. Ken is highly involved with new customers, quotes projects, works on the sales process, and is Stecker Machine's point person on HubSpot Sales. Ken began his career in carpentry and then worked 9 years as a CNC Machine Operator. Current SMC responsibilities also include estimating (costs/cycle times for new work).

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