Stecker Machine Blog

CNC Machining Insights: Top 6 Benefits of Machine Shop Vendor Relationships

10/05/2023 | Ken Jones


Solid client-vendor relationships are vital to any company’s success. So much is on the line: quality, customer service, efficiencies, low costs, supply chain integration, future growth, and much more.

A poor relationship invites miscommunication, contentiousness, quality issues, and missed deadlines. In fact, organizations should nurture vendor relationships similarly to how they focus on customer loyalty.

The CNC machining world is no different, yet 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 6 Benefits of Trusted CNC Machine Shop Vendors:

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

1. Overall Excellence

From machining to painting to impregnating to balancing (and much more), a high-end CNC machine shop is proud to be a one-stop-shop for a customer’s machining needs. That, however, requires not only CNC machining but also sourcing from vendors that supply materials, services, equipment, and support.

A shop is only as strong as its weakest link, as customers judge the performance of an entire project, not just machining. That’s why vendor scorecards are so important. They evaluate on-time deliveries, pricing, and quality, which either accentuate the benefits of a great relationship or shine a light on a poor one.

Overall excellence can also been measured by a shop’s longevity, with some shops celebrating 50 years of success in the CNC precision machining world. Also, look for a shop that’s recognized by industry peers, such as Modern Machine Shop’s Top Shops in the U.S.

2. Partnership > Vendor Relationship

While we’ve framed this discussion around strong vendor relationships, the best ones are 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.). Yes, these 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, and success drives more success. When vendor relationships are strong, they naturally develop momentum and grow. Momentum inspires companies to go above and beyond. When a machine shop vendor receives consistent orders and on-time payments, a rush project is seen as an opportunity to perform and impress a valued partner, not as a headache.

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 standards.

In addition to standard audit questions, answering 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?
  • How is the RFQ process approached?
  • When/why do they feel price increases are justified?

4. Trusted Materials. Affordable Decisions.

One 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. A part’s casting and tooling costs must be 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 the customer.

5. Taking on Challenges

A CNC machine shop’s equipment is not what makes it elite. Certain rare machine shops have a passion for taking on complex 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, which is a key to reaching this level of confidence.

6. Facing the Future

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

Yet, technology never stands still, especially as artificial intelligence rapidly expands into our daily lives, including modern CNC machining. With a trusted CNC machine shop vendor relationship, you know you’re taking on the future with an understanding of the latest precision machining technology. On the flip side, when you are evaluating your own list of qualified CNC vendors, be wary of these 8 warning signs that a change is needed.

If you’re unsure about next steps, read our guide: When Do You Know It’s Time to Work With a High-End CNC Machine Shop? which shares insights when considering using the expertise of a CNC machine shop. Just click the link below.

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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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