5 Questions to Ask When Vetting a Precision Machine Shop

Questions to ask Precision Machine Shop

What makes a precision machine shop a great manufacturing partner? 

While the complete answer can vary depending on your manufacturing needs, there is one standard quality all of the best shops possess: responsiveness

To find out if a shop is a good match, we recommend asking questions about their capabilities and approach. If the shop isn’t willing and able to answer your questions in detail, that’s an immediate red flag—a clear indication that you should continue your search.

5 Questions to Ask a Precision Machine Shop

Here are the top questions you should ask any precision machine shop you’re considering working with: 

1. What types of materials do you machine?

Whether your parts will be made from standard or specialty materials, it’s important to ensure that a shop has the necessary expertise. This consideration is particularly crucial when it comes to machining challenging materials

Understandably, not every shop opts to take on materials that are notoriously time-consuming, dangerous, or expensive to machine. If you require such materials, be sure to verify that the shop has the skills, equipment, and desire to handle your projects. 

2. What machines do you have?

The machines a shop invests in can tell you a great deal about their capabilities and priorities. 

Do they keep up with the latest technologies? Do they offer high-efficiency capabilities, such as 5-axis machining? Can their equipment hold the tolerances your parts require? Do their machines have automated features to accommodate high-volume orders?

3. What quality control processes do you have in place?

Any shop can make promises about delivering high-quality work. But not every shop has the processes in place to follow through. 

Find out how the shop you’re considering handles document control. Can they easily locate detailed records for a past job when customers request repeat orders? How responsive is their customer service team? Do they employ sophisticated solutions to ensure efficient and accurate inspection? 

Don’t be afraid to get technical. Ask what kinds of fixtures will be used to hold your parts during machining. Find out how the shop measures consistency in quality. Request documentation of the shop’s responses to these questions. 

4. Are you experienced in the type of manufacturing I need?

The capabilities, tooling, and machinery required for prototyping can differ considerably from those used in high-volume production. 

While some shops, such as RPI, are equipped to seamlessly scale products from prototype to production, others focus exclusively on one or the other.

5. Can I tour your precision machine shop?

When possible, visiting a shop in person is the best way to learn about their work. 

Ask to meet with team members in all departments: quality control, operations, and machining. Talking to employees across the company not only gives you insight into a shop’s processes but also introduces you to the individuals who may be handling your project at different stages. 

If the shop is too far from your location for an in-person visit, ask if they can provide a virtual tour. Precision machine shops that deserve your business will always do their best to accommodate your needs.

Furthermore, a shop that makes high-quality parts will be proud of their work and eager to show you what they can do. If a shop hesitates to welcome you or seems reluctant to show you certain areas of the shop, that’s a big red flag. Keep looking!

Case Study: Transforming a Customer’s Experience

At RPI, we work with many customers who have had disappointing experiences with other precision machine shops. 

For instance, we recently gained a customer in the oil and gas industry who had been frustrated with the inconsistent quality of the complex manifolds made by another supplier. 

After learning about what had gone wrong, we determined that we could improve their manifolds in three key ways:

  • Leveraging our 5-axis machining capabilities to eliminate the need for multiple operations and ensure consistency with pallet systems
  • Creating appropriate holding fixtures for the manifolds
  • Ensuring longevity, while machining aggressively with coolant through and coated tools

In taking the time to listen to the customer’s problem and devise a targeted solution, we were able to deliver superior results. 

Make RPI Your Precision Machining Partner 

At RPI, we prioritize strong communication with our customers, responding quickly and completely to any questions or concerns they may have throughout the manufacturing process. Our customers also benefit from:

  • Multiple 5-axis pallet systems with experienced programmers and machinists
  • Advanced CMM inspection technologies 
  • Digital ERP, quoting, and quality management systems to efficiently document processes and ensure traceability
  • Consistent improvement through optimized processes, internal training, and technology that boosts scalability
  • A solid vendor network for external processes

Request a quote to work with our expert team today!