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Differentiating Your Machine Shop: Why Making Parts Is No Longer Enough (Part 3)




Published on

Jan 17, 2023

Ways to create a point of difference for your machine shop.

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Key Takeaway: Ways to create a point of difference for your machine shop.

This three-part blog post explores how the machine shop market is changing and what to do about it. In the first post, we explored why being different matters today. We explored how to craft your point of difference in the second post. Whether you have our robots or are planning on adding them, we explain how to position that robot as a part of your point of difference.

Summary from previous parts of the blog:

There were three types of machine shops:

  • Production shops: they ran 900 or 1000 or more pieces per job at a very low cost/part
  • Job shops: they ran 20 to 900 pieces, or what some called middle-sized jobs
  • Prototype shops: specialized in small runs, fast turnaround at a premium price.

The machine shop universe is dramatically changing. Unless you can carve out a point of difference and have a competitive advantage, the 19,000 US-based machine shop market will shrink.

Point of Difference: Customer Experience (Not your experience)

We will be talking about marketing your machine shop. Marketing fundamentals apply no matter what you are selling.

In marketing today, everything is focused on experience. With the website, the designers talk about UX or user experience. They measure how people use the website, what they are looking for, how long they stay, and more. The analytics can get fairly deep to gauge if the customer experience is good or not so good.

The place to create a difference is the experience of doing business with you. This is something that you can control, and it is something you can measure and manage.

Your point of difference starts with adding a purpose-built, CNC machine tending robot. Why is that important? It gives you control over production and costs.

If you are having trouble making the connection between robots and the experience of doing business with you, here’s what our existing customers are doing.

CNC Machine-Tending Robot as a Point of Difference

The CNC machine-tending robot allows you to quote faster because you have better control over costs. You aren’t paying a machine operator to load and unload your CNC; the robot does that. That gives you a lower cost basis. But that is not where the point of difference leverages to your advantage.

Having the robot means you can run jobs over lunch or overnight. You can run jobs on a weekend. Imagine taking an order from a new customer on Friday and delivering parts on Monday. That is a point of difference. With the robot, you can do that and NOT impact the delivery promises that you’ve already made to other customers.

That experience of fast quoting and keeping short delivery times can be a real difference maker. But that isn’t going to be enough. You’ve got to stake out and hold a position in your customer’s mind.

The key here is they don’t just say that they have a robot. They explain to their customers what their having the robot specifically does for the customers.

They talk about how the robot allows them to quote faster and more accurately. They talk about how the robot helps them deliver parts on time instead of being held captive by a machine operator who quit or called off.

I see some machine shop websites that show pictures of the robots. But there is no explanation of what those robots do for their customers. You can’t expect your customers to come to that on their own. They don’t have ESP. You have to lay it out for them.

Positioning Matters

I have a friend with a hair salon. Their prices are on the high end of the market. I went in for a haircut, and while the owner cut my hair, she complained about the new salon that opened across the street. They had a large sign in the window that said, “Men’s Haircuts: $10.00.”

I asked her if it impacted her business, and she said it was. I asked her what she was doing about it, and she was stuck. She didn’t want to lower her prices, but she felt like that was her only option.

As I was paying for my haircut, I told her what to do about her competitor. The next time I came in, she was smiling. I could see that she had followed my advice. In her front window was a very large sign that said, “We fix $10.00 Haircuts.”

You must point out what makes you different and what problems you solve for your customer. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. The shorter, the better.

Another Point of Difference

Another place to focus on your point of difference is communication with your customers. Some companies make it difficult to do business with them. Have you audited your quoting process to see how easy it is to do business with your shop?

Have you shopped other machine shops to see how difficult or how easy it is to get a quote?

If you are going to be late in delivering a part, do you let your customer know? If you do, WHEN do you let them know?

Knowledge Base as Point of Difference

This point of difference is more difficult because, like “better” or “best,” most knowledgeable is in the eyes of the beholder. But it can work if it is legitimate.

Maybe a point of difference is being more knowledgeable than anyone else about a particular industry. The problem with that is it takes time to gain that knowledge and even longer to gain and keep that reputation. In the meantime, you’ve still got to carve out your niche or your market and your point of difference.

Create a good customer experience, and you are in a race to the top. If you compete on price, you are in the race to the bottom. All of the other machine shops will be coming to this realization shortly. You are either in a race to the top or a race to the bottom. No one stands still.

Making parts is no longer a successful machine shop strategy because so many companies have the same technology, and software has replaced the difference in skills.

You have to be able to explain to your customers what problems you solve for them and how you are different. You have to give them a reason to do business with you. The answer can’t be the price if you want to be here for the long term.

If you have our robots, you must explain to your customers how those robots help them.

Making parts is no longer enough. How will you be different?

To learn how to position your machine shop with a robot as a competitive advantage, call us at 866-952-9020 and press 1 to start the conversation.

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