convincing customers that tooling /fixturing is money well spent

So, with all the business/machining wisdom in this group. How do you go about convincing customers/bosses etc that proper fixturing (and getting them to pay for it) is the secret to making good one-off prototypes? Really good machinists already know this. But convincing accountant type/penny pinchers is so hard. especially when the fixturing/NRE costs are at or above the actual proto costs.

anyone have any sage advice on how to pull this one off? making bad parts, and saying I told you so doesn't work out so well. getting kind of tired of working for customers that don't understand this concept. my historical solution has always been to charge more to begin with, include the tooling costs, but that doesn't always work either. of course, it helps to have some credibility with the customer, but even then that isn't enough.


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Hi there Clay..

In a job shop environment NRE tooling for a prototype is a bit of a joke. Better to charge the whole price you need. When it's production time, likely as not, the tooling will have to be revised for production. Either you will see a better way to machine the part or you will need different tooling for many stations on the machine.

One thing might help you. It did me. Look at all the most often used processes needed to manufacture your popular parts. Then TOOL the processes not the part. If you saw off stock, tool the saw to be more automatic. Take a look at the way the shop is set up. Eighty percent of the time you only need twenty percent of the popular tooling. Try to get that tooling up close and personal to the operator. That will take much time out of the walking around to get going. It will even a more pleasant experience for the machinist.

I don't know your operation. But, just look around and try to get the "air" time down as much as you can. You will earn more per hour and that's what it's all about.

I don't care to build tooling for a part. I'd rather be building tooling for my shop. Then "I" can earn the money off of it for the next twenty years. Making tooling for the customer so he can make earnings for the next twenty years irritates the Hell out of me. Especially when I only have one chance to make a buck and he is trying to corner me into a cheap price.

I had an engineer as me to quote a hole gauge for a small bolt circle. .035 diameter holes, it needed to have pins installed to check the hole locations within +-.00015.

I rolled my eyes. Shook my head. And said ok. *Sigh After thinking about how to build what he wanted and installing the pins and checking it under the microscope, I said I needed $800 to do the job.

Three things happened:

1) He told me he could get it done for $200 from one of his buddies. 2) I breathed a sigh of relief. 'I didn't have to bang my head on this job.' 3) About three months later the job the gauge was for came back into my shop. *Smile The inspector said I could borrow the gauge if I wanted. He also said if the gauge doesn't fit, the parts may still be ok because the gauge isn't very good.

I withheld a BIG laugh until I arrived back at my shop. *GRIN

Best regards,


Reply to
Stan Dornfeld

If there is no margin to be made, send this customer right on down to the guy who will do it for $200.00! If somebody is going to lose money you want it to be $200.00 guy. Before long he will be closed and out of the picture plus the customer will be much wiser when he comes back later. If there is nothing to be made you come out far ahead to pass on the quote at the start. If a customer wants work done right it will cost something to build it properly. Michael

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========================= Best piece of advise I ever got on this type of problem was ==> "NO one *EVER* wins an argument with a customer."

Reply to
F. George McDuffee

Sage advice, thanks. Some things suggested I handn't considered.

As always there is more to the story. Without going into a lot of details, now imagine that the customer is now YOUR machine shop boss instead. And your boss is an accountant AND owns the company too. So any money not spent on one-off fixturing is money into his wallet. Now how do you suggest to that person that proper tooling/fixturing is the way to get correct parts????? Otherwise, you make crappy parts, and then make them again when the design changes, etc... Ultimately sending the drawings to another shop, that charges twice what you charge, takes three times longer, because they roll the fixturing etc into the cost. And the parts come back perfect.

Suggesting, getting a new boss, (or new job) isn't an option in this circumstance. That is the easy answer. (We've all been there!)

How do you go about convincing someone that thinks they are smarter than you, that spending their extra money, will get them what they really want. Suggest/advise the right tooling is required in order to get the parts right, and let them make the decision? Or do you just set the price high enough to include the proper tooling/fixturing, and not tell them how it is really being done. Sometimes I think the customer has no clue what is really required to make proper parts. All they ever see are the perfect $$ parts, and proudly show them off. But when the customer is your boss, that is a different animal altogether.


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clay wrote in news:

Clay, I've learned a few things working for a manager so tight his eyelids roll back in his head when he bends over. #1 on that list is that money talks and bullshit walks, and until you have some hard DATA, it's all bullshit. The boss is all about making money, you need to get the data together that will show him on paper, that making the fixturing will make him more money. Some things to consider in your quest for hard data:

  1. Reduced labor costs in manufacturing the parts.
  2. Reduced costs of quality.
  3. More work in the shop, less going out to secondary vendors which cost the shop money.
  4. Less rework, remakes, less material costs.
  5. Machining fixturing can double as inspection fixturing, a twofor.
  6. More repeat business because the quality is there. Making sub-standard parts is going to put you on the list of sub-standard suppliers and way down on the food chain when it comes to doling out future work. (This is somewhat hard to quantify on paper, but is a fairly universal truth.)
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No help here, but my son is either working for the same guy, or his twin. They made him (my son) shop manager and the company vice president is driving him f*()_ing nuts.

Reply to
Karl Townsend



*NEVER* try to teach a pig how to sing. ==> It wastes your time and annoys the pig. "So any

which is correct, but only in the most limited and shortsighted sense, similar to, "not changing oil in his car is money in his pocket." Like the old oil filter ad said "pay me now or pay me later."

The circumstances of an almost total lack of managerial expertise in the actual areas of operation in an organization, combined with high levels of intelligence and knowledge in other fields, namely finance, is prevalent and rapidly increasing in all American organizations of all sizes with highly predictable results. Some current examples of businesses that have been financially "managed" into the ground are FoMoCo/GMC in the automotive area and BP in the petroleum area (Alaska pipeline debacle and Texas refinery explosions).

==>We would all do well to remember that people are led, and things are managed.

Reply to
F. George McDuffee

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