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Three Characteristics of Top-Performing Shops

The best machine shops in the country weren’t born; they were made, and they bear some striking similarities to one another. Here’s a look at the three characteristics of top performing shops.

By William Krueger
 4 min read
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The best machine shops in the country weren’t born; they were made, and they bear some striking similarities to one another. To get to the bottom of how the best CNC machine shops in the United States got that way, here’s a look at the three characteristics of top performing shops. After all, quality doesn’t happen by accident, and the best shops act accordingly.

1. Attention To Quality Standards

Shop Cleanliness and Order

If a shop’s workspaces are clean and organized, it’s fair to assume their entire value stream from production planning and machining to outbound logistics is, too. A clean shop also indicates well-maintained machines and equipment and a corresponding capability to meet high manufacturing standards.


Top shops understand that not all machine and tooling manufacturers are created equal. Since top-line brands are themselves more committed to quality, their customers – the top shops in question – are working with machines, tools, and technology that perform more consistently than shops with mid-market brands.

Quality doesn’t happen by accident, and the best shops act accordingly.

In-House VS Outsourced Capabilities

The best shops understand their capabilities, which is why they tend to handle 80% of their work in-house and outsource the remaining 20% to trusted suppliers whose capabilities and capacity are different and more suited to the work. The bottom line? Top shops know where they’re strong, and they know where they’re limited.

2. Excellence In Strategic Execution

Maximizing machine time use is essential for a machine shop to stay in business, and it can’t happen without a keen focus on strategic execution.

OEE VS Uptime

Measuring overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) doesn’t cut it in today’s manufacturing environment. So instead of OEE, the best shops focus on machine utilization and machining efficiency. They do this by maximizing the time machines are actually cutting, reducing non-cutting time (setups, tool changes, program dwells, etc.) and cutting the most efficient way every time.

Machining Strategies

There are as many ways to machine a part as there are machinists, but the best shops don’t confuse cycle time with throughput. Using proven machining techniques (e.g. rolling in, ramping down, corner slicing, trochoidal turning, etc.), they always get the most out of their machines and their people.


Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain – 5S philosophy is a rigorous workplace organization program designed to ensure everything is where it should be and in working order. Top shops use it because well-maintained tools and machines perform better.

Setups and Changeovers

The best shops understand that setups and changeovers add no revenue, so they approach them like a pit crew during a pit stop – with blazingly efficient formal set-up processes supported by an overall culture of organization.


Because they are process-driven – planning their work and working their plan – top shops have time to respond to customer needs. They’re also conscientious enough to care to do so.

3. Commitment To Advanced Technology

Top-performing shops are almost always on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology, especially regarding manufacturing equipment, processes, and techniques.

Advanced Machines and Tools

Top shops maintain their presence at the forefront of tech development cycles by staying inquisitive and avoiding attachment to the status quo. They routinely attend events like IMTSMC2, and FABTECH where the latest machines, control systems, cutting tools, and manufacturing software are on display, and they don’t shrink from technological advancement or change.

Digital Manufacturing Early Adopter

The best shops are committed to digital manufacturing, having already improved efficiency and accuracy through digitization and automation across their entire value chain. These shops have also embraced or are poised to embrace other digital trends like IoT, cloud computing, and data analytics.

Top shops are the future of U.S. manufacturing. What are other characteristics of top shops that we missed? How do you value machine shop excellence? Join the conversation in the Xometry Community.

William Krueger
As a digital marketing specialist, William works with all forms of media from photography and video to content writing and graphic design to tell the story of American manufacturing. He holds a B.A. in Communication from Wittenberg University.

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