Why Are American Machine Shops Failing? A Firsthand Account of Unprofessionalism and Missed Opportunities

Why Are American Machine Shops Failing? A Firsthand Account of Unprofessionalism and Missed Opportunities

As the founder of MachiningPartner.com, I sometimes receive various quote requests for services, ranging from engineering support and machine shop marketing to machining services. Recently, I had again an eye-opening experience while trying to source a local machine shop for a prototype project from a very large, over 100-year-old company with thousands of employees. This post outlines the challenges I faced, the recurring issues, and the stark differences between American and Asian shops in terms of professionalism, responsiveness, and pricing.

The Search Begins

When I received the quote request for a complex prototype project, I contacted 11 local machine shops in Northern California. My goal was to support a large local company by finding a nearby shop capable of handling the task. I sent a professional email introducing myself and the project, ensuring every detail was clear to facilitate their evaluation.

Customer Service Woes

The responses I received were disappointing and revealed significant issues in customer service and business practices. It became evident that many shops are struggling with fundamental aspects of customer interaction and operational efficiency. The lack of prompt and professional communication was particularly alarming, as it reflects poorly on their ability to manage projects and maintain client relationships. Here are some specific issues I encountered:

  • Delayed Responses: Two shops took two-three days to reply with a simple “No, thank you,” without any additional feedback or suggestions.
  • Inadequate Capabilities: Another shop could only offer a tolerance of +/- 0.005 inches, which was unsuitable for the prototype’s requirements. Their quote was a staggering $2250 without including necessary services like chemical cleaning.
  • Communication Breakdowns: I spoke with one shop owner who seemed interested initially. He requested the details via email, which I sent immediately. Despite following up multiple times, I never received a response from his estimator.
  • Professional but Ineffective: One shop in Livermore was professional in their communication but took three days of back-and-forth discussions before deciding they couldn’t do the job. Which was fair assessment, they made recommendation.

The Importance of Professionalism

The unprofessionalism and lack of basic business acumen were striking:

  • Outdated or Non-existent Websites: Many shops had outdated websites or none at all, failing to recognize the power of a strong online presence. A well-maintained website is crucial for establishing trust and showcasing capabilities.
  • Poor Documentation: The quote forms I received were extremely basic and unprofessional, lacking the detail and clarity needed for high-stakes projects.

Proactive Solutions

Recognizing these gaps, I proactively created professional post cards and letters and mailed them to nearly 120 local shops, offering custom website design and marketing services. As a web designer and machinist, I understand the value of a professional online presence. Shockingly, I received zero responses, indicating a broader issue of resistance to adopting new technologies and improving business practices.

Despite the lack of responses, it’s clear that a professional online presence can significantly improve customer trust and business opportunities. At MachiningPartner.com, we already offer web design and marketing services tailored specifically for machine shops. We know that a well-designed website and a strong marketing strategy can make a substantial difference in attracting and retaining clients.

A Tale of Two Continents

Frustrated with the local response, I decided to leverage our good business relationships in Asia for a comparison. We contacted two shops—one in China and one in Malaysia:

  • Rapid Acknowledgment: Both shops acknowledged my request within an hour, demonstrating their commitment to customer service.
  • Detailed and Professional Quotes: I received professional, detailed quotes within 12 hours. The quotes included services like chemical cleaning and express DHL shipping. The Chinese shop provided a comprehensive quote of $437, significantly lower than the $2250 quoted by the American shop.
  • Superior Industrial Capacity: The Asian shops demonstrated far superior industrial capacity and professionalism, which is a key reason why much high-tech manufacturing is centered in Asia. This includes a growing presence in Malaysia, where we are strategically refocusing our efforts.

Recurring Issues with American Shops

This situation has occurred multiple times where local shops simply didn’t respond in time, didn’t respond professionally, or took days to get back. One thing is for sure: these shops are now on my list of places not to do business with next time another 100-year-old company asks MachiningPartner for a recommendation. Not keeping clients updated, failing to follow up, or being unresponsive is absolutely detrimental to business.

Potential New Service Offerings

This experience highlighted the significant room for improvement in American machine shops’ customer service and professionalism. At MachiningPartner.com, we are considering expanding our offerings to include:

  • Customer Service Training: Providing training programs to improve responsiveness and professionalism in client interactions.
  • Customer Relations Automation: Utilizing new technologies to enhance client management and communication.
  • Documentation Upgrades: Developing detailed, professional quote forms to enhance trust and clarity in client communications.


The challenges I faced underscore the urgent need for American machine shops to modernize their operations and improve customer service. By embracing technology and adopting professional business practices, these shops can better compete in the global market. The market is ripe for transformation, and those who adapt will thrive in this competitive landscape. If you’re in the manufacturing industry, consider the benefits of a professional online presence and exceptional customer service. Visit MachiningPartner.com or exclusive machining marketplace to learn how we can help your business succeed.

Keywords: American machine shops, customer service, professionalism, machining services, prototype project, website design, marketing services, business practices, global competition, machine shop trays or visit exclusive machining marketplace