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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Posts
    304

    Default Prototyping shop

    Any of you guys do any regular amount of prototype work?

    Ok, a little about myself. I currently am in partnership with a long time friend of mine in a residential general contracting company. It's not too bad of a gig, but it's way more managerial work than anything else. My true love is design/fabrication/repair of equipment and machinery. I have often thought about starting up a shop that would mainly deal with engineering models and such. Basically, a shop that would be completely turn-key from concept to paint and everything in between. I've never been a fan of prodution work, simply because it's a matter of doing it a nickel cheaper and a minute faster. A case-in-point example of what I'm talking about would be similar to a company that my CAT saleman calls on. They take old CAT machines, strip them down to basic machine and drive mechanism, then build one-off custom oil field pieces out of them that get shipped world-wide. That's an extreme case, but it gets the picture accross.

    I'm currently pursuing a mechanical engineering degree (don't cuss me just yet....I worked in the field first, so hopefully I won't be the Engineer you want to drive your rig over at the next jobsite...face it, we've all had that idea in our head!). I've slowly been collecting the equipment for this endeavor as I've had the money. My next two big ticket items will be a lathe and mill. I figure from there I can build anything else I need.

    Let me know your thoughts on this idea, especially if you are involved in this kind of work.

    SSS

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Ocean City, Maryland
    Posts
    951

    Default

    I think that would be fun work. I'm like you I don't like repetitive work. Such as building railings or stairs. [ a niche for evrybody] Although looks like good money it I would get bored with it. I do mostly repair work on equipment and i like that better. You could probably come up with some interesting equipment out of old tracked equipment. What type of special rigs do the oil fields need/use?
    Scott
    HMW [Heavy Metal welding]

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Wheeling
    Posts
    169

    Default

    I don't accept prototyping work unless there is a contract for money in place and that the people who want the work done, can prove they have the money.

    Got burned by a fast talker once, about $1500 in my expense, never again.

    Jerry

  4. #4
    Willy Welder Guest

    Default

    Prototyping can be a good thing or a bad thing, you can vary your work and not get bored or your customer can call you with changes every other day thus blowing away maybe some of your work. So get a contract from your customer and remind them, that changes cost money. Then have lots of fun!

    Willy

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Wheeling
    Posts
    169

    Default

    Do what you think is best in your shop, remember you have to pay the elextric bill when you accept work.

    Jerry

  6. #6

    Default Go for it... but beware

    SSS,

    I spent 20 years as an engineer at a large Aerospace company, then went with a consulting company - and eventually founded my own company. My fulltime living is unrelated to my metal working. The lessons I have learned were mentioned by the previous responders. Prototype work will drive you into banruptcy if you don't have clearly defined business practices. A relatively simple example would be:
    1) a Statement of Work (SOW) - it defines the general service you are bidding on
    2) Technical specifications - Engineering spec's of the prototype (milling, turning, welding) and tolerances
    3) change control - modification to work already performed is a do over, full cost of previous work plus cost of new spec
    4) Scope creep - If it's not in the SOW or Tech Spec's - it's not in scope of the job, requires step 3 above - change control/contract modification
    5) In business no one is your friend - they are a client, and they are trying to get the most for the least amount of dollars.

    In the end you have to gage how much free work you are willing to do...

    Steve

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Wheeling
    Posts
    169

    Default

    Steve,

    I think you hit it on the nose, exactly correct!

    Jerry

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Posts
    304

    Default

    Thanks for all the replys.

    I am more than familar with the whole contract obligation routines. That's seems to be half of what I deal with on a daily basis Especially when we have a custom building project underway. In fact, we just had a customer back out of a $200K+ contract after the foundation was poured.....but that's what significant earnest monies up front are for, so we aren't going to get hurt on it (and the property is in our company name).

    All that said, I think those kind of business practices are pretty universal from industry to industry. Sometimes the stakes vary from time time, though.

    Steve-thanks for the input on the contract specifics...BTW, no offense intended in the initial thread about engineers.....I hope to get there myself someday. But there are times you have to sit back and wonder just what somebody was thinking when they designed something (and the fact that a senior member of the team signed off on it too!)

    I guess my real goal over time is to be that small one stop shop that people bring work to you when nobody else in the area will tackle it (within reason, of course). A friend of mine does that in the pump world. If you need a pump, they can build it....if you have the money. They tackle the entire project from design, sand casting, machining, and installation. Another individual that I would probably be in some sort of partnership with on the endeavor spent twenty years in the machine tool industry. He mainly dealt with custom tools for customers. They would start with a basic stock machine and build one-off accesories and tools for it. As with most people that spend that much time doing that kind of work, he has been very eager in starting up something like that again. Start small, pay cash as you go, and hopefully have more work than time.

    -Steve

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    843

    Default

    I think its a great idea if you can make a go of it. I did R&D for a multi million dollar company for a while ( I am not a fan of engineers who have never been in the field !) We spent more time fixing and doing mods to what the engineers didnt see the first time around then we should have, but it was interesting none the less. But when it came to building working prototypes I loved it ! If I could do that with my business I would. Even with over 20 years of maintaining,repairing, and R&D on high speed production equipment, I still cant get that industry to work outside their own machine builders. So it could be a tough road, atleast in the area of my expertise. But man if you can do it, more power to you ! I stay away from production work myself but still have to do some just to pay the bills. I would love to hear how you are doing in a couple years.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    7

    Default prototype shop

    I'm an engineer and that was my first full time gig out of college. Its been a full five years now setting up shop. I worked for GM and MAck TRucks, although it was a great experience I'd never go back to industry unless I was hard up for cash. Now I work in research/acedemics for the Rehab Inst. of CHi. We work under grants so I know nothing about the financial end of things but how to spend. And that is what lead me to this group. I rescently pruchased and CNC and a welder other than that I have the standard machines to get the job done. Before that my main machine was a Bridgeport Verticle Mill. Now that I have the CNC and welder I barely touch the thing. All we make is custom. Its been a great job and environment and I've day dreamed of branching off on my own too. I look forward to hearing more from you.

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