Photo of Todd Adlon, president of American Manufactured Inc., courtesy of M. W. Fegley.

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Todd Adlon, president of American Manufactured Inc. in Millerstown, Pennsylvania, talks about the journey in taking a leap of faith and starting his own CNC machining business.

People always ask me why, after 20 years of working for a larger machine shop, where I ran CNC milling machines, programmed CNC machines, ordered materials, inspected parts and was pretty much involved in every aspect, would I then decide to go start my own machine shop. Well, it was more serendipity than an actual decision. My old shop had a major slowdown after losing its biggest client, and then somebody offered to sell me a mill and a lathe. I had considered starting my own CNC machine shop for many years. I even saved money for the machine down payments. So, in April 2016, I took a leap because I saw that my former employer had focused too much on one major client. When that client changed management and started sending its machining work overseas, we were left high and dry. I thought I might do better on my own, going after a variety of smaller clients instead of just one behemoth, and I opened American Manufactured Inc. (AMI). That’s when things started to get interesting.

Making Connections That Matter

I live in Millerstown, Pennsylvania. It’s a small community, and our local high school only graduates about 35 students a year. In the center of town, the local fire department company recently built a new firehouse. When the old one became available, suddenly there it was—the perfect space for AMI. I got in touch with a supply rep who became a good friend over the years. He recommended I get in touch with Xometry, a company that specializes in connecting product designers, engineers and procurement officers with the right machine shop to make their parts. Xometry contracted me out for work right away. I hired one employee, and soon more work from other clients started coming in. Between the two of us, we have about 40 years of combined machining experience, including the knowledge of how to run a shop. I’m proud to say that since opening our machine shop in April 2016, we haven’t had a single day without something to do. I’m even prouder to say that we’ve had a zero rejection rate. That’s right, we haven’t had any nonconforming products, nor have we missed any delivery dates


What’s your take? Talk to your peers in the community forum.


Define Your Commitment

Four months later, I’ve added a CNC vertical mill. Now, I’m looking to buy another machine, plus hire another employee. Some of our clients include ones like Hershey Food Service, Godiva and Segway, but we also have several smaller, steady clients that design for the military and aerospace industries. My philosophy is to offer more than what customers expect. I want them to know that AMI has their back. For example, I received a 200-piece order with a complicated design that took a lot of machining. I started to work on it until I got to the point where I found a major design flaw. It would’ve been easy to make the parts exactly how they ordered them and ship the order, especially since that’s what many machine shops do, but I knew the parts wouldn’t function properly. It was late in the day on a Friday in Pennsylvania and the customer is based in California, so I was able to get in touch with the engineers and discuss a couple of solutions. I explained how I thought it would work, and they told me to run a couple of samples. Once I finished, I shipped them via FedEx, and by Monday they had the newly designed part and agreed that it was the way to go. I saved that company quite a bit of money by finding the flaw and fixing it without downtime.

“My philosophy with the business is to offer more than what customers expect. I want them to know that AMI has their back.”
Todd Adlon

Stand Out from Your Competition

If I give someone a quote but can do the work somehow cheaper than expected, I will revise the quote and pass the savings on to the customer. I’ve heard this called concierge service. It’s really what machine shops like mine have to do now to compete. There’s work out there, but it’s not mindless. It’s challenging, which is what I like about it. I don’t want to produce a square part with two holes every day. I like working with these smaller companies that are innovative and producing well-designed products. AMI is in exactly the same boat; we’re small, but we’re doing top-quality work and there are no signs of slowing down. 

“I like working with these smaller companies that are innovative and producing well-designed products. AMI is in exactly the same boat; we’re small, but we’re doing top-quality work and there are no signs of slowing down.”
Todd Adlon

Future Expectations

AMI is still growing. We’ll have a multi-axis machine sooner rather than later. Though multi-axis CNC machines are expensive, clients are expecting shops to have them because they can cut down on the amount of labor required for some jobs, follow more complex designs and offer an improved finished product.

The biggest obstacle I’ve faced, however, involves being prudent and patient when it comes to the machines and tooling I’ve decided to purchase. Sure, I’d like to own a multi-axis and every drill bit out there, but I have to make sure that what I buy is a sound investment. I can’t invest in anything that looks pretty but essentially just sits in my shop and gathers dust. Instead, I have to focus on the equipment and tools that are going to be put to work immediately. I haven’t had to turn away any work so far because I lacked the machines or tooling to do a job, but I could see this potentially happening. When you’re a small shop, you can’t do absolutely everything.

Right now, I’m satisfied that I’m equipped to machine just about any kind of material. And it’s really nice going home at the end of the day knowing that I’m helping to keep manufacturing here in the United States while providing a few jobs for the local community.

Key Takeaways

  • Translate 20 years of experience into being your own boss.
  • Learn the benefits of working with smaller companies.
  • Stay focused in the midst of growth.

Are you thinking about going out on your own, or have you already done it? Talk to us and others who have done it in the forum.

Talk to Us!

Honestly, I had no idea about these CNC machine shops until my son told me about it earlier during our dinner. It seems like these CNC machine shops is a competitive market as it would need proper connections so that you'll never run out of clients as you did. What I am getting is that it have something to do with parts and deliveries. I'll try to read more into this CNC machine shops and what else they can do. Thanks! http://www.aeromechanism.com/company.php

34  

Thank you for visiting Better MRO, Vivian.

You can learn more about CNC machine shops on Better MRO: https://www.mscdirect.com/betterMRO/metalworking/metal-head-corner-findi...

37  

Maybe his so called success is helped by bilking the fire company out of their rent for almost two years. This business is a joke at the expense of the Millerstown fire company.

48  

Great article!
Thank you so much for all the helpful information. As a side note, there's always a bitter person willing to hate on someone else's success.

35  

Thanks for the positive feedback Jeff.

36  

what a azzwagon^^ "concerned in M town"^^.. you sound pathetic! This guy is creating jobs. and living his dream out hater.. chill out. and thanks for the info. machining 25 yrs 5 axis stuff. im taking the leap man. thanks for the motivation

33  

Mike - Thanks for visiting and good luck.

35  

Way to go Todd. I also started my own CNC shop in Vermont after working for larger companies for 35 years. That was 5 years ago. I like having control of the entire process. My customer base continues to grow through word of mouth. The secret is to stay right sized. Great article.

35  

Thanks for sharing such a great success story with us, Arthur. And thanks for visiting Better MRO.

34  

hello sir,

i want to start my own business, There is one of my friend, almost 1 year complete, to do business with him, we have already one product, that right now we have cell in market,
now we are going planing for VMC machine, but i dont have any knowledge about vmc machine, i mean know about operations ,but dont know about how to earn from vmc machine,
i am getting confused what to do,
one vmc machine has there for 11 lac, how it can be risk to buy right now,
and also currently i am working in reputed automation company in proposal department,
suggest me what to do

49  

Hello sir
I'm student engineering student I'm also start my own business of cnc machine workshop can you help me. I'm from Pune.

36  

Congrats Todd. I have the machines and my own shop my problem is I’m not a salesman and I can’t find the work. I’d appreciate any help to find work. I have over 22 years of experience in the field but iOS all hands on what I need is a good salesman to work off commissions. Thank you

46  

Hello sir,
I'm student now in a final year of engineering in India . I have least amount of knowledge of cnc and vmc machine . I won't be start my own workshop in India. What I to do sir, please help me.

34  

Hi sir,
I want to start my own workshop but main problem is how I get work or contract for machining and how I start my business,please guide me...

48  

We welcome you to join our forum to ask others who have started their own shop, your questions.
https://www.mscdirect.com/betterMRO/forum

49  

I have got 1 no jyoti dx 200 cnc turning centre. I am intrested in batch type jobs please do the needfull
I am located in MIDC--PIMPRI--PUNE 411018

45  

Congratulations on obtaining your CNC machine. I would advertise in metalworking publications and visit the manufacturing facilities near you to introduce yourself, talk about your skills, and print up a one page flyer to pass around local industrial parks.

33  

I am interested in doing machining work. I have a small shop at home. I have a conventional mill, lathe, band saw, stick welder, MIG welder, small drill press, and a small radial arm drill press. How can I get work for my home shop?

32  

You've got a real nice set-up going. I would post your equipment list in shop trade magazines and in on-line blogs. Visit local manufacturing locations near you and get the word out as to what you have. Bring in samples or blueprints that would better illustrate your capabilities. Some references from local customers would also add to your list of references.

31  

The proper steps for squaring a block of material are described on my Turner s Cube page .  The recipe described there is one I got from the great book, Machine Shop Trade Secrets.  Pick up a copy to continue your learning process.

34  

Hi sir, I have a small machine shop. I have conventional lathe & drilling machines, how can I get the work order. Please guide me

34  

I want to make sure that I get the right machinery for a project that I'm working on. It makes sense that I would want to get some that work with a professional to ensure that I do this right. They would be able to ensure that I put everything together properly.  https://www.echucaengineering.com.au

30  

It's easy to own a machine shop, but it's difficult to get a satisfactory order for CNC machining Services.

16  

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