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Machine Shop Grows Using Tenacity, Innovation and MFG.com

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This month's issue of Modern Machine Shop features an article titled "Startup Takes 21st Century Approach To Business." It features Maryland Machine and its founder, Brent Long.

Brent Long of Maryland Machine (Photo: Modern Machine Shop)

Brent Long of Maryland Machine (Photo: Modern Machine Shop)

The story of Maryland Machine is one of working hard AND smart, and growing a business from a garage to a 3,000 square foot, profitible business.

'After vocational school, Mr. Long worked for 25 years as a machinist making parts for NASA, NRL and other manufacturers in the Washington, DC area. Nonetheless, he always wanted to go into business for himself. In fact, he undertook one project on his own while working for his last employer. An avid remote-control helicopter enthusiast, Mr. Long designed a new turbine fan to replace a model that made his helicopter vibrate. He purchased a CNC machine to build it in his garage, and the project was a success - he sold the fans via a hobbyist Web site for three years before the manufacturer of the remote control helicopter remedied the issue in its standard models.

Using that garage-based machine as a sole means of making living, however, was a different matter entirely. As a one-man operation, getting the word out about a new business would have been challenging to say the least. When he learned about MFG.com through an e-mail from a colleague, he saw an opportunity. "It made me confident enough to make the investment required to get started," Mr. Long explains. "I probably wouldn’t have tried to start my own business without it."'

From humble beginnings, Brent focused on customer service and technology to attract the kinds of customers he wants to work with - not chasing every buck that comes along. He's selective, and it's paid off.

'Based on his experience, Mr. Long offers some advice for making the most of the matchmaking service for shops that might consider subscribing. "The key word is persistence," he says. "Don’t go too low—charge what you need to run your business, and you will eventually filter out a good customer or two. It takes time and it takes a lot of things to line up right. If you’re persistent, you can establish a relationship. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t win every single job."'

So how's this approach paid off?

'Maryland Machine’s specialty is high speed, light-duty milling and turning in aluminum and plastic as well as exotic steels and super alloys. Most of the jobs the shop pursues through MFG.com involve prototyping and aerospace work—the more challenging, the better, Mr. Long says. Especially with its recent equipment purchases, including two Fanuc Robodrills and a Haas mill with fast cycles, the company is well-equipped to machine high-tolerance, complex parts from materials ranging from aluminum to exotic steels and super alloys.'

Whether you're a member of MFG.com or not, success depends on a the same principles - pick a niche, differentiate yourself, focus on value for the customer, invest in technology and innovation. These are the keys for any small- or mid-sized manufacturer these days.

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