"One Perfect Part at a Time"

Looking Ahead 2012

I offer a little machine shop rambling today. It’s getting close to the end of another year so I have been taking stock of what I have accomplished this year and what I need to be thinking about for the next year.

One big item is my operation of the “The Hobbyist Machine Store” website store. I already have written that I dropped one of the “me too” product lines. The store is too small to be a good income producing venture. I would have to say it financially compares to being slightly better than leaving my money investment in a low producing CD or savings account. However, the investment of time is nowhere near justified by that financial return. It certainly does not produce what I term a living income.

I began the THMS business because I wanted to establish a reputation for the store and myself. The next big driver for starting this small business was and still is my access to the mini-mill and lathe steel replacement gears. That product will definitely continue for the foreseeable future as long as the supply is available.

Future products will be single source or self manufactured. I will move away from only hobbyist machine tools. I am working on some saleable product ideas I can personally produce with small machine tools. I.E, products manufactured within a small machine shop. The store will be the outlet for those products rather than offering the machine tools themselves.

One consideration rejected was to bring back the model locomotive wheels I produced by CNC machining. Unfortunately rejected because it is an extremely narrow market niche. I have decided I am not going to invest effort (mass produce) extremely specialized, speculative products. I made the wheels for myself so it was not time wasted. There was just no one else interested at the required price. I will continue to expose specialized items I make for myself as a “market test”. That is still part of the fun of what I do. Only if there is interest will I work on how to control the cost.

I am thinking of other metal crafts beyond machining such as castings and mold making. There is a “collectibles” market that ventures into art, awards and decorative items. Materials other than metal are definitely in the product materials criteria. That provides lots of room to explore for product ideas.

Computer assisted manufacturing (CAM) is certainly a part of my overall production or manufacturing cost control plan. I will use CNC for precise repeatability and volume production. Watch for developments in this area.

I recently became enlightened to a very good sales market away from what I call “Sales to the Hobbyist Sector” business. I produced a non hobby focused, machined wood product that demonstrated a very high return on my time and financial investment. I can’t ignore opportunities such as this to participate in increasing profits.

The key requirement is to be involved with something I enjoy doing while having full control. It’s going to be a fun year ahead! It’s also “PC” to be green…

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