Better Production Online Source Helps Shop Augment Customer Base

Traditionally, most of the business for one Mansfield, Pennsylvania shop came from a nearby foundry. Because some of that machining work is now being done overseas, the workload has become sporadic in recent months. To keep its business alive, the shop turned to an online service to locate prospects.

Founded in 1983, Johnson Machine and Production, Inc. operated as a small machining service provider for the local foundry for nearly 20 years. The shop closed down when the owner became ill, and several years later, Tom Ingerick (with his brother as a silent partner) brought the company back to life. He moved it to a larger, more accessible location near Route 15 in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, and invested in more modern machines, including a new mill, a turret lathe and others.

Along with his son and four other employees, Mr. Ingerick, a trained tool and die maker, now machines a variety of parts for that same foundry. However, things are not as they used to be. Today, the foundry outsources some of its machining to China and elsewhere, so Johnson’s business isn’t as steady as it once was.

To fill the gaps in the production schedule, the company turned to to find quick-turnaround machining jobs. New jobs from this online service now account for anywhere from 20 to 90 percent of Johnson’s business in any given month, depending on the amount of capacity not used by the foundry.

“The main objective was to fill the schedule in between work for the foundry,” Mr. Ingerick says. “We are also developing new customers.”

He reports that after securing the initial order through, the shop has gained additional business from 17 of 18 new customers. The company expects to obtain more business from the other one as well.

When he sees that there will be some capacity available, Mr. Ingerick searches for machining jobs that fit his profile.

“We mostly bid on jobs east of the Mississippi,” he says. “Preferably, the work is not too far away; we see jobs roll in from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.”

Although Johnson Machine has accepted jobs from the West Coast, shipping costs usually take its bid out of the running. Still, there’s plenty of business to be had in the company’s target area. In addition to its 18 new customers, the company is awaiting responses on seven new bids that meet its criteria.

While the site allows for a relatively long response period on proposals, Johnson generally limits the response time to a couple days. “We are looking for short-term work,” Mr. Ingerick says.

Jobs vary in size from just a few pieces to 6,000 pieces, the company’s largest order to date. When searching for work, Mr. Ingerick can match jobs to his shop’s available capacity.

“There are literally hundreds of jobs out there,” he says. “We can search for the ones that most closely meet our needs and capabilities.”

In addition to keeping the ma-chines running on a short-term basis, one of the benefits of working with is that the site has allowed Johnson Machine to demonstrate its capabilities to a market of potential customers.

Because the small, family-owned business cares about its customers, it strives for zero defects and keeping costs in-line by providing prints to parts the first time. That philosophy seems to be paying off for Johnson Machine.

“We’ve gotten more business from nearly every customer we worked with through the site,” Mr. Ingerick says. “Sometimes it’s another quantity of the same part, and sometimes it’s a different part.”

As for the company’s bidding success rate, Mr. Ingerick says that he can usually close business on 80 percent or more of the jobs he “really goes after” through follow-up calls and selling techniques.

“Just putting out the proposal can work,” Mr. Ingerick advises. “I’ve also found that it works much better when I do the follow-up to distinguish our company from other potential suppliers that might have bid on the same job.”

Mr. Ingerick says that knowing he can visit at any time to find companies that need his company’s services is a relief.

“You have to sell to keep the business alive,” he says. “You need prospects—companies with a need for what we have to offer—to sell to. is a great source for those prospects.”

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