Americanmachinist 4297 Dialmachine Shoplongevity0

The Value of Longevity in Precision Parts Manufacturing

April 29, 2015
From manual equipment to CNC machining to lights out manufacturing, Dial Machine’s expertise and reliability with OEMs spans decades
Each new generation of CNC equipment increases the speed and precision of parts production, and shops like Dial Machine must continue to invest even while refining their techniques.

“Longevity” is not a typical requirement for OEMs choosing a precision metal parts manufacturer, there are some important reasons why the number of years a shop has been in operation should count, alongside product quality, reliability, turnaround times, and cost. 

Longevity imparts certain, undeniable facts.  In a time when many machine shops have gone out of business or changed hands, the survivors have succeeded partly by being lean and delivering consistent value.

Often, this has meant moving to more precision, high-tolerance work.  To win this business, shops were forced to recruit or retain skilled operators from a diminishing pool while continually investing in the latest CNC equipment.  This meant investing to stay ahead of the curve even while many jobs were available only as “lowest cost” bids. 

Often, this has meant moving to more precision, high-tolerance work.  To win this business, shops were forced to recruit or retain skilled operators from a diminishing pool while continually investing in the latest CNC equipment.  This meant investing to stay ahead of the curve even while many jobs were available only as “lowest cost” bids. 

For industries that are more price-sensitive, competition among the quality shops was fierce and the only way to stay in business was to deliver consistent quality, on time, every time.  Only the strong have survived, and not many shops can claim to being in business for 20 years or more.

One Customer for 50 Years — One metal parts supplier that can boast of its longevity is Dial Machine Company (, a full-service precision machine shop for custom metal and plastic components.  It has operated under the same family ownership and retained long-term skilled operators for the past 50 years. 

Expert machinists, many with decades of experience, are among the advantages that Dial Machine offers its long-time customer King Tester Corp.

If 50-years in business is impressive, even more so is the fact that Dial Machine has maintained a continuous 50-year relationship with one customer, King Tester Corporation, a pioneer supplier of Brinell hardness testing equipment. 

Given the failure rate of manufacturers, revolving door ownership or management, changes in the industry, competitors set to steal away business by offering a lower price, any machine shop will acknowledge that retaining a customer over decades is even tougher than staying in business.

Over 50 years of business cooperation, Dial Machine and King Tester have witnessed many changes in the industry, notably the introduction and evolution of CNC machining.

“In the 1980s, machining had reached its limits, with rising quality demands and many skilled machinists retiring,” observed King Tester vice president Ernest Biddle.  “Dial Machine was our first supplier to use CNC machines to enhance and extend quality machining.  We supported this technical revolution and co-signed their loan for CNC equipment, because fast, accurate production of our test head was critical to our business.”

Since 1965, Dial Machine has been a primary supplier for the King portable Brinell hardness tester, providing parts for its hydraulic test head, body, and base.  Dial handles the primary processes, such as CNC machining, metal fabrication, lathe and milling operations, as well as secondary machining, finishing, coating, deburring, grinding, and some assembly.

Some complex, high-tolerance parts, like the upper and lower housings of a high-pressure stainless steel filter, call for manual machining.

Biddle acknowledged John Giordano, co-owner of Dial Machine and son of the founder Anthony Giordano, for helping to produce the world’s first commercially viable, automatic Brinell microscope. Since 1987, King Tester’s King Scan® has gone through a number of iterations and improvements. 

Despite the role that longevity can play in an OEM choosing an experienced metal parts manufacturer, simply being around a long time isn’t enough when it comes to precision parts.  With each new generation of CNC equipment, the precision and speed increases and companies like Dial Machine must reinvest in machines while refining their techniques.

“On key parts of our portable Brinell hardness tester, such as the process of making test heads, Dial Machine works to very tight tolerances,” said Simon Focht, King Tester’s operations manager.  “From a raw casting, a block of stainless steel, it essentially machines the exterior and interior in fine detail.  At another point, it machines and drills a block of aluminum, using CNC equipment to achieve several tasks at the same time.”

Recently, Giordano suggested design improvements to tighten the mating fit between two elevating screws and nuts on the King Brinell hardness tester base.  “With the improved tolerance of the custom mating fit, the carriage runs up and down as precisely as possible with increased longevity,” said Focht.

Keeping Current with Manufacturing Technology

“A machine shop has to prove itself every day,” agreed Jim Guba, vice president of Engineering at IMAC Systems.  His company, which has worked with Dial Machine for the past five years, has provided products and services to the gas measurement and precision machining industry since its establishment in 1978. “They continue to improve their business and bring in the latest, state-of-the-art CNC equipment.”

Although IMAC Systems has invested in sophisticated CNC equipment — including $500,000 to add to two CNC lathes, a milling machine, and a machining center — it still sees value in outsourcing its most complex parts to a precision shop like Dial Machine. 

Precision machining projects continue to be managed by CNC operators, even as the shop has initiated lights-out manufacturing for some more suitable orders.

Although they could manufacture the parts, they prefer to use in-house equipment to make most of the less-complex parts — which requires the full attention of their long-time CNC operator.

The complex parts Dial Machine makes include the upper and lower housings of a high-pressure stainless steel filter, which protects expensive downstream gas equipment from dangerous line debris.  The tolerances for the high-pressure filter can range from 0.0005 to 0.005 in., in 316” stainless steel.

“We’ve never had a reject from any part they’ve made for us in five years,” Guba said.

Lights-Out Manufacturing — Despite Dial Machine’s long, successful OEM relationships, the company is not resting.  To gain even greater operational efficiency, it pushed its CNC machining operation to lights-out manufacturing. That means the CNC equipment is set up to make parts overnight or longer, while staff is not around.  This can speed part turnaround while also reducing labor costs, a production-cost savings that can be passed to the customer.

Also, lights-out manufacturing often improves OEM production flexibility, leaving fully manned CNC equipment for day shifts to produce more complex parts that may require more tooling changeovers and monitoring.

As much as 80% of the work Dial Machine performs can be run as lights-out manufacturing, provided there are sufficient lot quantities.  These automated machines have automatic bar feeders and safety mechanisms, so the machine shop can run multiple shifts per day, including an unattended overnight shift, and that can decrease OEM lead times and part costs dramatically.

“With CNC and lights out manufacturing capability as well as expert machinists, Dial Machine is helping to keep our company on the cutting edge of quality, delivery, and price,” Biddle concluded.

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