TD&M Machining LLC Hits $700,000 in Sales with MFG.com

THE CHALLENGE

Troy Donath started TD&M Machining LLC, located in Dubuque, Iowa, in 2007 as a part-time venture with the long-term goal of becoming his own boss. He began the company in his garage and relied on a single 2-axis manual machine. At first, the pace of the work suited his availability but, at the end of 2008, Troy was laid off from his full-time job and needed to grow his business to support his family.

Troy relates, “Within a 50-mile radius of Dubuque, there are many machine shops. The competition for work is fierce, and everyone knows everyone here. Shop owners do not take kindly to other shops trying to solicit their customers. I didn’t want to get involved in this competitive environment so I decided to seek work from outside the area.”

THE SOLUTION

With a limited budget, Troy could not afford to hire a sales staff so he looked to the internet as a resource. He searched on the term “outsourced machine parts” and found MFG.com, the largest online marketplace for buyers and manufacturers. He checked out the website and decided to take a test drive, that resulted in him becoming a paying member. Troy took advantage of the training MFG.com provides initially but shares, “I don’t learn well by listening to other people talk or watching demonstrations. I am a hands-on person so I figured out MFG.com on my own.”

Troy continues, “At first, the subscription was pretty pricey for me, but I stuck with it and landed some decent customers. They didn’t care that I was working out of my garage as long as the parts were good. And, because MFG.com is all over the world, I found customers on both coasts. None are from the Dubuque area so I don’t have to worry about competitors saying I took their customers.”

Troy shares that he likes MFG.com because he can use it as he needs it. “If I get busy and don’t need new work, I won’t look at MFG for a while,” he adds. “I don’t have to constantly quote all the time. But, if I see a drop in work, I get back on and pick up another customer.”

THE RESULTS

TD&M Machining has experienced nothing but growth since landing its first two customers on MFG.com. While still operating out of his garage, Troy hired a neighbor on a part-time basis to help run parts. Later, he took on a business partner and moved to a 1,000-square-foot facility. The shop then acquired three CNC machines (one horizontal and two vertical mills) and hired two full-time workers. Later, in 2014, Troy bought out his business partner. Today, TD&M Machining specializes in CNC 2D and 3D machining and modeling, turning, surface grinding and heat treating, focusing on all types of steel, aluminum and plastics. Latest sales are about $700,000, and the firm has six CNC machines (a horizontal, four vertical mills and a CNC lathe) and employs 5.5 full-time equivalents.

Troy shares, “We do job-shop type work. It’s mostly one-offs and one to five parts. We basically do whatever comes in the door. I probably have gotten over 100 jobs from MFG.com. Many are now repeat customers that give me work all the time. Once I do a job and they like it, we deal offline. I’d say about 75 percent of our current customers came from MFG.com and four to five are our top sources of revenue.”

“We do a lot of parts for a company that manufactures and sells splicing, stripping and cleaning machines for the fiber optics sector,” says Troy. “We do small aluminum pieces, perhaps one to five parts with 20 to 25 pieces per order. Another customer is in road construction and builds scrapers that they retrofit with articulating trackers. We machine a lot of parts for them in Hardox 450.”

Troy says that, for the most part, the buyers he’s dealt with on MFG.com are great. They want a decent product at a decent price and pay on time. Some jobs even hold surprises. Troy explains, “About a year ago I saw that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had some parts up for bid. I was a bit skeptical but submitted a quote nonetheless. Later, a student calls me to talk about getting the parts machined. He says, ‘I like your work but time is a constraint.’ I said we could work on his schedule. It turns out the parts were for a robot MIT was building for the television show ‘BattleBots,’ where competitors design and operate remote-controlled robots that fight in an elimination tournament. The parts we made were part of a battle bot in the television series. MIT sent me pictures showing me the location of the parts I machined. It was pretty exciting.”

Troy feels that MFG.com played an important role in growing his business, saying, “Using MFG.com is like having a salesperson on staff working for you 24/7. Every day it identifies work for my consideration and allows me to bid on those jobs that match our skillsets. If I don’t need work or new customers, then I don’t have to use MFG.com. It is a great resource that’s constantly at the ready for shops of every size.”

After ten years of using MFG.com, Troy sees no end in sight: “I have three to four customers I found through MFG.com that account for most of my revenue. I’d like to find one or two more clients like them. That is one reason why I keep subscribing to MFG.com. Another is unpredictability. One of my first and best MFG.com customers decided to take their work back in house when new management took over. You never know what life holds, but I know I can always count on MFG.com for the work my shop needs.”

 

 

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