Contour Featured in Modern Machine Shop

From Modern Machine Shop:

How Do You Sell Your Value-Add?

A shop shares lessons learned about alluring and securing profitable, long-term CNC machining contracts.

Contour Precision Value Add

Contour Precision Milling & Machining specializes in oddly shaped, difficult-to-machine milled parts, many of which require custom fixturing. Tilting the five-axis machines’ table enables access to features like the angled bores on either end of the part.


Contour Precision Milling & Machine moved into a brand new facility in 2006. Two years later, that move almost seemed ill-considered. “We lost about 60 percent of our business overnight,” recalls Michelle Reichlin, CEO, about the economic downturn of 2008.

Thanks largely to a new approach to shop-floor scheduling, the company is reportedly twice as productive and twice as profitable as it was before the move with less than half the employees (21 versus the 2007 peak of 48). Its average on-time delivery rating is 96 percent. CNC machining equipment on the 20,000-square-foot shop floor in North Ridgeville, Ohio, includes pallet-fed horizontal machining centers and five-axis vertical machining centers. Six new pieces of equipment have been purchased in the past 18 months alone, but debt is controlled, and the company is not highly leveraged, Ms. Reichlin says. She and the rest of the company’s leadership believe themselves better prepared than ever for whatever the future brings.

However, Ms. Reichlin also insists that there’s more to thank for success than shopfloor improvements. The company also had to refine its approach to attracting and managing relationships with customers. Here are a few lessons it learned along the way:

It Is OK to Say “No”

Many contract manufacturers claim to specialize in tough jobs that others reject. However, Contour Precision has chosen a particularly specific niche: low-volume, repeat jobs involving non-round, non-square milled components, particularly castings and forgings, that require custom fixtures (learn more about the company’s approach to fixture design).

Other work tends to be rejected, and for good reason. “We’ve got a bunch of tool and die makers—we can do anything—but we’ve learned that there is a cost associated with doing just anything,” Ms. Reichlin explains. “One of the biggest factors in our success has been simply understanding what we do well and being able to turn down work that does not fit us.”

“You have to make money on what you do,” adds Mark Schroeder, vice president of operations. “You have to be able to say ‘no’ to the customer. If it isn’t going to repeat, if we can’t make it more productive, if it doesn’t need special tooling—if it’s already optimized, and there’s not a lot of value we can add in manufacturing the part—then maybe it’s not for us. We are happy to make a referral.”

He adds that focusing only on the right work also ensures that resources can be devoted to value-added services that make the shop seem indispensable. These include assembly and inventory management, including storage, testing and just-in-time shipping of customers’ products.

Metrics Matter

Saying “no” requires more than just firm resolve. After the economic crash, “We became a lot more systematized,” Ms. Reichlin says. “We had to start tracking metrics in our business to help us understand where we were failing and where we were doing well.”

Consider the ratio of payroll hours versus machine production hours, a measure of output per employee. Of all the costs that go into running a machine at this shop for an hour, labor is by far the most significant and the most variable, Mr. Schroeder says. Thus, this metric plays a significant role in driving decisions such as which jobs go to which workstations, where to apply automation and who needs training in which area. (This very metric is the focus of MMS’ February, 2018 cover story, which details another shop’s implementation of a machine monitoring system.)

Contour Precision ISO9001 ASI9001

The ISO:9001-certified, AS:9100-compliant shop also claims a deep understanding of its own costs, particularly those related to quality. Feeding customers’ increasing appetite for part data without compromising efficiency is one reason why, at the time this article was being written, the shop was evaluating options for a second coordinate measuring machine to complement this one.

Price Is Not a Negotiating Tool

At Contour Precision, there’s no room for charging less or accepting less-than-ideal work just to establish a relationship. Costing is always honest and transparent, with the numbers reflecting material, consumables and other prices; the machinery used to produce the part; and the shop’s well-paid people. “We’re not out there low-balling quotes to get new business,” Ms. Reichlin says. “You have to start out quoting honestly with your team first, or you’ll just make customers angry later when you have to ask for a price increase.”

Leadership is also wary of deals involving packages of jobs, which typically contain both “winners” and “losers” in terms of profitability for the shop. In their view, all jobs stand alone, and each should be evaluated on its own merits. “In our experience, you’ll never lose the jobs you quoted too low, but you’ll eventually lose the ones you quoted too high,” Mr. Schroeder says.

FUD Comes First

This approach to costing makes sense for a shop that focuses less on per-piece costs and more on the total expense of delivering a part. For some customers, however, another concern comes first. “We may be able to bring a lot of value to the job, but we never get a chance to present that value if we don’t first deal with the FUD factor—fear, uncertainty and doubt,” he says.

Good financials demonstrate solvency and capability to upgrade technology regularly without incurring debt. From there, one key tool for reassuring risk-averse prospective customers is “Safe Launch,” a step-by-step process for starting a new job and shepherding it through to conclusion. This process helps prevent miscommunication and confusion by ensuring the customer knows exactly what to expect at every phase, from receiving the purchase order to production trial runs to packaging and final job documentation. This plan includes provisions for dealing with unexpected disruptions. The idea is that Contour Precision, not the customer, shoulders most of the work of sourcing parts with a new supplier.

“Risk outranks even price when it comes to the concerns of a big company sourcing with a smaller parts supplier,” Mr. Schroeder concludes. “The more seamless and painless we can make the entire process, the better off we are going to be and the better off the customer is going to be.”

Contour Precision Safe Launch Process

Contour Precision Milling & Machining specializes in oddly shaped, difficult-to-machine milled parts, many of which require custom fixturing. Tilting the five-axis machines’ table enables access to features like the angled bores on either end of the part.

Contour Tool wins the Parker Hannifin HVD Silver Link Strategic Supplier Award!

Contour Tool wins the Parker Hannifin HVD Silver Link Strategic Supplier Award!

Here’s a summary of the award from Parker’s newsletter:  Newsletter – Gold Link Award Ceremony.

Parker Hannifin NewsletterIntroduction to the new HVD Gold Link Strategic Supplier Award

HVD is introducing a brand new supplier award: the Gold Link Strategic Supplier Award. Based on the same principles as the Win Scorecard, the Gold Link Award is reserved for only those select suppliers that excelled in all areas of critical importance to Parker. In FY17, four Hydraulic Valve Division suppliers met the stringent requirements and were presented with the Gold Link award during a ceremony on October 13, 2017.

As Gold Link award winners, these suppliers demonstrated that they are true partners and our goal is to provide them select benefits (per below). They have a proven record of accomplishment as the “best of the best” when it comes to supplying Parker Hannifin. Together we can strengthen Parker’s global supply chain, one Gold Link at a time.

Gold Link Criteria: Objective Measurements

  • Must be a Long Term Agreement Supplier
  • Delivery: >=95% SDR
  • Quality: <300 RPPM and not more than one rejection regardless of RPPM and ISO certification or higher and fully engaged in and timely responses to NCRs/CARs/PARs
  • PCI: Meeting PCI goal and are fully engaged in the process
  • Inventory Optimization: One or more of the following: 24hr releases, supermarkets, Kanban, full engagement in inventory reduction efforts, shortening of lead times, etc. (attachment A, consignment)
  • PHconnect logon with annual certifications

Team Consensus

  • Superior Customer Service
  • Best Value Supplier
  • Best Technology and Technical Support

Benefits of being a Gold Link Award Winner

  • Recognition on Parker’s Supply Chain Forum on POL – Seen by all divisions, worldwide.
  • Increased sales opportunities with other divisions within Motion Systems Group.
  • Highlighted in Divisional newsletter so that every division associate knows the names of our very best suppliers.
  • Early involvement in Winovation projects and increased opportunities to partner on new development opportunities.
  • Priority access to our labs and technical teams for testing of new products and increased potential for product conversions.
  • “First look” privileges for new product development and RFQs.

FY18 HVD Business Update

Mike Walasinski, General Manager at HVD, provided an overview of the key markets and customers. In addition, he provided the economic outlook for FY18:

  • Industrial production growth continues to accelerate. The current projection for global industrial production growth is 2.4% in FY18
  • The Global Purchasing Managers’ Index is at its highest in more than six years

HVD sales are on an upward trajectory, with strong demands kicking off the first quarter of Parker’s FY18. FY18 Q1 sales were up 19% versus FY17!!  Our customers are demanding competitive pricing, fast responses, and unwavering quality. The collaborative relationships we are building with our suppliers and our customers will help us continue to gain share in the marketplace.

Motion Systems Group Update

Mark Anzelc, Vice President Supply Chain of the new Motion Systems Group, was next up on the list of presenters. The newly created Motion Systems Group (MSG) combined the Hydraulics Group with the Pneumatics and Electromechanical businesses of the Automation Group and is positioned to offer customers the best solutions. Innovation is driving Parker’s success, and there are opportunities for growth in all regions of the Global Marketplace when we are partnered with the right suppliers.

HVD Quality Summary

Mike Muren, HVD’s Division Quality Manager, provided details for “What Good Looks Like” in his presentation on Quality. HVD recognizes that our suppliers’ success will result in success for the Division and get us wins in the marketplace. Our Customers are targeting a goal of 50PPM. Parker and its supply base must have robust Design, Systems and Process to target zero defects. Part cleanliness is one of the key areas that will help us succeed, since contamination is recognized as a main source of failure by our Customers. Compliance to ISO 18413 and 4405 will drive efforts to limit particle size contamination in our finished valves.

Supply Chain Strategy

We are looking to build strategic partnerships and develop a path to reach HVD’s future state. By signing the Network Procurement Agreement (NPA) template, suppliers commit to authorized inventory levels and goals for Continuous Improvement. The NPA includes the traditional Attachment A inventory agreement, as well as an opportunity to sign up for Parker’s Consignment Parker Hannifin supplier score cardprogram.

Our strategic partners must be in tune with industry trends, and be willing to invest in technology that brings innovative solutions to Parker. A scorecard format will be used to evaluate our supply base against the objective criteria and determine which suppliers should be considered within our long-term strategy.

Parker HVD needs to aggregate its supply base and simplify the supply chain. Our strategic partners must be in tune with industry trends and be willing to invest in technology which brings innovative solutions to Parker. A scorecard will be used to evaluate our supply base against the objective criteria. These scores will determine who remains a partner in our long-term strategy. The scorecard for FY17 categorized metrics against 4 levels of performance: Exit/Develop, Meets, Exceeds and Premier. Metrics include Quality, Delivery, Continuous Improvement, Payment Terms, Trade Compliance, and PHConnect Usage. We expect all our partner suppliers to be fully engaged and have a signed NPA in place by the end of FY18.

3 Strategies to Purchase Custom Machined Castings at a Reasonable Price, with Great Quality, and get them Delivered On-timewithout Losing Your Mind!

By Michelle Reichlin and Dr Lisa Lang

 All else being equal, the lowest price gets the job because quality and reliability are a given, right?

If you’re purchasing “off the shelf” parts that are generally considered to be the same, you can be relatively safe choosing a supplier based on price. If multiple customers are buying the same “off the shelf” parts, then mostly likely multiple suppliers have these parts on the shelf. When this is the case, the risk of purchasing the lowest price part is minimized. If you do run into a quality issue 1) the part is in stock, so your current supplier can quickly replace it with another part, or if it’s a supplier issue you can purchase from an alternative supplier; and 2) since the part is in stock, the lead-time is small (shipping time) reducing the likelihood of missing your due dates and jeopardizing your customers.

The challenge, of course, is how to choose a supplier when the job is — custom, hard to hold, precision machined castings — and most likely, not everything else is equal.

When you’re purchasing a highly custom part that is unique to you and falls into the category of a precision machined casting, AND it’s difficult to hold for the machining process – then – it’s not just about price.

If the supplier of this highly custom part falls short on quality …

  • there are no parts on the shelf at your current supplier or with any alternative suppliers to allow quick replacement.
  • replenishment time is long. Replenishment time includes raw material lead-time (castings can take weeks or even months), manufacturing lead-time, and shipping lead-time.
  • hard to hold castings typically require custom fixtures to allow the unique shape to be machined. This means that the custom fixture also needs to be engineered and manufactured.
  • Then, you are very likely to miss due dates, increase your time to market, reduce cash flow and endanger your customers. You have to consider the cost of not having the part when you need it.

So, the risk of bad quality in the case of highly custom parts is much greater for you and your customers. But, how do you ensure you’re choosing the supplier with the quality you MUST have but at a competitive price?

You typically don’t know the quality is bad until it’s too late. And EVERY supplier says that they can do the work and that they have great quality. But, how can you be sure?

You can’t, but here’s what you can do to minimize risk:

Choose a supplier that specializes in the area of your unique demands.

How does this help?

price-vs-quality-precision-machined-castingsIf you needed a tumor removed from your brain, you wouldn’t go to the lowest cost provider or to a general practitioner. You would look for the best brain surgeon in your area and if it were a really delicate situation you might look for the best in the country or world. Then amongst the best, you might consider price and lead-time, depending on how dire the situation. Lead-time, in many cases is no less important than quality or price.

In the case of hard to hold precision machined castings, here are 3 strategies to consider when looking for a supplier.

  1. Look for a supplier who is communicating across all their collateral that what you need (precision machining of hard to hold castings) IS there area of ANNOUNCING-speciality-hard-to-hold-precision-machined-castingsspecialty. If they are just claiming to be a precision machine shop with tight tolerances, they may not have enough experience with hard to hold castings that will reduce your risk. If they’re not proudly announcing it, maybe they CAN do it, but you don’t want to be their practice.
  2. Look for a supplier that engineers and machines the custom fixtures needed to hold the unique shape of your casting IN HOUSE. If they truly specialize in this, they’ll be doing this in house to 1) to control the quality of the fixture. Because a bad fixture will cause a lot of headaches and rework; and 2) reduce their lead-times for acquiring the fixture.
  3. And, look for a supplier that has due date performance over 95%. A great shop can provide a due date that they’ll hit 95% of the time and when they do miss, it’s by days, not weeks. Many suppliers of custom machined parts have very poor due date performance despite their promises. A good supplier may not always be able to give you the promise date you want, but they should be able to tell you what they can do and then do it 95% or more of the time.

A good potential partner for your custom parts will have likely come to the rescue more than once. Ask questions to find out.

Case in point: Contour Precision Milling had a prospect (let’s call them ACME to protect the guilty) for whom they quoted several parts several times, but never got the business because their price was a little higher than another supplier’s. A few years later ACME ran into a problem with one of their suppliers. The supplier was faltering on quality and ACME was in a bind despite pleas to the supplier.

Contour’s engineers met with the design engineer at ACME to learn what was important and where the problem areas were. Together the GD&T was revised to insure that the parts were both functional and “manufacturable”.

To get ACME out of the bind, Contour reworked the parts from the previous supplier back to specification. To do this Contour engineered and manufactured the right custom fixtures in house, allowing ACME to ship the parts in record time and resume generating cash flow.

Contour’s engineering ability and willingness to rework another supplier’s part saved a lot of time and money. In addition, because Contour could engineer and build the custom fixture in house, this shortened the lead-time even further. Without that, ACME would have had to order (2 months lead-time) and pay for new castings and then wait and pay for another manufacturing cycle.

Many precision machine shops have stories of gallantly coming to the rescue of a customer. But make sure you check out, as Paul Harvey used to say “the rest of the story”.

Do they continue to be on-time at least 95% of the time on first date given? When they do miss, are they missing by days or weeks or worse? Are they delivering in competitive lead-times?

And most importantly – do they specialize in YOUR needs or are you practice?

Today, Contour makes all of ACME’s parts when and as promised. This dependability allows ACME to focus on other things. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

Precision-Machined-Castings2014 Copyright Michelle Reichlin and Dr Lisa Lang, all right reserved.

In Memoriam — Paul L. Reichlin July 13, 1946 – March 22, 2014

The world of rescue lost a great friend when Paul (aka Gomer) Reichlin died unexpectedly on March 22 at the age of 67. He was the founder of Contour Tool.  He retired in 2009 when his daughter Michelle took
over as the acting CEO. Michelle Reichlin of Avon, OH is an ESRA member/adopter/volunteer , who also demonstrates her devotion to the mission of rescuing dogs through her own all-breed rescue, FIDO’s Companion Rescue, Inc., founded in 2003. Her dad, Paul, was always willing to lend a hand. He pulled dogs weekly for Michelle’s rescue organization from the Lorain County Dog Kennel and took them to West Park Animal Hospital so they could get all their needed vet care.When Michelle adopted her first ESRA Springer from Judy Manley in 2003, her dad soon became an active member of ESRA’s volunteer force. Over the years, he traveled hundreds of miles evaluating Springers and transporting them from shelters and delivering them to foster homes. He fostered many himself, adopting several of them. His last rescue for ESRA was an eight-year-old Springer named Flicker who had lived outdoors all his life and was heartworm positive. He went on a trip to get Flicker and decided to pay for all his care through FIDO because, as Michelle puts it, “my dad adored him.”

An avid outdoorsman, Paul enjoyed hunting, fishing, golfing, shooting, and his dogs. He is pictured here with the last Springer in a long line of Springers that the family owned since Michelle was a baby. He was known at his hunt club as the “Dog Whisperer” and would run a half dozen dogs at a time in the field then take them to swim.

In memory of Paul’s passion for helping to rescue dogs of all breeds, many who knew of his dedication donated funds to Michelle’s rescue organization FIDO. In honor of her dad’s unwavering devotion to Springers, Michelle is sharing a portion of those donations with ESRA. We will be proud to continue our work in her father’s honor.

Precision CNC Milling of Hard-to-Hold Castings Expertise Cleveland OH

Contour Tools Inc. Now Doing Business As Contour Precision Milling in Cleveland OH

For Immediate Release February 17 2014:  We are pleased to announce that Contour Tools Inc. is now doing business as Contour Precision Milling, offering the same high quality customer service and products for customers new and old.

Contour Tool Inc. was founded in 1986 by Paul and Donna Reichlin and was established as a cutting tool manufacturer with the primary focus of rapidly servicing the screw machine industry. Today Contour Precision Milling of Cleveland OH is being run by daughter Michelle Reichlin.  Contour remains a family business and aims to be a world-class supplier of short-medium run production machining services and assemblies.

Precision CNC milling and precision CNC turning of parts and hard-to-hold castings and forgings is their area of expertise. Their team has combined decades of experience in tool making, jig and fixture design and building, and CNC programming and operation into a group that can handle your toughest machining needs. They do all the engineering and fixture manufacturing in-house allowing for faster turn around.

They utilize in-house CNC horizontal, vertical, and mill/turn machining centers, wire EDM machines, grinding, and assembly services with an array of high-quality outside suppliers to manufacture parts on-time, to spec, and at a competitive price.

Check out their new web site at to take a look at some of the parts they have machined recently. There’s also a link available to request a quick quote. They respond to all quote requests within 24 hours.

Media Contact:

Contour Precision Milling

Michelle Reichlin

Contour Tool Inc. 38830 Taylor Parkway, North Ridgeville, Ohio 44039, Phone: (440) 365-7333, Fax: (440) 365-7335

CNC Production

Visit Contour Tool at the Design 2 Part Show

Posted: 09/14/2010

Come see Contour Tool (booth 522) and learn about our capabilities at the Design 2 Part show in Akron, Ohio on 10/6 & 10/7/2010.

CNC Machining

Getting On Time Delivery out of OUR Job Shop

Posted: 09/14/2010

Contour Tool embarked on a 4 month program to improve our On-Time Delivery in not only our Tooling Dept, but with our short-run CNC production.  We instituted a plan shop wide with the help of Dr. Lisa Lang via her program, Velocity Scheduling ( that has its roots in the theory of constraints (

Since implementing the full scale program in March of 2010, Contour has been 96% on time from 75% on time.  We use the Velocity progam not only to manage our production but to manage our engineering services as well.

Read the full story here:

May you live in Interesting Times

Posted: 08/23/2009

We have a vision of Ms Korth and the folks at IRN trying to prepare this quarterly update summary and forecast for the North American Automotive Industry. That vision involves finding out a fact. Confirming it. Evaluating it. Typing it. Hitting the return key, and then hearing a new development which requires rewriting what was just written…

At least, there is no shortage of material!

This report from IRN confirms that the rate of change in several of the important economic factors needed for the precision machining business to recover is slowly coming around. Consumer confidence, a turnaround in single family home supply, pent up demand for new autos, possible cash for clunkers legislation, and the fact that we are getting closer to knowing the ultimate fate of GM and Chrysler are all potential bellwethers of an upturn in automotive sales.

There are plenty of facts and data in this report to help you with your strategic “Sensemaking,” as we navigate this VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) economic environment.

This Quarterly Update and Summary produced by IRN is a Business Intelligence Service provided for the use of members of PMPA – See link to report below.


Contact Name: Miles K. Free
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: (440)526-0300

Related Files:
PMPA Auto Update – April 2009

Contour Tool…Changing with the Times

Contour Tool….From Cutting Tool Manufacturer to Precision Job Shop

Posted: 07/27/2011

Stress Reduction at Local Job Shop

Northern Ohio Manufacturing Company Goes to the Dogs!

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