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Numbers Don’t Tell The Whole Story

Thankfully, many of YOU took time to give us an inside look at your businesses.

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We ask a lot of questions. Yes, I can admit it – we’re a nosy bunch here at Engine Builder. Sometimes, our requests may come across as discourteous, intrusive or even downright rude.

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Because sometimes we ask hard questions, things that even I would probably hesitate to answer.

Let me first say this: I apologize if we ever clog your mailbox, inbox or fax machine with requests to tell us how business is going (yes, we do occasionally still send out fax surveys!). Our latest survey asked nearly 75 questions! Who has time to answer something like that!?

Thankfully, many of YOU took time to give us an inside look at your businesses. From that effort we are able to present our annual Machine Shop Market Profile, which probably could be retitled “The Engine Building Industry May Be the Best Kept Secret In This Country and Congratulations On Being Part of a Great Industry” – except that clumsy headline really wouldn’t fit on the opening page.

Beginning on page 30, you’ll find many pages of information that DID fit – and in my humble opinion, it’s pretty good stuff. For the past several decades we’ve surveyed our readership to determine the typical shop, the typical shop owner and the typical engine building operation. Each year, when analyzing the results, I realize how difficult it is to define “typical.”

As you’ll see in this year’s report, our survey respondents say that business is still pretty good. In addition to the specifics about how many of each type of engine, cylinder head and crankshaft you’re rebuilding, we asked a few more introspective questions such as, what factors are important when you are marketing your engines and work? In this world of low prices and “cover your assets,” you told us that the LEAST important things to you and your customers are warranty and price – the most important? Your reputation.

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There’s nothing sudden about creating a reputation for building great engines – it takes time and dedication. The average tenure of your machine shop employees is 17 years, the longest we’ve seen in a while. Of course, we know that many of you have been in business with the same employees for even longer, decades maybe, and we salute your tenacity.

Finding employees seems to be a neverending battle, but keeping them can seem just as challening. Paying well and offering tangible benefits seem to be par for the course.

The national average hourly wage for an experienced machine operator is $31.10 per hour, up from $24.50 last year and $18.95 two years ago. Newly hired machine operators are paid, on average $12.70 per hour; counterman/sales personnel make $15.00 an hour and core disassembly people average $14.87 per hour.

Nearly three-quarters of you offer paid vacation; two-thirds offer work clothes; more than half provide hand tools and major medical. Other benefits offered include end of year bonus (43%), disability insurance (37%), training/education (30%), hospitalization (30%), pension plan (26%) and various other perks.

The real reason we ask all of these questions? So that we can do a better job meeting your needs regarding technical, marketing and business information.

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The road to success may not always seem smooth in your particular case – after all, unique businesses have unique challenges – but overall, people keep breaking, building and buying engines on a daily basis, and you’re keeping track of the parts, procedures and personnel needed to keep the process moving along. We’re pleased to be here to help.

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