6 Traits That Separate Metal Fabrication Companies from Job Shops

When your final product involves manipulating metal, choosing the wrong company to make it happen can be costly.


You put a lot of time, effort, and thought into your product. It needs to be built correctly, on time, and within your budget. Otherwise, your customers will jump ship and head to the next person that sells a similar item cheaper and faster.

Finding the right fabricator to bring your metal to life can be daunting. You’ve probably already talked to a few different companies — and the numbers were all over the place.

  • Turnaround times are varying from weeks to months.
  • Material costs are what you expect, or greatly inflated because you’re buying the whole sheet when your project just needs a piece of it.
  • Overall costs are incomprehensibly variable.
  • Plus, some shops are making you jump a thousand hoops just to give you a “rough” estimate of what it’s going to take and won’t commit to anything.

How do you choose the right company when you can’t even figure out what “right” is?

I can’t tell you for sure which one is right for you, but I can at least help you narrow it down. Metal shops come in two main flavors — job shops and metal fabrication companies. Depending on your project, one is likely better for you than the other, so let’s look at what makes them different.

Job Shops vs. Metal Fabrication Companies

The key difference between a job shop and a fabricator is the capacity and type of projects each one is equipped to take. Let me show you what I mean.

Job Shops

As the name implies, job shops are best equipped to handle specific jobs. They tend to be smaller and follow one of two operational models.

  1. Highly Specialized
    These shops specialize in a specific type of job. Think about some of the shows that you see on TV. You have shops that specialize in creating replica or repair parts for old cars. Other shops that specialize in creating one-of-a-kind home design pieces like metal furniture.

  2. Handy-Man Shops
    Do-it-all, handy-man, shops are designed to tackle one-off projects. They do small projects like building a custom table frame or creating a chassis for a custom dirt-racer.

Both types of shops have some similar characteristics. Primarily, they tend to have limited resources and equipment.

They usually are forced to have to network with other shops in the area to have certain components of the job done. For example, they may only have a laser capable of cutting ¼” sheet metal, but if a project requires ½”, they’ll call another shop and have them cut the piece they need.

Sometimes these relationships are great. They’ve spent time working with them and have excellent communications.

However, needing to rely on other shops can cause delays in the project that your job shop can’t control. If the other company is backed up, out of stock, or has a machine go down, that can slow down your project.

Even if everything goes smoothly, it will still run slower. They have to spend time coordinating with the other shop and shipping materials and files back and forth.

When a Job Shop is a Good Fit

A job shop is a good fit for your project if it is relatively simple or is a one-off component. For example, if you want someone to build you some custom metal chairs or a table frame, but you aren’t planning to produce more of them, then a job shop would be a good fit.

These smaller projects typically don’t have as much riding on cost. They aren’t being mass-produced or sold in a competitive market, so overall cost per piece isn’t as large of a concern.

Accuracy can also be a factor. Because they don’t have access to as much technology, they might not be a good fit if your project requires a higher level of accuracy.

Metal Fabrication Company

Fabricators tend to be the opposite of job shops. They are usually more extensive facilities with more machines, more technology, and a larger staff with more training.

They have the capability internally to take most projects and complete them entirely in-house without needing to contract out parts of the job. This means they can complete jobs faster with fewer delays in transportation or communication.

They can take a project from drawing to finished and even ensure direct delivery to your facility or customer if you need it.

Reduce Costs

If your part has multiple processes, or if you plan to produce a large quantity, then it’s important for you to reduce your overall cost per part. Lower material and labor costs translate into a lower selling point and higher profit margin — which is essential to keeping your business thriving and competitive.

Fabricators work well with large, repetitive, jobs. They have the machines and the manpower to turn out volume work quickly and accurately.

However, the volume they work in has other perks beyond speed and quality.

They typically also have relationships with raw material providers that give them better buying power since they order in larger quantities. Plus, they can also nest multiple jobs together to reduce material waste.

Your fabricator may occasionally have to work with outside vendors for tasks such as powder-coating or painting, but this is another area where volume gives them an advantage. Their relationships with other vendors are strong so that they can exert more control over factors like cost and turnaround time.

When a Metal Fabricator is a Good Fit

If you want someone that will work with you to produce large runs of parts cost-effectively, at a high quality, and within a reasonable turnaround time, then a metal fabricator is probably a great fit.

They work with you as a partner instead of a provider — especially here at Engineered Mechanical Systems. We pair each client with a specialist inside our company that has experience and passion for the type of project that they will be working on together.

If it sounds like a fabricator is a right fit for your project, then let’s talk. Call 423-648-4367 and ask for me personally — Chris Smith.