Elk Grove, California

Founder Alvin Chandra’s machine shop is finding a niche in plastic parts.

Surprisingly, Chandra does not have a long history of machining in his background. He says, “I’ve actually only been in this industry for six years now. Two-and-a-half years after I touched my first CNC machine, I opened this business. I was very dedicated to what I was doing, so when I was running a CNC machine for my ex-employer, I would learn everything about the machine. That’s the approach I take to everything. I’m a quick learner, and I’ve taken that attitude and applied it to this industry.”

That focus on self-learning and self-reliance is what led Chandra to start Nominal Machining. “I prefer to do things my own way, and for the most part, I feel that I do it better than my competitors,” he says. “If I have that attitude, I have to go out and prove it. Everything we’ve done has been geared toward providing our customers with the best product at the best price. The only way we’re able to do that is if we have better processes. If we can make the parts more efficiently, then we can win the business. And if we can provide the quality, then we can sustain that relationship with the customer.”

The philosophy seems to be working well, as Chandra says, “I feel that we’ve stayed true to what I wanted to be. At this point, if I step back and look at it, I think we’re farther along than I expected.”

Nominal Machining mainly serves the semiconductor industry as subcontractors to primary suppliers, with the bulk of its work being shorter runs of parts with quick turnarounds. The company is also increasing its assembly work to provide more complete services to its customers.

Of late, with restrictions on dealing with China in the semiconductor industry, much of the work from the company’s main client has slowed substantially, and Nominal Machining is using an online marketplace to access new customers. Additionally, the company is ISO 9001 and AS 9100 compliant and working toward certification, which will allow it to further expand its base of potential customers.

Photos courtesy Nominal Machining

Chandra has trained many of the machinists employed at Nominal Machining personally. He says of his selection criteria, “I think the pool is pretty big, but the number that actually work out is very small. What I do is look for traits. I look for somebody who is detail oriented, somebody who is hard working, who is punctual. Those things are kind of hard to measure from a resume or an interview, so I tailor my questions in an interview to give me a glimpse of who that person is. I tell them ‘I’ll bring you in. I’ll give you an opportunity, but you’ve got to prove yourself every day, and if you don’t work out, I’m not going to be worried about letting you go.'”

The lion’s share of the shop’s work is in plastics, but Nominal Machining also works with stainless steel and other metals. The company’s capabilities normally allow for the completion of all the work on plastic parts in-house, but finishing work for metal products is outsourced. The availability of raw materials hasn’t created any serious issues, but the company has seen substantial price increases in metals and plastics over the last couple of years. Most recently, pricing has stabilized somewhat in both markets. The company uses multiple local suppliers in order to assure the most dependable and timely availability of materials.

Challenges: As the company broadens the range of processes it offers, Chandra says, “They’re not easy. It takes time to get good at all those processes, and that’s a challenge. The ultimate goal is to be a world-class manufacturer so that we can have any customer walk through our door and be able to make any parts that they need. We plan on being a one-stop shop for plastics, so we’re expanding into all the processes that would cover just about all plastic manufacturing. Maybe the only one we wouldn’t be able to do right away would be injection molding.”

Opportunities: “The semiconductor business is supposed to double in the next 10 years, so we feel like we’re well positioned with our customers, and we could easily triple or quadruple in size,” Chandra says. “That’s one side of how we plan on growing. The other side is branching out into aerospace, and that’s another industry that we see a huge growth potential in.” The current and future expansion of capabilities opens the door to more complete assembly work for the company, as well.

Needs: Continuing to purchase the newest and most efficient machines and equipment in order to meet the expansion and quality goals for the variety of current and future work Nominal Machining is pursuing.


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