When to plan for custom workholding

When do you think about custom workholding? If you’re like most manufacturers, it’s fairly late in your development process. In some cases, that’s a smart move. Other times, that decision can cost you significant time and budget. 

In the world of precision engineering and completely unique workholding solutions, there’s rarely one straightforward best practice. Over the years, however, we’ve observed what types of processes work efficiently and effectively, and we’re up front about the pros and cons associated with each approach.

Approach 1: Design custom workholding at prototype

It may sound unusual, but often the best time to begin developing custom workholding is during the product prototype phase. As you design and test your part, our engineers can help you spot potential issues and suggest creative ways to improve your process from the start.


  • Save significant time and materials over later retrofitting with early integration of features like air sensing  or radial orientation.
  • Make the entire process more efficient and your outputs more accurate from day one.


  • Although it delivers long-run value, early workholding design may be more expensive up-front than an off-the-shelf or multiple-iteration approach.
  • If you haven’t fully defined your product or outlined your requirements, you may not know at the beginning exactly what you need from custom workholding.
  • In some situations, if you have more leeway on tolerances and straightforward cuts, an off-the-shelf workholding solution may meet your needs.

Approach 2: Retro-engineer custom workholding later

You can also bring our team in to design custom workholding later in the process, even after you’ve already started production. This option is more of a retro-engineering approach, and it also has upsides and downsides.


  • Gain more clarity around your needs, making it easier to scope a solution.
  • Take advantage of Stace-Allen expertise to retro-engineer workholding solutions for any machine.
  • On existing production lines, retro-engineering a new custom workholding solution may allow you to maintain the rest of your process and reduce downtime.


  • If your part requires tight tolerances or an unusual level of precision, adding workholding late in the development process may require more iterations to achieve the accuracy you need.
  • Retro-engineering may cost more in the long-run.
  • A retro-engineered custom workholding solution may take more time to develop than one designed from the prototype phase.

Approach 3: Streamline your process in the way that works best

At Stace-Allen, we base our recommendations around your unique situation. The fact is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a custom workholding project, and our team has the capacity and expertise to step in at any point along the way. 

Our commitment to your success includes flexibility to do whatever works best for your business, your budget, and your timeframe. Whether that’s bringing us in at the earliest prototyping or calling us when your former workholding solution doesn’t deliver the accuracy you need, we’re always happy to help.