Outsourcing some aspects of your manufacturing can help you meet demand, speed up your process, simplify designs and much more. There are a number of benefits of subcontracting manufacturing, but realizing these benefits means finding the best contract manufacturing partner available. This contractor must be able to work with your team and produce high-quality work that meets your specifications. Here’s what to look for and what you’ll need to find the best contract manufacturing partner.
How to Find the Best Contract Manufacturing Partner
To find the best contract manufacturing partner, it’s important to know about the manufacturer’s capabilities and facilities, their process, and it’s also helpful to have as much information as possible on the project that you want completed. When you know what you’ll need to complete your process, you’ll be in a better position to assess whether or not a contract manufacturer will work well with you.
The Manufacturer’s Facility
One of the most important aspects of finding the best contract manufacturing partner is assessing the manufacturer’s facility and equipment. A manufacturer with a wide range of welding, cutting, forming, machining and other fabrication equipment will give you the most flexibility.
When your manufacturing subcontractor can perform many different tasks, you can rely on one business instead of looking for different subcontractors every time your needs or projects change. Also, a manufacturer with an array of technology may be able to help you lower production costs or utilize a more effective process. For example, laser cutting may be faster, but it adds heat to the process, which can be a concern for some materials. A water jet is slower, it may be a better option in some situations.
Drawings and Design
The drawings and designs behind your project are the foundation for all future work. It’s helpful for these drawings and designs to be as detailed as possible. This will help to reduce errors as your subcontractor turns your design into a repeatable manufacturing process, and finally into a finished product.
Ask about the subcontractor’s CAD files and their engineers’ experience with different types of files. Will the engineers be able to confidently work with your drawings? If your engineers’ file types, programs, or experience are different than your subcontractors’, it can create problems. Understanding the design and engineer process, or taking a look at example CAD files from a project similar to yours can help you find the best contract manufacturing partner at the start of the project.
Skills and Knowledge
Working with an experienced contract manufacturing partner increases the chances of receiving high-quality products in a timely manner. This includes the company’s engineer staff and salespeople, as well as welders, machinists and fabricators. Ask about the subcontractors’ experience, and that of their staff.
In addition, it’s helpful to know the variety of skills that the subcontractor can offer you. Do they specialize in mechanical fabrication only, or can they also offer electrical engineering? Can your products also be painted and finished at the location? In addition to a variety of skills, it’s also important for your subcontractor to be aware of applicable codes and regulations, especially for electrical engineering.
Ability to Make Changes
Computer aided manufacturing (CAM) allows manufacturers to create highly repeatable parts at a high volume. Combining CAD files with CAM can make the manufacturing process easier, more consistent and more efficient. When using CAM, in many cases, the parts are tied directly to the drawing files. This means that the parts are generally more consistent, but it also means that it’s easier to make changes down the road. Asking about the manufacturing process as well as the design process, and how they are connected, can help to improve consistency and prevent costly changes later on.
As previously mentioned, clear directions and detailed drawings are some of your best tools in finding the best manufacturing partner. When you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to easily see which subcontractor is right for the job.
Here are a few of the things that you should know before you speak with a subcontractor. If your project is relatively simple in scope and design, you may not need all of this information. However, if your project is complex, it’s best not to leave important elements to chance.
- Up-to-date and detailed drawings
- Accurate bill of materials
- Weld specifications
- Manufacturing practices
If you don’t have this information, your subcontractor may be able to help fill in the gaps. Ask about the fabrication process beforehand, so there aren’t any surprises when you receive your products.
Choosing the best contract manufacturing partner can help to ensure that your project goes smoothly. Consider these aspects, as well as your own design and documents, and you’ll be in the best position to find a reliable manufacturing partner.