What to Consider When Selecting a Contract Manufacturing Partner

Posted on: November 24, 2021

Contract manufacturing can be a valuable solution in delivering your equipment to market. However, finding the right manufacturing partner in the food, pharmaceutical, and industrial markets is a bit more complex than simply identifying someone who can bend and weld steel. A strong manufacturing partner provides value through industry knowledge, manufacturing experience, delivery consistency, and professional support to help you grow your business. This article will review the benefits and challenges that you should consider as you search for, or reevaluate, your contract manufacturing partners.

Price Should Not Be The Only Factor

Many fabricators today compete solely on price. Finding a cost-effective solution is not necessarily bad, but it is worth noting that the advantages of a strong partnership are not only seen with the quote. Sometimes customers are so focused on ‘who’s the cheapest’ that they miss what may provide the best overall value to their product – the same product that bears their name. The last thing any business wants is to learn that not only did their manufacturer cut corners to reach the price points, but they also cut corners on quality, resulting in rework, delays, added expense, and brand depreciation. Your product is much more than a sum of its fabricated materials.

How Value Enhances Your Product

In your vetting process, you need to balance price with value. The value should touch your project through every step of the manufacturing process, not just the deal to sign the contract. The value will enhance your product’s performance, the quality of its finish, how close to on time the delivery is, and how your customers perceive the equipment they purchased and you as their partner. The following highlights are specific areas you should be focusing on the value you are receiving as you select your partner.

Engineering Support

Would your design benefit from engineering reviews? Do you have complexities that make fabrication or sourcing of parts challenging? Would Computer-Aided Design (CAD) modeling help identify areas for improvement? A strong contract manufacturing partner can help reduce costs through design improvements, streamlining processes, and strategically sourcing components to accelerate delivery to clients.

Fabrication

Parts that need to be welded, then machined, then welded again consume time and resources, especially when machining is outsourced. A strong manufacturing partner with complete in-house capabilities reduces waste to keep projects on schedule. Comprehensive in-house capabilities should include:

  • Cutting and forming equipment: Computer Numerical Control (CNC) laser tables, CNC saws, CNC water jets, press breaks, shearing, punching, and rolling.
  • Machining equipment: CNC vertical mills, CNC horizontal boring mills, CNC horizontal turning, and CNC vertical turning lathes.

Keeping projects in-house reduces wasting valuable time, maintains tighter schedules, and reduces the risk of lost or damaged parts in transit.

Weld, Finish, and Inspection

Price instead of value is most apparent with the quality of the finished product. Often complex designs require American Welding Society (AWS) or American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)  weld procedures to guarantee durability. Likewise, stainless equipment requires sanitary finishing that meets United States Department of Agriculture  and Bioprocessing Equipment (BPE) standards. If you have chosen a partner who focuses on low prices, you can be almost certain that this will result in poor quality at delivery. A strong partner employs experienced certified welders, certified weld inspectors, and professional finishers to meet or exceed the strictest requirements. Having experienced professionals reduces rework and provides you with equipment that you can be proud to place on your name and reputation.

Project Management

If you are currently with a fabricator, do you have a dedicated PM or team to help see your project to completion? With many fabricators, one of the team members does double-duty in the shop, leaving communication with you lacking or incomplete. Strong manufacturing partners will have a dedicated project manager whose primary job is to liaison between your team and their own, organizing, tracking, reporting, and adjusting as necessary. In addition, good project management is in constant contact with their customer.

Assembly and Factory Acceptance Test (FAT)

If your equipment requires stringent testing before shipping or is part of a system that needs assembling, you should look for a manufacturing partner with dedicated assembly and testing floorspace, the correct lifting capabilities, and expert support in assembling and configuring the final product. With fabricators, assembly takes place in the same spot where it was fabricated or is pushed to any open space available. Likewise, the fabricators (machinists, welders, finishers, etc.) who built the equipment now double as your assembly team, leaving gaps in thoroughness, testing, breaking down, and crating since they are often pulled away as other projects progress.

A strong partner commits space well removed from production, where dedicated assemblers can work without obstruction or interruption. Strong partners use the right material handling equipment (overhead bridge cranes, not forklifts) to manage and move your equipment. Additionally, the team is hired to work on your product alone so that your assembly schedule is not dependent on who’s available that day.

Along with solid assembly comes acceptance testing to meet your specifications. These can be run virtually (using your partner’s dedicated quality employees), can be hosted for your testing personnel, or a combination of both—whatever meets your needs. If you do not see clear value with your current fabricator, it may be time to reevaluate how you bring your equipment to market.

At Anderson Dahlen, we are always bringing on new skilled professionals ready to take on any challenge. To learn more about how we can help your company, please contact us today.