Critical Considerations for Selecting a Manufacturing Supplier
Many companies these days are focused on providing for and growing their businesses. Whatever product they sell, at times, can be secondary to their business at hand. For example, a medical device manufacturer may be in the business of providing medical solutions to their customers. The product represents the business while growing and maintaining the distribution network becomes managements main priority. It is important to do both. Companies need to both grow their distribution and sales channels while maintaining high levels of product quality and delivery. Without the goods, the customer base becomes worthless, and without the customer base and means of distribution, the product quickly becomes obsolete.
This is why many companies are shifting more resources toward growing their customer and distribution networks and letting others handle the product side of things.
In my estimation, what truly separates the "garage tinkerer" from a successful medical device company, is their client reach and information distribution channels. Marketing, name recognition, and reputation go a long way in providing the means by which a product or service is to be delivered. This is why, at times, it is in the best interest of the "garage tinkerer" to either sell his or her idea to a larger company, or partner with someone who has the resources to grow large networks. The task of building and maintaining an infrastructure capable of selling massive amounts of product can be more work and investment than the product development itself. This is why many companies are shifting more resources toward growing their customer and distribution networks and letting others handle the product side of things.
This is where supply chain managers and buyers come into the picture. They are tasked with the important job of establishing connections with wonderful companies that can handle the product manufacturing, while the company focuses on all of the other aspects of the business that can get their product into the customers' hands.
They are tasked with the important job of establishing connections with wonderful companies that can handle the product manufacturing, while the company focuses on all of the other aspects of the business...
Here are some things to consider when choosing the right contract manufacturer to represent your company through their expertise:
1. Have Different Capabilities
Some contract manufactures only specialize in one thing. That may be alright for certain applications, but in the case of the company that is focused on minimizing project management time, they are typically looking for that vendor who can do it all (or at least pretty darn close to all). Before setting up a meeting with a potential supplier, make sure to ask what they can and cannot do for you. Maybe they can manufacture, assemble,and package, but they do not design and prototype. Or maybe the opposite is true. Some companies only specialize in proof of concept and device prototyping and testing. It is difficult to find a great vendor who can do it all, but at least you have an idea of how to split up the management load between maybe 2 or 3 contractors, as opposed to 10 or 15.
2. Set Up to Maximize Efficiency
Bringing your device to fruition takes a team of talented people who can work efficiently to maximize the cost-effectiveness of production. For a plastic injection molding company, it is important that efficient processes are put forth in order to ensure this. As a buyer, it is imperative that you make sure your supplier has a set procedure for every job that they receive with contingencies in place for varying events. What happens if you start getting bad parts? How much production time will be lost before these bad parts are discovered? Is there a way to automate any of this production?
As a buyer, it is imperative that you make sure your supplier has a set procedure for every job that they receive with contingencies in place for varying events.
One thing to consider is the timeline for your project. Does your prospective supplier have a timeline of benchmarks that they adhere to and report from? This is an indication of organizational efficiency that can indicate a higher probability of your project being efficiently executed.
3. Penchant for Quality
Having a supplier with poor quality standards can be aggravating to say the least. You, being the buyer, are looking to select a supplier who has control over their own quality processes. The last thing that you want to be doing is running your own "hand holding" program to oversee that the product you are having manufactured is within your specifications. When visiting the facility, be sure to ask for their quality inspection procedures and how they ensure that the parts are falling in line with the standards set forth. When visiting their facility, you will be able to get an idea of how these quality standards are enforced by just noticing how they disseminate their plans to everyone from the operators to the management. You'll want to see if the operators are implementing the quality plan, and ask them how they know that what they are doing is correct.
4. Project Management Involved in the Entire Process
Most of us have been to a restaurant or retail store and had a bad experience with an employee. You might have then engaged with the manager of that particular employee, and to no surprise of your own, come to understand why that worker was the way they were. A company's involvement by the leadership in setting the standards for excellence makes a huge difference. On the counter to this, company culture and procedures can be done with excellence with the right leadership.
You will want to make sure that the management structure is set up in such a way that checks and balances are implemented on a regular basis.
You will want to make sure that the management structure is set up in such a way that checks and balances are implemented on a regular basis. Does the supplier have a project management system that ties all of the departments and work flow together. Be sure to ask about how they implement their work flow management and how often management is reviewing and signing off on the project every step along the way. A management staff that is engaged every step of the way shows that they actually care to get it right, and quality and efficiency are a priority to them.
5. Knowledgeable People
Having experts in their field of work are important for a successful business to run smoothly. Make sure to meet with the management person at each department. You'll want to ask them questions specific to their job to see how each of them respond. Do they respond directly, clearly, and with intent? Or do they dodge the question and maybe not know something that they should? If you are speaking with the production manager, be sure to ask them questions specific to their position. Maybe a good question would be pertaining to their procedure for when they first get the project. What information do they receive at the start? Is it enough to see them through completion? And from whom does that information come? Maybe a question for the quality manager relates to how they go about inspecting parts. What protocol do they follow for ensuring that the components they have are correct? Ask to take a look at some examples of inspection reports for existing projects that they are currently running. Remember, don't be timid in fully vetting your potential supplier. They might very well be your company's ticket to success or hardship.
The supplier that you choose should have strong capabilities as well as solid procedures that everyone in the company understands and follows. They need to have varying capabilities, and be quality and efficiency oriented. You need to also verify that the people running the show are qualified and involved in the project all the way through until the end. If your company wants to focus on bigger picture plans then it is of the utmost importance to choose a supplier that will set your mind at ease. There is no way to absolutely know for sure that the supplier you choose will do a great job, but at least you can say that you did your due diligence via a thorough vetting process.
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