A contract manufacturing partner allows companies to outsource manufacturing operations by leveraging their expertise and resources. The right partner can simplify logistics and help a company grow, but an uninformed choice can offset the advantages they were pursuing in the first place.
Choosing the right contract manufacturing partner can mean the difference between a project’s success or failure, so it’s important to consider all aspects of the relationship—not just price. This guide will outline the right questions to help companies find the best contract manufacturing partner.
A contract manufacturing partner can reduce your costs, increase capacity, improve quality control, and more. These partnerships offer more than just a vendor—they optimize designs for manufacturing, minimizing production cost and lead time.
Choosing a compatible contract manufacturing partner involves weighing several factors. When evaluating partners, start by looking at quality, total cost, and what kind of relationship to expect from them.
The first thing companies should identify when looking for the best contract manufacturer is quality certifications. Virtually all modern manufacturers should, at a minimum, offer ISO 9001 certification. Specific industries may require other quality certifications, like AS9100 for aerospace.
After ensuring a manufacturer has the necessary certifications, look at their capabilities. Do parts have very tight tolerances? Then select a contract manufacturing partner who can consistently hit those tolerances. Very large or small parts may lie outside the capabilities of manufacturers without the right equipment. Unusual materials may also restrict your options to shops with the ability to work those materials. Have a detailed discussion with potential partners about requirements and capabilities to ensure they offer what you need.
Manufacturers usually list their quality certifications and capabilities on their websites, but it’s essential to gauge their reputation before going into business together. How many years of experience do they have in a given industry? Who are their customers? Have they worked with similar customers? Do they retain long-term customers? A contract manufacturing partner with a proven record of quality and satisfied customers comes with much less uncertainty than one with little verifiable experience.
What about offshoring? Offshore manufacturers sometimes offer low material and labor costs, but the disadvantages include risk to intellectual property, poor quality, compliance, and logistical disruption. A domestic contract manufacturing partner provides security of intellectual property, more efficient communication, and better compliance and regulation standards.
Quality ranks as a top priority for most manufacturers, but the cost is essential too. A contract manufacturing partner can affect your costs in many ways beyond the dollar value on the purchase order, so be sure to account for expenses like shipping, tariffs, contract fees, and packaging.
Cheaper is not always better—the tradeoff for lower cost is usually either lower quality, slower delivery, or added risk. What are their typical lead times, and how consistently do they meet them? Late deliveries can lead to unexpected costs.
Consider also the cost of quality. Unfortunately, companies often trade quality for perceived cost savings—even when the resulting quality issues ultimately raise costs. A good contract manufacturing partner can provide design for manufacturability (DFM) advice during product development, helping to minimize production costs and prevent quality issues.
Contract manufacturing isn’t just a transaction—it’s a partnership. Your contract manufacturing partner should understand this and work closely with you to build a mutually beneficial relationship. Again, reputation is key. A contract manufacturer who does good business will retain satisfied customers.
No relationship works without good communication. In contract manufacturing, this means clear planning, instructions, and documentation from contract review to delivery. Clear, written documentation is essential to ensure traceability. A good contract manufacturer will have well-defined processes, adhere to all requirements and specifications, and keep you updated through regular touchpoints. They should practice transparency and rapidly address any disruptions or changes that might occur.
Choosing the ideal contract manufacturing partner may seem like a difficult decision. Plethora strives to make that choice simple by practicing trustworthiness, transparency, and holding high standards. We specialize in producing high-quality parts on time and at competitive prices. We’ll work with you throughout the manufacturing process to ensure you get exactly what you need.
At Plethora, we proudly use the Manufacturing as a Service model of business. We feature the best machinists and engineers working on the best equipment in the industry. We hold ISO 9001 certification and constantly seek ways to refine and improve our processes and procedures, elevating our capabilities to the highest quality. We can begin working with you on your next project immediately using our online DFM and quoting system. To get started, upload your design files to Quote My Part or call us at 415-726-2256.
The Plethora Team
The Plethora team is your go-to CNC manufacturer for hardware done right the first time. We have the tools and experience needed to create high quality custom parts quickly and with precision, whether you need a prototype or production run.