When you have designed a bespoke component or assembly there are countless suppliers who could potentially produce it for you. Try typing “plastic injection moulders” or “precision machinists” in your browser search tool and see how many hits you get: literally millions!
So, on what grounds do you make your selection? I’d suggest that the answer is definitely not to send an RFQ to the first three hits and then select the cheapest.
First and foremost, you want your enquiry to hit your supplier’s sweet spot. That is, you want them to routinely do the service that you are trying to source. If it is routine for them, it follows that they will be good at it and so produce good results, be efficient when going about it and so will naturally charge a price that’s competitive within their market.
If, however, you are asking for something that they are willing to try but is somewhat out of their norm, then it is likely to take them extra effort and/or perhaps come with some additional commercial or technical risk on their part. Beware of suppliers who quote low – they either don’t understand what’s involved or are pricing low to win your business. Low pricing is not sustainable and so can only lead to price hikes later.
So how do you determine what is your supplier’s sweet spot? The most reliable way is to visit and to see for yourself what type of work is in progress. If you know your way around a workshop you quickly get a feel for what kind of company they are. However, hitting the sweet spot has more dimensions than just looking at the type of work – it’s also a function of how they go about it.
An example: We frequently work with a particular metal fabricator based in Scotland. I have visited several times and over the years have come to know the individuals in their engineering and quotes teams quite well. We have a good understanding of their plant, their process capabilities and library of punch tooling. Their quote process is both robust and reliable, and their quotes prove to be consistently competitive. Their Quality Control is good and they generally meet their quoted delivery dates. In short, they are a good, reliable supplier who consistently produce good quality goods on-time and at a competitive price. Are they the cheapest every time? No. Are they the quickest on delivery? No. They might well be the “go-to” people for decent batch volumes of “build-to-print” parts, but certainly not for every job.
Sometimes the delivery schedule is far more important than price. On other occasions it may be about quality accreditations (such as Aerospace or Fit For Nuclear) rather than schedule. Sometimes the task requires a supplier that can deviate from their process when necessary, make adaptations, modify-on-the-fly or perhaps bring some innovation. Such a company will have more flexibility and so may not be quite as constrained by process; indeed, they are unlikely to have as many quality accreditations. The service they provide may require more interaction, so more face-to-face visits would be beneficial. It would be better, then, if this company were local and in easy reach if a quick visit is warranted. Of course, “time is money” so the bespoke nature of these services comes at a price that needs to be paid if the relationship is to continue.
The message here is that it is “horses for courses” and the trick is to know just where to go to best satisfy the needs of the project in hand.
At Warley Design we have been working with precision machinists, fabricators, moulders, casting foundries, rapid prototypers and providers of AM (Additive Manufacturing) services for decades. Many have come and gone but we recognize the necessity to have a selection of companies with skills and capabilities across the full spectrum so that we are able to tackle whatever requirements come our way. We have some that are off-shore, some at the extremities of the UK and others are within an hour’s drive. All those on our books deserve their place as they can be beneficial to our business under certain circumstances.
When a client engages Warley Design they benefit from having access to a supply chain that has been many years in the making. Through our knowledge of workshop practice we are able to better understand each supplier’s process capabilities and select the supplier that is best placed to deliver just what’s required for each occasion.