Buyers in the manufacturing industry have the critical responsibility of finding excellent vendors who will fulfill their promises of delivering high-quality parts quickly and cost-effectively.
We know firsthand just how tough vendor selection can be for buyers. Some of Ketchie’s leadership team members, including President Courtney Silver, spent several years working as buyers before joining our custom precision machining shop.
Having been on both sides of the table, we’re happy to use our insider knowledge to make the arduous task of vendor selection a little easier. Today, we’ll review 6 factors for buyers to consider when evaluating precision machining vendors.
How to Evaluate Precision Machining Vendors
1. Financial health
A vendor that’s in good financial standing may have more flexibility to work with you to optimize pricing or develop stocking agreements that reduce the amount of inventory you need to hold onsite. But above all else, financial health is an indication that this shop will be around for years to come. If you want to establish a long-term partnership, you can feel confident with a shop that is financially sound.
To gain insight into a vendor’s financial health, review their Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings. If you see that a vendor hasn’t made a capital investment in a decade, they may be in poor financial health. On the other hand, if they’ve routinely invested in their capabilities, it’s likely a sign that they are both forward-thinking and financially secure.
2. Operational risk
A reliable precision machining vendor will have a team—not just one individual—to work on your parts and promptly rectify any issues that might arise.
When shops rely on one person to handle everything from quoting to machining to quality assurance, that’s a clear sign of operational risk. If something happens to that person, your job could become sidelined indefinitely.
Avoid this risk by checking that a vendor distributes activities across a range of personnel. We’ve had vendors ask to see our organizational chart, and we’re always happy to provide it.
3. Openness to new technologies
If your goal is to develop a long-term partnership, look for a vendor with more capabilities than what you need right now. Industry 4.0 initiatives are transforming the machining industry, and the right vendor will be willing and excited to adopt innovative technologies like robotics, automation, and machine monitoring.
Does your potential vendor have these technologies in place already? Will they in the future? Ask how they plan to invest in the shop over the next couple of years.
4. Shop culture
A positive shop culture is a good indicator of the shop’s overall effectiveness. When employees feel supported and empowered, they tend to do their best work.
Learn as much as you can about a shop’s culture before investing in their services. Here’s an insider tip: When you take a shop tour, ask to use the shop bathroom—not the office bathroom. It’s a little bold, but it can help reveal how the shop treats its people. (If you prefer to avoid the bathroom, checking out the break room also works!
5. Proactive feedback
Some precision machining vendors manufacture to print, no questions asked. Others will go beyond what the print conveys, identifying potential design optimizations, evaluating material selections, and inquiring about a part’s fit and function.
To determine the level of guidance a vendor offers, submit a drawing for a quote. Notice the questions the shop asks—and those they don’t. A proactive shop anticipates manufacturing issues and addresses them before machining begins.
The vendor you choose should be easily accessible. Evaluate potential vendors by paying close attention to their responsiveness in the early stages of your engagement.
When you call them, does a person pick up, or are you routinely sent to voicemail? Do you get a prompt return call or email response if you leave a message? A shop’s communication skills are an important part of a long-term vendor relationship.
If you’re a buyer searching for a reliable shop, look no further than Ketchie, where we invest in our people, capabilities, and processes to deliver an incredible customer experience. Request a quote today to work with a precision machining vendor you can count on.