How to find the right contract manufacturer for your business
A contract manufacturer is a company that produces a certain number of products over a certain period for another company. By outsourcing work to an off-site factory, you can cut back on or eliminate the hassle of in-house manufacturing. You might contract a manufacturer to prototype new pieces, produce parts of a larger whole, or execute full-scale production runs of your parts.
Outsourcing manufacturing to a contract manufacturer offers plenty of benefits. However, you’ll need to do lots of research and vetting to determine whether pursuing a manufacturing partnership is the right choice for you and to find a partner that meets your needs. In this article, we’ll go over some key factors to consider.
When to use contract manufacturing services
Businesses outsource production to contract manufacturers for a variety of reasons. It makes sense to use a contract manufacturer if you:
- Want to reduce capital expenditures: When you work with a contract manufacturer, you don’t need to invest in machinery, facilities, training, or highly-skilled operators. They’ll already have the necessary infrastructure in place and the right technologies on hand, so you can save money — whether you’re launching a new product, producing ongoing parts for existing products, or making smaller batches of spare parts.
- Need to scale production: With specialized facilities, equipment, workers, and plenty of experience increasing batch sizes and cutting lead times while maintaining quality standards, contract manufacturers are pros at scaling production. This is a particularly valuable benefit if demand for your products fluctuates.
- Want to improve quality control: Contract manufacturers are the industry experts, and they have the skills necessary to optimize the production process. With a contract manufacturer’s help, you can efficiently make high-quality products for a fraction of the cost.
What to look for in a contract manufacturer
Once you’ve found a list of potential providers, you’ll need to narrow them down. Consider these factors:
1. Capabilities, equipment, technology, and capacity
Looking into a contract manufacturer’s capabilities, equipment, technology, and capacity will quickly eliminate companies that don’t match your needs and highlight those that might be a better fit. You can visit the manufacturers’ websites, send emails, make calls, or schedule an in-person visit and ask:
- What logistics and fulfillment capabilities do you offer?
- What assets and equipment do you currently have, and how often do you maintain and calibrate your equipment?
- Would you be able to quickly scale production volume or expedite delivery if consumer demand rises?
- Would you be willing to source additional equipment if necessary? Who would pay for it, and how long would installation and personnel training take?
- Do you have the physical space to assemble and store materials? If not, will we need to build, buy, or lease additional space?
2. Quality standards
Next, it’s time to see if your prospective contract manufacturer can meet your quality standards. You want to find contract manufacturers that can meet regulatory compliance requirements in the countries you sell to and consistently produce high-quality parts. Here are some questions you should ask:
- Do you have any industry-specific certifications and accreditations?
- Do you offer a defect-free guarantee?
- Can I see a sample of your work or talk to a current client?
Beyond seeing the machines and the products they produce in person, visiting a potential partner’s factory can give you invaluable insight into the company’s personnel. You’ll be able to meet the team, understand their working conditions, and gauge how familiar employees are with various technologies and manufacturing processes. You’ll want to get answers to the following questions:
- Will there be a dedicated point of contact for my project or an assigned project manager?
- How often can we assess your performance?
- Will we be able to change our budget, schedule, or direction?
- Have you ever had an IP problem? Would you be willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement?
4. Experience and compliance
If a contract manufacturer has built similar products in your industry, they will likely be familiar with compliance requirements and can speak to years of expertise, but it’s never a bad idea to double-check. To learn more about a contract manufacturer’s experience, ask:
- How many years of experience does your company have in my industry?
- What compliance processes do you have?
- Will you be able to meet international compliance requirements?
Make new things possible with Fast Radius
Contract manufacturing has plenty of benefits, but you need to research and vet potential partners to make sure you select the right contract manufacturer for your needs. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions to gain a better understanding of each company’s capabilities, equipment, and experience. The more legwork you do on the front end, the most productive your future partnership will be.
At Fast Radius, we’re committed to helping you bring your ideas to life. When you partner with us, you partner with a contract manufacturer that will see you through the entire production process — from design to fulfillment. Fast Radius’ team of world-class engineers and designers will optimize your part for manufacturing to ensure you receive a high-quality part in a fraction of the time and for the best possible price. Our factories in Chicago and Louisville are outfitted with the latest additive manufacturing and CNC machining technologies, and we have partnerships with high-quality manufacturers across the globe. Whether you need prototypes or end-use parts, local or international delivery, we’re your one-stop-shop. Contact us today to learn more or create an account to get a quote for your next project.
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