No matter how awesome a metal fabricator may be, they're not a good fit if they can't meet your needs. Everything else is secondary, no matter how next-gen their machines may be.
When you're researching metal fabricators, keep the following in mind.
Wide Range of Materials
To be honest, they don't have to work with a wide range of materials. They just have to work with your required materials. (Or, they need to provide a very convincing explanation to switch materials.)
Most fabricators are experienced with steels and aluminums. Those are the most common (affordable and durable) metals for a wide range of applications. However, some fabricators frequently work with copper, brass, and bronze for aesthetic and architectural purposes.
Finding a fabricator who can work with your required materials is your first hurdle.
Your metal fabricator should be able to provide all the processes you need, from start to finish. Some projects only require one type of fabrication. In that case, find the best vendor for that process!
However, many projects require a series of fabrications to create the finished product or component. That may involve bending, cutting, welding, blasting, forming, or a combination of all.
Further, your project may require finishing before, during, or after fabrication. Many fabricators are able to powder coat, paint, galvanize, or otherwise finish your product. This removes a few potential problems:
- Vetting and hiring another vendor
- Transportation and shipping costs
- Quality control across multiple vendors
- Communication between vendors
Not only should your vendor provide all of your fabrication needs - they should be able to provide assistance before and after.
Some metal manufacturers provide design assistance through their own in-house engineers. Manufacturing processes are finicky, and many designs need tweaks before they can hit the floor. Your vendor's in-house engineer is familiar with all fabrication processes and their quirks.
Related: Design Tips for Tube Bending
As we mentioned above, your vendor should also provide finishing services if you need them.
After finishing, your manufacturer should provide affordable in-house assembly. Assembly can be one of the most time-consuming parts of the supply chain. Having a vendor provide this service for you can streamline the whole process.
Finally, many manufacturers provide packaging and shipping services if you need them. Ask your manufacturer if they can do this for you.
Even beyond fabrications and services, some metal fabricators offer exclusive value propositions. These can vary between manufacturers, but they should ultimately make your supply chain run more smoothly.
At McHone, our value propositions include inventory management, inventory consignment programs, and extended terms. Ask your manufacturer about their own value propositions. It can make your life a whole lot easier.
Last but not least, your fabricator's location should be balanced with their quality and quantity of offerings. When offered a choice between a great fabricator on the other side of the country, a bad fabricator nearby, and a decent fabricator at a middling distance, most will choose the latter.
The location of your fabricator should be close enough that shipping is affordable, while still meeting your project requirements.
The Best Metal Fabricator for You
Ultimately, the best vendor for you will meet your needs and produce a quality part. Requirements vary from project to project. However, it's possible to find a fabricator who meets ALL of your needs for a given project.
Want to know more about comprehensive fabrication services? Check out the download below on Benefits of a Full-Service Manufacturer.