Choosing the right metal manufacturer is more difficult than it seems. Every supplier is unique, has a different supply chain, different values, and different specialties. Some will be great for your product and supply chain. Others won't get along with you so well.
You want a metal forming company that will produce your product correctly, do it quickly, and work well with your company. Here are some simple questions to ask yourself to find that perfect manufacturer.
7 Questions to Ask Yourself About a Metal Manufacturer
Use this seven-step checklist to finding a metal forming company that works for you:
- "How well does their supply chain support my business model?"
- What is the material/form of my product?"
- "Who is my target market?"
- "Are my buyers interested in how a product is built/engineered?"
- "What do my buyers value?"
- "Do I need flexible manufacturing/JIT practices?"
- "Is the manufacturer experienced in my industry?"
1. 'How well does their supply chain support My business model?'
Choosing a metal manufacturer is like choosing a life partner. Your values should mesh. They should be invested in your success and growth, not just in what you can give them. You don't have to settle for a bad manufacturer!
If you want to keep your company green, find a manufacturer who cares about minimizing their environmental impact. If you want to shorten your supply chain, you should look into all-in-one vendors.
2. 'What is the material/form of my product?'
Certain manufacturers specialize in certain materials or product forms. They may get discounts on certain materials from their distributor, or have more lines dedicated to making a specific shape of product.
Some manufacturers focus on structural and functional metals (steel, aluminum, etc.) while others also offer decorative metals (copper, bronze, brass).
Some focus on wire metals, others on tubing, sheet metal, or fabrication. You may need multiple services at once.
3. 'Who is My target market?'
Different demographics appreciate different things.
- Environmental impact
Different metal manufacturers place different values on these things as well. Even if you're trying to be environmentally conscious, some manufacturers simply won't share that concern.
4. 'Are My buyers interested in how a product is built/engineered?'
They'll notice flaws or defects quickly. Your metal manufacturer should be similarly experienced with engineering to prevent those issues (even more than usual!).
5. 'What do My buyers value?'
Is cost the only factor in a purchase? When your target market makes a purchase, are they going to pick the cheapest option? Or, do they also consider quality and source location?
Buyers are more and more supportive of products made in the USA. American manufacturing provides a multitude of benefits for consumers and companies:
- Higher quality products
- Quicker response to demand
- American pride
- Building local economies
- Creating more local jobs
However, if your customers only want the cheapest possible product, they'll be willing to trade quality for cost.
6. 'Do I need flexible manufacturing/JIT practices?'
In this case, it's best to pick a metal manufacturer close to your location. If you're on the West Coast of the U.S., you'll want someone on your half of the country. Shipping times have a major impact on leads times and flexibility.
7. 'Is the manufacturer experienced in My industry?'
Ask them if they've done similar projects before, or if they can point you to a satisfied customer's testimonial.
Have More Questions?
Questions are good. Questions mean you're thinking. If you have any more questions (and you should!) about choosing a metal forming company, here are some more related articles:
You can also chat with us directly, if you'd prefer.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published in January 2017 and was recently updated.)