The line between a quality product and a hunk of scrap
Five questions to ask before you commit to a metal fabrication partner
Have you suffered from the following when working with a third-party partner for custom fabrication and prototyping of precision metal products?
- Parts that don’t meet spec
- Sub-standard materials that fail
- Excessive shipping costs as units shuttle back and forth for different stages of production
These are just a few of the headaches that can dog a small- to mid-sized company trying to balance a deadline with a tight budget.
When looking for a fabrication partner, consider these questions from Dave Richard, General Manager of Promaxis Precision Metal:
1. How much will it cost?
Can that fabrication shop fit your budget? It’s a straightforward question, but you need a little more than an earnest, “Yes!” The real question is can it deliver what you need, to the standard of quality you require, by your deadline (which can depend on the complexity of your project), at a price you can afford.
In addition, how big is your project? Does it involve a production run? If it is a larger production run, will the shop be able to accommodate it? If you project is a small one, will it be too small to be of interest? The issue in the latter case is that the shop may still agree to a small project but overcharge because it imposes a minimum fee.
2. Who are some of your recent satisfied customers?
It’s no different in this situation than it is when soliciting any service – you want to see examples of recently completed projects. Who else has this shop worked with? What was the project? How did it compare to yours and how did it turn out?
3. Can I talk to them?
The only reasonable answer to this question is yes. If the shop is reluctant to connect you with a reference customer, head for the door. Sure, that customer may be busy and hard to reach, but the fabrication shop shouldn’t be hesitant to connect you with them.
4. Do you have the expertise to advise me on the manufacturability and feasibility of my project?
This really depends on a) the complexity of your requirement b) whether it is a one-off or a design that is headed for the production line – perhaps it’s a custom enclosure for some kind of electronics system.
A shop with a reasonable focus on customer service doesn’t hesitate to sit down and tell you what you need to hear, even if it isn’t necessarily what you want to hear. Maybe that design you have will be difficult and costly to manufacture, but with a few design tweaks, that can be addressed. Perhaps there are other issues that make your initial design less than ideal for its intended purpose.
These are issues that a good fabrication partner will take the time to identify, discuss and help you to address.
5. How savvy is your team, anyway?
Beyond the previous four questions that obviously all touch on the calibre of the shop’s team, there is one other consideration that really speaks to the level of expertise and service: Do you have to supply proper blueprints/engineering drawings, or can the shop’s fabricators work from a hand-drawn sketch?
Many shops will not work with anything other than blueprints or detailed engineering drawings. It’s not that they can’t, they just prefer not to, for their own convenience. But this of course puts the onus on your business, your team and your budget to have those drawings prepared by a qualified professional.
If you have already validated a fabrication shop as a good choice for your business with the first four questions, confirming that its team can also work from rough drawings is the icing on the cake. It can save you money and time and get your fabrication project off the ground faster, to meet your deadlines.
What we do
Promaxis’s Custom Metal Fabrication facility specializes in custom work for low, mid and high-volume production runs in the networking/communications, industrial, security, transportation, aerospace and defence industries. Promaxis also offers a Precision Metal product line of particular interest to the high-tech sector. Repeat customers include DND, Ross Video and Nokia.
“We combine old-school craftsmanship with the latest digital design tools and processes,” said Manager David Richard. “Customers see us as a trusted advisor to help them with supplier issues, quick prototyping and to scale up for mass production.”