While price is normally a primary driver when gauging suppliers quality, there is an inherent danger in making it the only driver. The right manufacturing supplier needs to be reputable, stable, reliable, and genuinely capable of supplying you with a quality product.
Even the most budget-friendly option isn’t going to be worth it if they let you down or cause you to let your customer down. Exactly how you evaluate a supplier’s quality will depend on your specific business model and your organization’s needs. However, there are some basics that come into play when looking at most levels of supplier sourcing.
To help connect you with the right supplier, we’ve pulled together our seven top tips on how to source quality suppliers for your manufacturing needs.
1. Check Certifications (ISO, AS, etc.)
Certification is a great way to assess the quality of a potential manufacturing supplier.
There is a huge range of standards bodies for most fields of manufacturing and their certifications have become both a common marketing tool for manufacturers and a common evaluation tool for B2B buyers.
When it comes to checking the certifications of a potential manufacturing supplier, you need to exercise your due diligence and not just accept the website badges as proof.
Any certified manufacturer will be happy to show you high-quality images of their certifications and most will have obvious and visible links to them on their website.
2. Finding Reputable Suppliers
Reading up on your potential suppliers is all well and good, but at some point during the supplier quality management process, you need to step past the marketing and connect with your potential supplier on a personal level.
If possible, having a staff member actually meet with the supplier and ask them pertinent questions in person is a great way to gauge their suitability.
If that’s not possible, then the next best thing is to connect with previous or current clients of your potential supplier and gauge their experiences.
3. Know Their Capabilities
Especially in light of the current supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, having a full understanding of your potential supplier’s selection of manufacturing capabilities could be critical to achieving your business aims.
When contracting with a new manufacturing supplier, checking to see what other services they offer, such as different materials, different processes, or types of finishing, that you might need in the future is always a good idea.
When you do need these types of services, knowing that a supplier you already have a working relationship with covers them cuts down on the length of the supplier sourcing process.
Two other key considerations are their scalability and lead-in times.
All companies are looking to grow, and when yours does, you’ll want to know if your potential supplier can scale up their production to match.
It’s also a good idea to have an understanding of your potential supplier’s lead-in times for services you’re currently interested in and those you might be interested in in the future.
Remember that lead times are subject to change, so you’ll ideally want your supplier to keep you up to date on anything potentially impacting their production timescale.
4. Gauge Financial Health
Around 98% of all manufacturing companies in the U.S. are still considered ‘small’, meaning fewer than 500 employees, and 75% have fewer than 20 employees.
Smaller businesses are more prone to financial instability because of their smaller reserves and tighter margins.
With that in mind, running a credit check on a potential supplier manufacturing supplier should be a core part of your due diligence during your supplier sourcing process.
The last thing you want is for your supplier to suddenly go out of business at a critical juncture.
5. Requesting a formal quote (RFQ)
Supplier sourcing is rarely a ‘one and done’ situation, You’ll want to assemble a group of prospective suppliers and then investigate which one works best for your specific needs.
While we did say that price should be your only determining factor, it is still important.
Requesting a formal quote for services allows you total visibility over all the potential manufacturing costs associated with your project and allows you to compare them to quotes from other suppliers to achieve the best possible cost to quality ratio.
When it comes to assessing a supplier’s quality, there is no better way than to actually order a test piece from them.
Asking your potential supplier to manufacture and send you a prototype part allows you critical insight into their manufacturing and supply chain efficiencies. It also allows you to hold the finished part in your hands and assess the quality of their end product.
7. Customer Service
Through the entire process of communicating with your potential new manufacturing supplier, you should be assessing the quality of their customer service.
Rapid responses and open communication are key to building an effective working relationship with a manufacturing supplier.
If you’re having to deal with spotty communications, long response times, and a general absence of good customer service, that lack of professionalism might extend to other parts of the business and you’re best off looking elsewhere.