3 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Fabrication Partner

student welding at a skills usa competitionEstablishing successful manufacturing partnerships can be challenging, especially when you’re looking for a metal fabrication partner. As Tom Bonine, president of the National Metal Fabricators Custom Metal Fabrication Services explains, “some prioritize bulk production runs at a lower cost, while others focus on smaller business with more options for customization. Some run the gamut in services, while other choose to specialize in only a few types of services.”

The fact of the matter is that it wastes the customer’s time and money if the partnership isn’t a good fit, or the fabricator can’t fulfill client needs.

So, how do you choose your partner? Is it purely based on price? For some customers, the question is: Who can give me the best value in the shortest and most efficient amount of time? However, price comparisons are really risky. Is a fabricator’s price lower because they’re using less precise cutting tools or low-quality metal? Are you paying more for a smaller shop with more customized services? In a perfect world, price and quality would always align, but not every client looks beyond the simple numbers game of pricing.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself and your fabricator when you’re trying to decide if an advanced manufacturer is a fit for your project. Of course, at Distefano, you can always request a quote and we’re happy to talk through both your project and the manufacturing process with you. However, no matter what type of fabrication partner you’re looking for, these are crucial criteria to establish before entering into a business relationship.

  1. Are their welders AWS certified? You can read more here about AWS certifications, but we at Distefano are careful to ensure that we always have numerous certified welders on staff. An AWS certified company gives customers the assurance of an above-average fabricator and that the company is committed to fabricating the weldments to required specifications, which results in fewer non-conformance issues for the customer. It also means that the manufacturer is willing to have someone else come in and look at what they are doing, so there’s more oversight. The American Welding Society monitors the certifications, so be sure to ask if your fabrication partner has made a commitment to employ welders with the certification.
  2. What experience does the company have? As Bonine reminds us, manufacturing is an industry where experience matters: “From the employees on the ground to the business itself, you must be assured that your metal fabrication company is sufficiently experienced to avoid costly mistakes.” There’s a reason we are so proud that we were founded in 1972, and that’s because manufacturing is an industry where operations are constantly being fine-tuned and companies learn from similar projects and experiences. No, this doesn’t mean that the company needs to have been founded in 1900 to trust them, but there’s no doubt that reliability and age are related to some degree.
  3. What does their facility look like? We understand that this isn’t always possible, but can you tour their facility before initiating the contract? If the manufacturer has good lean manufacturing systems in place, their factory floor will be clean and organized. Jason Greeson of Indianapolis fabrication company Fab2Order asks, “Are things in their place, or do you see a messy and unorganized work cell? Cleanliness and organization is a sign that the manufacturer values and is always working to improve its efficiency. If they can’t offer proof of these practices, how can they best serve your concerns and keep your production costs and lead times low?”

Most importantly, trust your instincts. If you see warning signs during initial conversations with the fabricator, trust those! Your gut knows where it’s going.

Questions? Comments? Want to learn more about a partnership with Distefano Technology & Manufacturing? Leave a comment in the section below!

photo credit: WSC2015_Skill10_AM_5180 via photopin (license)

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