Seven questions to consider when investigating a new vendor for your weld fixtures.
If you are a the Manufacturing Engineering Manager, a Project Manager or a small business owner, you may find yourself looking for someone to design and build a weld fixture for you. It is often cheaper than hiring and training someone to do the design internally.
Now with digital media, it is easier than ever to work with companies that are thousands of miles away from you. Through email, and Skype, and web conferencing it is easier than ever to keep tabs on a vendors progress and communicate concerns and requirements.
But, you probably aren’t going to ask your competitors who they use. How do you know who is good?
You can ask vendors and other networking contacts, you can search the net. But once you locate a company you need to investigate further.
What do you do?
1) What is their history? How long have they been designing weld fixtures? More importantly, do they have customers who keep coming back for more weld fixtures? How long have they been designing fixtures for that/those companies?
2) Who in their company will be working on your fixture? What is their experience in designing weld fixtures? The person over-seeing or checking the project should have a history of working on fixtures. Experience means they have learned over time what works and what doesn’t work.
3) Does the company you are about to hire ask lots of questions of you? They should be asking lots of questions that will help them do a better job for you, such as your standards and particular needs on this job. They shouldn’t be afraid to call you up with a list of questions once they have dug into a project.
4) What CAD system do they use and is that important to your needs? Do you want CAD files or just the finished fixture?
5) Do they produce good and complete drawings? If you want 3D CAD files of the fixture, ask to see a sample of their drawings to see how complete they are. If you wanted to make another of the same fixture but not use that vendor again, could you do it from drawings like that?
6) Can you communicate easily with them? Is there a language or other communication barrier? Some companies figure a long term relationship and lower prices will help them recover a language and culture barrier over time. Just know it takes time and money up front to develop good communication. And will the people you are teaching and working with still be with that company three years down the road?
7) Will they provide you updates as the design moves along? How often do you want to be updated? How often do you want digital images of their progress? Many of our customers like to get images of the rough concept, then when the design is complete except for holes, fasteners, and shims. In a large project they like to see when sections of the project are completed.
If you still feel nervous, meet with them in person, see their shop, touch the machines they have on the floor. Ask yourself if you would be comfortable working with these people. Does the project manager appear organized? Who else is working with them?
If this is your first project to outsource, you may be nervous all the way through because it is new territory for you. That’s often the case when you try something new. It’s like learning to drive a car. Once you do it a few times it becomes easier and very beneficial to you.
Once you have asked your questions and answered their questions and you get a good quote from them, remember that $5 dollars does not make a winner. If their quote is slightly higher or their delivery time is slightly longer than the next guy, call them up and let them know and see if they can meet the competition. More often than not, they will be willing to do what it takes to get your business. But, with that said, if it is a reputable company that has done work for other reputable companies, it probably is worth the extra $5 to get your project done right and on time.
‘Til next time,