7 questions (and answers) to guide your manufacturing decisions in 2023
by JC Kocjancic, on Jan 9, 2023 10:31:24 AM
There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. ---- Colin Powell
The following interview with The Cubbison Company’s CEO Tim Merrifield addresses what you should expect when selecting a manufacturing partner.
Q: What are some of the key factors we should look for in a manufacturing company?
Tim: Convenience is one factor. Manufacturers that are attentive to industry trends and client needs can become a one-stop-shop.
You should expect access to everything you need under one umbrella. I’m talking about metal products, printed electronics, design services, prototyping, engineering expertise, quality control experts—you name it. You shouldn’t have to jump from place to place to get it all done.
The continuity of working with one manufacturer improves communication, quality, and delivery times. It creates a more positive client experience.
I would say that exceptional quality is another differentiator.
Q: Quality is an easy word to throw into a conversation, but it’s not so easy to measure. Any suggestions on how we can verify a manufacturer’s claims about quality?
Tim: Good point. Of course, the continuity of service I spoke of contributes to quality, but I understand that clients want to hear something more concrete.
I’m going to suggest that companies look for manufacturers that comply with ISO9001:2015. This single certification requires uninterrupted compliance and an annual, full-week, on-site audit. These audits are much more extensive than many people know.
Every process undergoes scrutiny: material sourcing, ordering, quoting, engineering, and manufacturing processes. ISO auditors shadow equipment operators, and they talk to administrative staff and supply chain managers.
If a manufacturer is lacking in any area, they must show resolution before their certification is renewed. It’s an arduous process, but it is crucial for manufacturers that want to stand behind their claim to quality.
Q: Why should we bother looking for a company that invests in industry certifications if our company isn’t governed by those standards?
Tim: Let me give you an example to shed some light on this. The Cubbison Company maintains ISO13485 and AS9100, standards that govern manufacturing practices for the medical device and aerospace industries, respectively. You might not require compliance with the stringent guidelines that govern materials, design, and production processes for these industries, but you will be a beneficiary.
When exceptional quality is part of a manufacturer’s DNA, their commitment to quality applies to every product on behalf of every client. There is no differentiation.
Q: It seems natural that my company will have to pay more to offset the costs for manufacturers that invest in industry certifications.
Tim: This is an understandable concern, but it’s not an accurate assumption.
It might sound counterintuitive, but an investment in quality control helps keep costs down. For example, manufacturers that have strict quality standards go a long way toward reducing internal rejection rates, scrapped materials, and customer service issues. This rolls into cost savings for the manufacturer, which in turn trickles down to the client.
There is also the issue of efficiency. Manufacturers that prioritize continuous improvement continually find ways to streamline operations. Continuous improvement is built into the ISO9001 certification, so I would point companies back to that as a base for doing business with a manufacturer.
Q: If I know I can save money, does it make sense to ship my commodity product offshore?
Tim: We all want to save money, but we should do it without cutting corners.
Once the design specs leave your hands, you have little control over the technology and manufacturing processes that go into delivering your final product.
Check to see if the manufacturer has the expertise to pivot quickly if a production issue arises. Will they substitute cheaper components or shortcut processes?
There are times when it makes sense to shift to a commodity manufacturer, but it’s a decision that deserves a lot more consideration than most companies give.
Q: The global supply chain is a fiasco. Is there any differentiator I should look for when selecting a manufacturing partner?
Tim: You’re certainly right about the supply chain fiasco. And it’s true that every manufacturing company is dealing with the same labor and supply challenges.
One step you can take is to ensure that your manufacturer won’t substitute cheaper components to get the job done. This goes back to the whole quality DNA we have been discussing. If this isn’t a given with a manufacturer, take your business elsewhere.
Q: The Internet of Things continues to change product design and client expectations. How can I be sure that I select a manufacturer that can grow with me?
Tim: Look at the history of the company. Have they been evolving along with technology? Are they continually investing in new equipment and employee training? Are they knowledgeable about the direction of how IOT is shifting certain aspects of manufacturing?
I suggest that you discuss your concerns with your manufacturing partner. Be certain that you won’t outgrow their capabilities in the foreseeable future.
Tim Merrifield has more than five decades of experience in the manufacturing industry. Under his proactive leadership as CEO, The Cubbison Company has continually expanded its scope of offerings and acquired industry certifications, including ISO9001, AS9100, and ISO13485. Clients recognize and appreciate Tim's integrity, dedication, and his commitment to superior results.