Top Questions to Ask When Looking for a Manufacturing Supplier

Picture of a machine involved in the manufacturing process.

Whether you’re looking to design a new product, dealing with unexpected supply chain delays, or simply looking for a more local solution for your manufacturing needs, there are several reasons you may need to introduce a new supplier to your company network.

While building new supplier relationships can seem daunting, this process allows your company to cut back on costs and find solutions that are more sustainable, efficient or innovative. Therefore, be sure to keep the following factors in mind as you begin your journey of selecting your company’s supplier. 

What are my own needs and requirements?

Before reaching out to or even searching for a new supplier, it is important to be sure of your company’s manufacturing needs and be clear on what improvements you would like to see over your current sourcing solutions.

Take into consideration whether you would like to develop a new long-term relationship with a supplier, simply need to fill a short-term contract, or need a one-time urgent solution. You may be presented with significantly fewer options when searching under tight deadlines. Ultimately, be sure that any partnership you enter long-term can withstand your company’s growth strategy and goals. 

Where are the suppliers located? 

Working with local suppliers often provides you with the opportunity to maintain a closer relationship and play a larger role throughout the production process. Options local to both your company and your customer base enable you to play a more hands-on role, experience a more agile production process, and receive faster reaction times.

Local options may also align with your company’s sustainability goals as the process of shipping final products will not depend as intensely upon carbon-intensive transport methods such as plane or ship.

Are the suppliers able to provide customized parts?

Are the parts you need to source commonly available? Do you need customized parts for your new, innovative products? If you are looking for the latter, you should research a supplier’s ability to create custom materials and ask whether they have prior experience with custom parts.

It is also important to keep in mind potential changes to your requirements that you may wish to implement long-term after you receive customer feedback. Thus, be sure to be informed on a supplier’s ability to be flexible, and find out about any costs associated with opting for changes. 

Do the suppliers have the ability to work with new, innovative technologies?

With rapid advancements in manufacturing technology, new innovations are constantly popping up in the manufacturing industry which allow for the customization of nearly every facet of your product. However, these advancements also mean that more and more choices must be made when it comes to opting for or against these production methods.

For example, CNC machining has been cited as the future of the manufacturing industry with its ability to provide easy customization at a lower cost. If CNC machining is of interest to your company, ask suppliers whether they are able to produce with any such technologies, or whether plans are in place to meet your technological goals long-term.

How communicative and transparent are the suppliers willing to be? 

Communication is key when working with suppliers, especially during the initial months of collaboration. Transparent communication with your suppliers ensures that risks are mitigated throughout the production process.

Look for suppliers who are open to setting up meetings, consultations, or in-person visits with you consistently throughout your partnership. When you ensure that your suppliers prioritize communication, this creates a foundation of trust that will last long into your partnership.

Have past clients been satisfied with these suppliers’ work?

One of the best indicators of a supplier’s overall abilities is their past track record of success with similar projects. Ask potential suppliers if they have completed similar projects that they are able to show you, or conduct a search to find client testimonials.

It may also be of interest to ask your network what their past experiences with said suppliers have been in the past and, from their perspective, whether they recommend the supplier in question would properly address your company’s needs. 

Axya’s simple and transparent outsourcing platform enables companies to source their custom and non-recurring metalworking parts 90% faster than with conventional methods. Is your current supplier not available at the moment? Send your RFQ in less than 5 minutes to our network of 200+ machine shops and enter new contracts within a few days!

Article written by Samantha Ling for the Axya Blog.

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Top Questions to Ask When Looking for a Manufacturing Supplier