How to Choose the Right Contractor
Research the company’s reputation through its online presence, third-party coverage, ratings, reviews, and direct interviews. Learn about its mission, vision, community involvement, and how it interacts with its customers, business partners, and employees. Does it demonstrate qualities that are in line with your company’s value systems?
Integrity is the cornerstone of trust. A partnership that is built on trust ensures that your interests will be protected even without your direct involvement.
Examine the company’s financial health. How long has it been in business? Has it been growing over the years? Does it have a stable and expanding client base? How well does it weather economic downturn?
The answers to these questions, and a risk assessment analysis, can shed light on the company’s financial stability. It is also advantageous to choose a contract manufacturer that can be easily positioned to fit your products or components into their existing product lines.
Quality is essential when you trust another company to manufacture products under your name. Is it able to make the products according to your specifications at a competitive cost?
One way to find out is to check the woodworking certifications the company possesses. If it is certified under the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI)’s Quality Certifications Program (QCP), you know that you can expect a certain standard of quality.
If the outsourced products will contribute to a building’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, then FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council) Chain of Custody certified products may be required to earn LEED credits.
If your product is part of a lab furniture setup, a manufacturer that is SEFA (Scientific Equipment and Furniture Association) certified shows that it is committed to quality and safety in its choice of materials and processes. It will likely meet your needs for high-quality lab products.
Apart from the official accreditations for materials and quality standards, look into the company’s current product lines.
Does it have the experience, machinery, equipment, technology, and skilled manufacturing staff to meet your need for aesthetics and functionality in your products? Can it handle large volumes efficiently at reduced cost and flexible lead time?
It would also be relevant to know if the company implements any processes to encourage innovation and continuous improvement. This kind of culture ensures that they always strive for the best craftsmanship and efficiency in whatever they do. It will benefit you — as your products will become part of their operations.
Make sure that your third-party contractor has the capacity to make your products in addition to their own. Room for scaling up when demand for their and/or your products increases is paramount.
This includes the space, equipment, trained labor, and work processes in place to handle the additional workload.
Since you don’t know how your contracted part of the business will evolve, it is also important to know how experienced your potential partner is in optimizing operations while managing fluctuating demands.
Communication is key to a smooth-running contract manufacturing partnership.
Learn how your third-party contractor manages projects with their current partners. This will give you insight as to whether they would be a good fit. There may be some expectations that need to be addressed upfront. All these discussions should be documented in writing so that each party is clear about their respective responsibilities from the very beginning.
Here are the main items to clarify:
- Who will be the main contact person or project manager for the partnership
- Who are the other members of the project team and their respective expertise
- What are the communication channels to be used to stay informed (emails, phone calls, regular update meetings, etc.)
- How frequent communication should be
- What is the process to resolve an issue
- How should events and actions be documented
To have a contract manufacturer in an accessible location has its obvious advantages. Examination of the qualifications mentioned above is best accomplished by visiting the company, talking with people, and observing the operations.
After a partnership has been established, occasional site visits are a necessary complement to virtual interactions in order to build a strong relationship.
More challenging still is an international contract manufacturing partnership. This sort of arrangement can be more complex and harder to manage. Be prepared for additional regulatory requirements, as well as possible communication barriers due to language and cultural differences.