Choosing a CNC machining supplier involves much more than just looking at a list of capabilities or specifications. In fact, even with two companies that look exactly the same on paper, you’re still almost guaranteed to see different results from each one — results that might affect the viability and performance of your product and its sales. CNC machine suppliers each have different specialties, experience and differing approaches to answering the necessary questions in creating your product.
For these reasons, it’s important to understand what to look for and how to select a CNC machining company. This way, you’re equipped to make the best possible decision about which supplier is right for you and the needs of your product. Here are some factors to keep in mind.
- Does the company list its manufacturing specialties or focus? CNC machining is a versatile process that can cover nearly any type of product or construction. Many companies will say on their website or other marketing materials that they can handle any product, quantity or contract; though this rarely ends up being the case. As mentioned above, every company has different areas of expertise, and your CNC machining supplier should have those areas available for you to review. You should also be able to learn quantities that the supplier prefers to work with, as well as materials that it is comfortable and experienced with machining. By having this information readily available, both you and your supplier can help to ensure a good fit.
- Does the company offer examples of previous work? A website with a portfolio or series of case studies is a good way for a company to share this information. Or, if you are looking at local suppliers, you should be able to go on site and see examples of previous projects. Ideally, the company will have worked on products similar to yours, so that you know it is capable of meeting your needs. A good breadth of previous work also lets you know that a supplier has been around long enough and has gained enough experience to successfully manufacture your product.
- Does the company offer other services? While this is not imperative, and plenty of CNC machining suppliers that offer just that service are skilled and competent, it’s almost always preferable to work with one supplier for as many steps of the production cycle as possible. For instance, choosing a CNC machining supplier that also offers prototyping keeps both those services under one roof, creating a smoother transition from testing to production. You can also be sure, with such a company, that it is well-aware of the intricacies of its own production process, which can aid in prototyping your product and testing its manufacturability. Companies that work with different processes are also better able to assist you in providing innovative alternative methods of manufacturing your product, which can make a positive impact in areas like production costs, speed, quality, efficiency and so on.
- Does the company seem adaptable? It is a common misconception that manufacturing is a traditional, unchanging field. While it’s true that in many ways, processes, materials and best practices remain the same, manufacturing is an area of constant evolution in technology and efficiency — though most often, these changes are incremental. Over time, though, they can make a big difference in the quality of your product and the strength of your bottom line; which is why it’s important to work with a CNC machining supplier that is open to changes in the industry. By staying aware of technology improvements and other progress, your machining partner can provide the best advice and service to you.
- How does the company maintain its web presence? Despite what one may think, a robust web presence is important, even for industries like manufacturing. An updated website and regular posting of new content can give you a good idea of some of the intangibles of a company. It also can give you a good idea that it can check off some of the boxes above, like willingness and ability to adapt and evolve. Suppliers that seem to be thought leaders in their field — which you can determine by elements like their blog or social media postings — are likely to be able to apply creative, successful solutions in getting your product up and running.
- Does the company have your best interests in mind? CNC machining is regularly referred to as a “service” for a reason — the supplier is fulfilling a need for you, the customer. As such, you should feel that the interests of you and your product are being catered to at every step of the way. That includes process selection, material selection, timetable of the production process, and more. Like the company that states that it can fulfill “any” manufacturing project, a manufacturing partner that tries to shoehorn you and your product into a process, a schedule or any other factor that suits its interests over yours, should be avoided. Your ideal CNC machining supplier will go out of its way to suit your specific requirements, unique needs and the factors that make your product your own. Though this is an intangible factor that can’t easily be quantified on paper, you can get a good sense of how a company will respond in this regard by doing your research, asking questions, and taking time to get to know and understand your potential suppliers.
- Do your contacts at the company seem like people you can work well with? Again, this is an intangible quality, and one that you’ll have to do a bit of work to get a sense of on your own. It’s also up to you to determine what style of manufacturing partner will suit you best. The most important part is to be aware that you’ll ideally be doing a lot of collaborating with your CNC machining supplier, so don’t take the personal part of it lightly. People who you are better able to work and communicate with will almost invariably end up producing a better product for you.