Choosing a contract manufacturer for your small batch manufacture needs careful consideration and is not something to be undertaken lightly. You must be sure you have found a reliable partner with the skills to deliver what you need, on time every time. If the process is to go smoothly it is important to get answers to all your questions before production gets started.

Here are the six most important questions to ask before agreeing to start production.

Expertise

The most important consideration must be to find a manufacturer who has the skills you need. Choose a manufacturer who has proven expertise in your particular industry, and the capabilities to complete your order on time. Ask for references from past customers, and fully satisfy yourself as to their suitability for the job before committing your order to them.

Batch sizes

If at all possible find a supplier who specializes in small batch manufacture. A company that is tailored to working with small batches will usually offer better service for you than one that generally handles larger volumes and sees your order as less important. If your batch is very small it is particularly important to ask about a minimum order requirement. Some contract manufacturers operate a minimum order policy and if your requirements fall below their requirements then you may want to look elsewhere for a supplier.

Milestones & scheduling

Understanding how your manufacturer handles scheduling, and establishing milestones with them is essential to a harmonious business relationship. Choosing a supplier that specializes in small batches makes it more likely that your small order will be treated equally with other orders, rather than having to wait in line while more profitable, larger orders are processed. Discuss your expected turnaround times before placing your oder, or you could be in for a nasty shock later.

Flexibility

Even with the best preparation it is always possible for issues to arise which threaten to delay your order. It could be issues with the manufacturers equipment, or concerns about some aspect of your order. You should be satisfied that your supplier is able to cope when these issues crop up. Will they work with you to find a solution if there is a problem with your order? Do they have spare capacity in the event of machine failure? What happens if you need to change one of your specifications? Knowing how your supplier will respond to these problems is essential to working with them to overcome difficulties.

How do they interact with other customers?

Companies that usually deal with smaller batches are often more relationship oriented, while larger companies are frequently more formal in their business approaches. Establishing a people focused relationship with your supplier is often the most effective way to build a solid, long-lasting relationship that is mutually beneficial for both companies.

Taking these six questions together and finding out the answers before you start work will ensure that you are well prepared when you come to hire a contract manufacturer. Taking time to ask the right questions now can save weeks of pain and frustration trying to sort out unforeseen issues later in the manufacturing process.

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