Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technology has improved the capabilities of many machine shops and manufacturing operations. It's a competitive industry and each company brings its own strengths to the table—but not all contract CNC manufacturers are created equal. It’s important to consider multiple options and select a CNC manufacturer that can handle your project, your budget, and any other unique needs you may have.
Weighing All the Options
There are multiple factors to consider when sourcing a CNC manufacturing company for your project:
A one-time purchase may allow you to skip certain considerations. For example, if the project doesn’t need design work, then don't worry about finding a CNC shop with design capabilities. It’s worth noting, however, that a shop that understands design likely performs better machining operations as they understand all aspects of the project. In addition, with one-off projects you can make the purchase and search elsewhere the next time if you aren’t pleased with the results.
A spot buy is often more expensive than purchases made within a long-term agreement, particularly for custom CNC work. However, the additional cost may be worth it as a means of testing the capabilities of the supplier. Spot buying is ideal for rush orders or other emergencies.
Blanket orders offer a range of benefits, including faster production times, shorter lead times, and bulk discounts. These advantages make blanket orders a go-to procurement method for orders repetitive purchases from the same supplier.
If you need to place a blanket order, find a company who knows how to communicate effectively. Even with a standing order, it’s impossible to account for every problem or market shift that may arise. Using a provider that communicates efficiently ensures that you can make adjustments and address issues in real-time as they arise. It’s also important to select a CNC manufacturer that will keep you updated on upgrades to their equipment and processes and how that may affect your blanket order.
Before entering into a long-term relationship with a CNC supplier, make sure they are the right choice for you. They should be able to provide references from companies similar to yours to demonstrate an understanding of your industry. You’ll also want to ensure that they can handle any demand scaling that may be required later on in the agreement.
Look for a company that truly wants to build a relationship. Companies who want to be a partner rather than a vendor can typically be identified by their superior customer service, quality management practices, and effective communication.
Short-term contracts leave your business less vulnerable to fallout should the CNC manufacturer get into financial trouble. However, it’s also harder to maintain fixed pricing using short-term agreements. Each new contract may vary in terms of pricing, and batch or lot racing can be difficult to implement.
Short-term agreements are most ideal for testing out new providers. Over the course of a few runs, you’ll get a solid idea of their practices, capabilities, quality standards, and customer service. This will help you determine if the manufacturer is the right choice for a longer-term agreement.
Tips for Finding the Right Supplier
There are a few non-negotiable factors that every CNC machine shop must have. These include:
- ISO certification. Choosing an ISO 9001-certified company means working with a supplier who is committed to strict international standards for quality, workplace safety, waste reduction, and cost-efficiency.
- ITAR registration. Issued by the U.S. State Department, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) registration is assurance that any exported military tech is approved by the government.
- Quality assurance. Look for a gallery of previous projects, a list of satisfied customers and their testimonials, and a wide range of capabilities and CNC industry knowledge. If your industry requires additional certifications, verify that the provider has them in advance of entering into an agreement.
Ardel Engineering is ITAR registered, ISO 9001:2015 certified, and can provide a comprehensive portfolio to prospective customers that thoroughly represents our capabilities and standards. We're proud of our long history of high-quality work and lasting relationships with our clients.