Buyer Beware. The impact of the production process on price, performance and total cost

When choosing your precision part supplier, it’s important to understand their approach to fulfilling your needs—because it will ultimately impact your bottom line. Typically, the methodology is handled in one of three ways:

1. Show me the money. Unfortunately, many suppliers are only interested in the manufacturing process which will generate the most profit—for them. That means producing a part that will pass inspection, but also delivers the highest return for their business. There is little or no consideration for how their manufacturing “shortcuts” might adversely impact “total cost” for their customer. This approach tends to perpetuate adversarial relationships between customers and suppliers.

2. It’s all about the print. The supplier determines which manufacturing process offers the greatest probability to produce parts that will comply with the blueprint. When quoting the job, the supplier isn’t trying to do it as cheaply as possible. More likely, they’re pricing it the way a competitor would. From a manufacturing perspective, the supplier may be very knowledgeable about process capability and have a good understanding of the drawings and required tolerances. So they’re able to engineer a competent process which will produce parts that meet the print.

But there’s a third, arguably better, approach.

3. Going beyond the blueprint. Taking into account that a blueprint is simply a design engineer’s attempt to convey a design or functional intent, here the supplier goes beyond the blueprint to understand the functional requirements of the part. That enables better insight into what’s truly important for the function and use of that part. And, by understanding the subtleties and nuances of all the processes, the supplier then carefully crafts a process that will produce the best performing part while achieving the lowest total cost for the customer.

As an example, in many sensitive and demanding applications, parts which pass inspection may still not function consistently. There may be a lot of adjustment and fine-tuning required for the finished assemblies to perform optimally and reliably. So going “beyond the blueprint” controls elements of the manufacturing process much more tightly than what the tolerance allows—where it impacts performance—because that approach will reduce assembly and test time, producing a net savings to the customer, rather than a net cost.

Essentially, going “beyond the blueprint” is all about developing a strategic partnership with a buyer in order to achieve a mutual win. It should be noted that not all precision parts manufacturers are capable of this approach simply because they may lack the engineering expertise and experience to do so. But undoubtedly, going “beyond the blueprint” produces the best return—and a competitive advantage—for companies that are willing and able to take advantage of it.

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