Sheet Metal Supplier

The 7 Things You Should Look for in Your Sheet Metal Fabricator

Satisfying your customers’ needs is at the top of your list, but if your sheet metal fabricator doesn’t have the same priorities as you, it could be time to re-evaluate who’s supplying your custom metal parts. When seeking out a sheet metal fabricator that will exceed your performance expectations, there are several factors that you need to take into consideration. Keep reading to decide if your sheet metal fabricator is right for you.

1.      Quality – It almost goes without saying, but in fact it should at the top your list. If you can’t count on quality parts coming in from your sheet metal fabricator, it’s time to find a new one that will surpass your quality test. Your customers don’t tolerate poor quality and you can’t either from your sheet metal fabricator. Period.

2.      Delivery – While speed is important, the real key is to look for fabricators that hit the dates they commit to. This means that at times you want your fabricator to push back on your due dates when they cannot meet the due date. Having that openness and trust is at the heart of any good customer relationship. The question you need to be asking isn’t ‘how quickly can you get it to me?’ but rather, ‘how confident are you that I will receive my parts when you say I will?’  The certainty that a stronger parts fabricator provides to your supply chain beats aggressive promises and missed deliveries. It also helps if your sheet metal fabricator has their own delivery trucks. This means you avoid costly, time-consuming product damages as well as shipping costs by avoiding 3rd party freight companies.

3.      Track Record/Longevity – How long has your sheet metal fabricator been in business? While the two are not necessarily related, there is a solid correlation between longevity and capacity. There is truth in the axiom that ‘we’ve been around this long so we must be doing something right’, but that only goes so far. Is your sheet metal fabricator modernizing their systems and equipment? Are they keeping up with the latest technology and investing in their team? These are all signs of health you want to look for in your sheet metal fabricator.

4.      Price/Value – Are you getting competitive pricing? Make sure that your metal parts fabricator is providing you with solid pricing. If they’re not, push to understand what the underlying cause is. Maybe there is a design-for-manufacturing conversation that needs to take place, or there needs to be a clearer picture of the purchasing forecast anticipated over the next few quarters. The number at the bottom of the quote is not the whole story, but you need to see pricing that will work for your business and allow you to provide excellent value to your customers.

5.      Responsiveness – When you call or email your sheet metal fabricator, how long does it take for them to get back to you? What is the quality of that communication? Working with global customers and compressed lead-times, being able to manage changing customer demands is an important part of your business. Make sure you partner with a sheet metal fabricator that is able to keep up with the dynamic nature of your needs and work alongside you to help you satisfy your customers.

6.      Willingness to Take on Tough Challenges – A true partnership requires both trust and the ability to take risks. Does your sheet metal fabricator shy away from a challenge? Growing your business means incorporating new materials or technologies that allow you to out-compete.

7.      Accountability – Accountability is the foundation of trust and trust underpins every strong fabricator/customer relationship. When things don’t go as planned, does your sheet metal fabricator take responsibility and work to improve for the future? If not, you need to find a new sheet metal fabricator.  

About the Author:

Andy Mulkerin (General Manager of APX York Sheet Metal) has 20 years of experience leading advanced technology development programs and overseeing global manufacturing operations. He has managed production/operations within the chemical processing, electronics, and commercial nuclear industries. He has worked on multi-billion-dollar investment and infrastructure deals, as well as spent more than a decade advising US companies on how to successfully navigate the Chinese energy market. Andy led initiatives setting up fabrication operations in China to produce equipment to the ASME NQA-1 and NNSA’s HAF604 specifications.

Andy has successfully driven technology transfer initiatives for dozens of Western energy companies including Babcock & Wilcox, Bechtel, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Energy Solutions and TerraPower.  Andy is a recognized global leader in the field of US-China nuclear energy strategy and has been cited by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Andy has collaborated on numerous initiatives with the US Department of Commerce and Department of Energy related to maximizing commercial opportunities for US companies in China. Additionally, Andy also was part of the core Blu-ray strategy team for Sony in Tokyo, Japan.

Andy has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

The 6 Things You Should Double Check Before Sending Out a PO to Your Sheet Metal Fabricator

One of the best ways to improve your fabricators’ performance, besides benchmarking and supplier scorecards, is through consistent and accurate communication. While all companies focus on phone calls and email exchanges as their main channels of communication, RFQs, POs, and engineering drawings are undoubtedly the most important communication lane between companies. It’s imperative you set yourself up for success by keeping all lines of communication wide open. In order to do this effectively, knowing exactly what your fabricators need from you on a PO will make communicating easy and stress-free.

Everyone understands there is a cost to incorrect information being communicated during the metal part fabrication process, but incomplete or ambiguous information can systemically drag on your supply-chain and lead to increased cost and decreased agility. Before sending out your next PO to your metal fabricator, consider these six critical factors that will make their lives, and yours, a lot easier:

1.      Revision Levels – Your purchase orders and the information they contain should mirror the drawings they come with and include all necessary details. First, consider revision levels. Have they been changed? Are they correct? Do they match the drawing? Are they actually on the PO? Additionally, keeping your rev numbers consistent with previous rev numbers will help to ensure your fabricators’ supply chain remains efficient. Asking yourself these questions and keeping revision levels consistent will prevent you needing to field that confused phone call from your parts fabricator.

 

2.      Bending Rules – Being aware and understanding the capabilities of your metal fabricators’ press brake is very important. If you’re unsure about press brake capabilities, ask yourself the following questions: Are there any holes too close to the bend line? Are there rips required? Are these rips included? Understanding the mechanics and limitations of your fabricators’ press brake is important for you and your engineering team in order to interface efficiently with your metal parts fabricator.

 

3.      Equipment Capacity – Your metal fabricators’ equipment has limitations – do you know what they are? Knowing this will help you order parts without having to compromise part integrity or quality. Do you know the answer to these questions: What is the max part size your metal parts fabricator can laser cut? What is the max length they can bend? And at what type/thickness of material? If you don’t know, stop reading this blog and pick up the phone – you and your fabricator need to talk more!

 

4.      When Do You Need What?  – Let’s be honest, terms like ASAP are overused and aren’t that useful. Not to mention, front loading due dates to ‘buffer’ for late delivery is very inefficient. Strong metal fabricators are capable of staging deliveries and shipments to be triggered when they’re needed, in addition to flowing that information back through their production planning activities to ensure their operation is tuned to their customers’ needs. Ask for what you want when you want it and open that dialog with your key metal fabricators!

 

5.      Incomplete/Erroneous Information – Always double check a PO to ensure your parts fabricator is receiving all the information they need in order to fulfill the order. Glance over the order once more before hitting send to see if anything is incorrectly displayed. Consider these things: Are there any markings on your drawings that are out-of-place or would be considered unexpected to your fabricator? Perhaps indicating a grain-finish on carbon steel? Anything that forces the shop floor to hesitate and reconfirm because they’re not sure they understand what they’re looking at will slow your fabricators' supply-chain down.  

6.      Is it similar? – While it’s the part fabricators’ responsibility to review all information, and make to the print, if you order the same parts regularly from a supplier and then make a very subtle change in terms of how something is bent or welded, there is a risk that this important difference will get missed on the shop floor because the operators will think they know what they’re looking at when in fact your requirement is slightly different. Use notes in the drawing to call out information you want the operators to be aware of. 

About the Author:

Andy Mulkerin (General Manager of APX York Sheet Metal) has 20 years of experience leading advanced technology development programs and overseeing global manufacturing operations. He has managed production/operations within the chemical processing, electronics, and commercial nuclear industries. He has worked on multi-billion-dollar investment and infrastructure deals, as well as spent more than a decade advising US companies on how to successfully navigate the Chinese energy market. Andy led initiatives setting up fabrication operations in China to produce equipment to the ASME NQA-1 and NNSA’s HAF604 specifications.

Andy has successfully driven technology transfer initiatives for dozens of Western energy companies including Babcock & Wilcox, Bechtel, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Energy Solutions and TerraPower.  Andy is a recognized global leader in the field of US-China nuclear energy strategy and has been cited by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Andy has collaborated on numerous initiatives with the US Department of Commerce and Department of Energy related to maximizing commercial opportunities for US companies in China. Additionally, Andy also was part of the core Blu-ray strategy team for Sony in Tokyo, Japan.

Andy has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.