We often hear from OEMs who’ve been told their manufacturing dilemma can’t be solved, or their previous contract manufacturer couldn’t scale without hiking up costs. Other times, a production mistake sent them looking for a safer solution. Others are launching brand new devices and want to prevent mistakes their peers have experienced.
With so much on the line, you’re wise to scrutinize your options. Below are key considerations for choosing your best-fit contract manufacturer.
Narrowing the field
For starters, the following criteria can help you narrow options:
- Location: Where are the contract manufacturer’s facilities in relation to your company and customers? How might that distance help or hinder distribution, audits and more?
- Capabilities: How do service capabilities align with your needs? If your team needs expert guidance on R&D or materials selection, for instance, ensure the contract manufacturer has that expertise. Also make sure their facilities can handle the size and scope of your production needs.
- Breadth & depth of experience: How long has the contract manufacturer performed its services? What quality certifications has it earned? The level of know-how and training of its staff is just as important.
- Company culture: It’s wise to consider the goals, vision and mission of the contract manufacturer, as those elements will show in their output and your experience as a customer. Are they committed to continuous improvement? Are all employees aligned with these ideals? A contract manufacturer functions as an extension of your business, so it’s vital to have compatible philosophies.
- Financial stability: Is the contract manufacturer a well-established company with the means to take on your production needs? Longevity can be a great indicator of stability and help ensure your partnership is on solid ground.
Sending out RFQs
This initial audit should help you narrow potential candidates to a list of 3–5 companies. Next, you’ll send Request for Qualifications (RFQ).
RFQs should include enough info so the contract manufacturer can respond with a meaningful, accurate proposal. Provide enough info so they can understand your product and quote the cost of goods, tools, timeline, and more.
Once proposals are back in your hands, we recommend scoring and weighting the top 2–3 companies you’ll want to audit in person.
Scoring criteria might include:
- Years in business
- Service & support
- Management and culture
- On-time delivery
Navigating the internal audit
Having selected your top 2-3 contenders, it’s time for thorough facility inspections. You’ll want pay close attention to the following:
- Production and process controls
- Adherence to good manufacturing practices and industry certifications.
- Risk assessment/mitigating approaches.
- Management controls
- Management review and quality audit procedures should be fully documented, and easily accessible.
- Design controls
- How do they ensure full control over the design process and ensure devices meet your requirements?
- Management of corrective and preventive actions (CAPA)
- How responsive are they in detecting and resolving issues?
As in a marriage, taking the time and care to find your best fit can save you a lifetime of grief.
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