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Choosing the best sheet metal fabrication partner for you.

30 January 2018

Choosing a metal fabrication partner is not as straight-forward as you might first imagine. There are a number of factors to consider and every metal fabrication company offers something different. To get the best out of your metal fabrication supplier, you need to make sure the company you select has the right experience, ability and resources to meet your requirements.

A great metal fabrication partner should function as an extension of your organisation, not only responding to your requirements, but also challenging your wants and needs for the betterment of the product. Because when choosing a metal fabrication partner, you’re entering into a relationship that should be productive, supportive and communicative. It should feel like a partnership. A true collaboration will not only be more enjoyable to manage, it will likely deliver better tangible results.

At Universal Wolf, we pride ourselves on going the extra mile for our customers. We’ve always set the highest standards for ourselves simply because we’ve always believed that doing it better is the right thing to do. We’ve spent years developing our core capabilities to ensure we deliver a superior product to our customers, that’s why we consider every project carefully to ensure that we are the right partner and can add value to the product. If we don’t think we’re the right partner for you, we’ll tell you up front so that we don’t waste your time.

Finding the right sheet metal fabrication supplier takes a lot of consideration, but putting together a checklist of your expectations can be a huge help. Here’s a list of questions to get you started:

  1. Capabilities

When considering any metal fabrication company it is important to understand if the supplier possesses the right equipment, materials, staff and production capacity required to suit the specific needs of your product. Every metalworker is slightly different, some will be better suited to producing smaller components at high volume, whilst others are better aligned to manufacturing low to medium volume complex sheet metal fabrications. Using these distinctions to differentiate potential suppliers can prove to be a powerful tool.

  • Do they have experience with your type of project?
  • Can they handle the type, grade, and gauge of metal required for your project?
  • Do they have the right equipment for your individual needs?
  • Do they have a robust supply chain?
  • How much of the product can they produce in-house and how much would they need to outsource to their supply chain?

You might want to consider an 80:20 rule, for example, if 80% of the cost of production is contained in 20% of the total components, the supplier must have the capability to produce this 20% in-house as a minimum. This will help to ensure competitiveness and capability fit.


  1. Experience

Experience matters in the manufacturing industry, but it’s not just “time served” that is important. You also need to know what type of projects a potential supplier has worked on successfully in the past. Some metal fabricators specialise in specific industries or only work on projects of a certain size or nature. If the company has experience with past projects similar to yours – that’s a good sign:

  • Do they have experience in your type of project?
  • Have they previously built similar products to yours?
  • Do they / have they worked in the same sector as you?
  • Do they have skilled, dedicated tradesmen who are certified in their particular field?
  • Can they break down a complex project into detailed costs?
  • Do they demonstrate the right level of technical competence?


  1. Pricing

A key consideration when choosing a metal fabrication company is of course price. We all have a budget to adhere to but it’s important to realise that price shouldn’t be the only factor to deliberate. You may want to consider how suppliers should present proposals back to you, i.e. what is the minimum level of detail or information you require in order to give you confidence that each supplier has understood the drawings and technical information provided in your Request for Quotation (RFQ) pack.

  • Does their proposal demonstrate that they have considered your requirements fully? By simply providing a quoted price, do you really understand what you’re paying for?
  • Have all suppliers quoted like-for-like? Make sure to read quotations fully to understand if there are any caveats or deviations from your initial RFQ.


  1. Quality

Quality is not an area for cutting corners, so you need to find out what measures they take as a company to ensure quality in every project.

  • What certifications do they hold?
  • What procedures do they have in place to ensure quality on every project?
  • Are they aware of any quality standards required?
  • Are they prepared to put new qualifications in place if required?
  • Do they track quality performance and what are their current metrics?


  1. Production Schedule

Volume requirement is another key factor when considering a metal fabrication partner.  You need to ensure that their production schedule matches yours.  If you can share your “Master Schedule” with them, your supplier will have the right level of information to plan the necessary resource and level of production flexibility you require.  Additionally, if you are aware of urgent requirements, try to give your suppliers as much notice as possible, even if you can’t give them all the project detail straight away. By making them aware of an urgent project that is likely to happen, you allow them to consider what resource might be required so that they have the best possible chance of supporting you.

  • Do they have the capacity to cope with your demand?
  • Can they offer the flexibility you require?
  • How many shifts do they currently run?


  1. Value

When choosing a metal fabrication partner, it’s important to find a supplier who will value your business.  If the value of your account is much less than the supplier is targeting from a spend-per-account perspective, then you might find yourself low down on their priority list.  In addition, disclosing your annual spend potential for the project to the supplier, will help drive more competitive pricing as the supplier will have visibility of the full project scope.

  • Does the potential value/volume of your account match the aspirations of the supplier?
  • Is the supplier looking for a minimum spend?
  • Would your level of spend make you a key account for their business?


  1. Design for Manufacture

Metalworkers are experts in their field and can offer a wealth of information and advice in relation to optimising your product.  If design is a requirement when looking for a metal fabrication partner, try to engage them early on to ensure the most cost effective and efficient solution is found.

  • Do they offer a design service?  If so, what level of design work can they offer?
  • Can they work from scratch / from a drawing?
  • Are they open to participate in collaborative design discussions?
  • Do you believe they have the expertise to think outside the box and challenge your design, to
    drive product improvement and manufacturing efficiency?


  1. Project Management

A satisfied customer should be at the heart of every metal fabrication project. Establishing a working relationship with a company you can trust to deliver on-time, in-full and on-budget is key to delivering a successful project:

  • Do they have the skills to not only do the work but to work with you?
  • Do they have a robust New Product Introduction (NPI) process?
  • Do you have confidence that their team can deliver?


If you would like to know more about how Universal Wolf can help you with your metal fabrication needs, please contact our Business Development Manager Craig Brown.

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