Stecker Machine Blog

CNC Machining Supplier Selection: 6 Top Tips

08/15/2022 | Ken Jones

cnc-machining-supplier-selection, face milling iron, no coolant

Precision CNC machining is a mainstay of modern American manufacturing. Its extreme accuracy, automation, and cost-effectiveness far surpass traditional machining technology when producing complex parts.

Although completed parts are the main goal, finding the right CNC machining service supplier to meet your specific requirements involves many factors.

A CNC machining supplier — more importantly, the right supplier — provides incredible benefits to your organization:

  • Boost responsiveness: customers receive top-level attention and reliable delivery
  • Build trust: true partners are open to technical discussions, suggestions, and big-picture planning
  • Reduce costs: low quotes help get a foot in the door
  • Enhance your environment: completed work feels great and boosts profitability
  • Improve attitudes: remove stress and work from your team
  • And the ultimate: save money!

The proper CNC machining vendor can definitely do all of these for you, covering your butt when it’s most critical. The biggest challenge for Purchasing Managers? Selection. Choose poorly and face questionable quality, product issues, and recurring delays; choose wisely, however, and you’ll enjoy reliable products and happy customers.

I bet you’ve already done some online research. You may even have narrowed down your choices. Hopefully, the following six considerations help one of your prospective CNC machining suppliers rise to the top of your list.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Partner

Before we jump into specifics, take a minute and think about your immediate needs and answer these questions:

  • Have you defined, in writing, the product for which you’re searching for a vendor?
  • Have you decided on any minimum vendor requirements?
  • What have similar organizations done?
  • What have other organizations paid?
  • What’s worked and what hasn’t?
  • Have you decided on which stakeholders have a say in the decision?

OK, answers to all of these questions are not necessary for your selection criteria, but some thoughtful contemplation of your machining needs sets the stage for a solid vendor selection process.

6 Top Tips for CNC Machining Supplier Selection:

  1. Focus on Quality and Precision
  2. Look for Expertise in Many Target Industries
  3. Demand An Engineering Department that Delivers Value
  4. Ask About Eagerness to Take on Complex Challenges
  5. Request Transparency in the Relationship
  6. Ask for a Proven Record to Justify Pricing

1. Focus on Quality and Precision

Quality is everything. Of course, everyone says they produce only precise, high-quality parts. It’s what machinists do, right? Yet, the vendor you want to select is one that demands it and celebrates it.

Look for suppliers that openly stress precision CNC machining on their website, in their marketing materials, or even face to face. Their confidence is usually backed up by performance and robust quality control processes. Perhaps they regularly share new equipment news or explain why precision is so critical for making quality machined parts.

Another subtle clue is if the shop is willing to take responsibility for the quality of their work. A confident crew stands behind every machined part and their CNC machining services. However, a supplier that deflects responsibility will tell you that poor casting quality caused that supplier’s sub-par machining performance. Vendors that avoid accountability can hurt your ability to meet quality requirements and future supply chain deadlines.

2. Look for Expertise in Many Target Industries

The right outsourced machining vendor is more likely to meet your quality demands if they have experience in the same, or similar, industries. They’ll be more proactive in identifying and fixing issues before they become problems, and they may be familiar with any compliance requirements.

We all need experts eventually. When a machining vendor has multiple internal experts that can answer your questions, you can rest easy and move forward. Lastly, ask for case studies or a range of services list so you’ll know that not only can they handle this project, they’ll be able to keep up as you grow.

3. Demand An Engineering Department that Delivers Value

There’s a consistency among high-end machining suppliers: their engineering team. These pros help develop the best possible part, using DFM methods (Design for Manufacturability) to maximize efficiency. Their influence is felt most powerfully both early in the design process and when design changes are required.

Engineers initiate a strong partnership between the CNC machine shop, the customer, and the foundry, offering input on casting/machining designs. The value an engineering department adds upfront should be remembered when selecting an outsourced machining vendor. The lowest price is always tempting, but consider the best value when you compare.

4. Ask About Eagerness to Take on Complex Challenges

This tip is a combination of skill set and culture fit. Obviously, a competent machine shop is a must. Yet, does this potential outsourcing vendor get excited about tough projects and have a hunger for continuous improvement?

Being capable is great, yet preparing for the next big challenge means they’re serious about establishing long-term, high-volume relationships. So this is a culture fit, too, with machinists’ thinking and goals aligning with your own. These shops are better equipped to handle your future needs, and they’re likely more willing to collaborate, putting your priorities high on their list.

As far as capabilities, no machining vendor can handle the most complex challenges without having an ISO 9001-compliant established quality management system (QMS). Plus, the IATF 16949 standard, designed to be implemented in conjunction with ISO 9001:2015, helps ensure that products consistently meet requirements and quality is routinely improved.

5. Request Transparency in the Relationship

We hope you’re striving to develop a partnership, not just do business with another parts supplier. A true partner is transparent about the relationship and their role in your success. You always know where you stand.

A valued partner delivers better communication, is more willing to work with you, is invested in quality, and gives extra attention to price. Plus, there will come a day when you need to quickly change an order. An invested partner is flexible enough to handle change orders and willing to provide value added services, too.

Lastly, during the selection process, set specific expectations with clear terms and conditions. Let the CNC machining supplier know what you expect moving forward, state responsibilities, and begin with a positive win/win mindset.

6. Ask for a Proven Record to Justify Pricing

Just as you’re prepared to fairly pay for high-end machining, your vendor should be prepared to prove to you why they’re worth every penny. Start by discussing the shop’s history. A company established for decades has serviced many customers and should handle your requirements.

Ask about communication. A clear flow eliminates confusion and missteps. Discuss schedules and deadlines, and examine the financial stability of the shop, as well. Knowing they’ll be around long-term to service your needs is vital. Finally, take time to review their references and get some testimonials. While many shops talk a strong game, hearing it from customers is a different story.

Each time you search for a CNC machining supplier, you may value these tips differently. See how Stecker stacks up with other potential partners you may be considering. Doing your homework now saves time and headaches down the road.

Speaking of building vendor partnerships, how do you know what projects can benefit the most from the expertise of a high-end CNC machine shop? Our guide provides scenarios and solutions, each hitting on a different challenge you may be facing.

Ready to contact Stecker now? Call 920-726-4526.

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Ken Jones

About the Author

As a Sales Account Manager, Ken works with customers from RFQ to delivery. Ken is highly involved with new customers, quotes projects, works on the sales process, and is Stecker Machine's point person on HubSpot Sales. Ken began his career in carpentry and then worked 9 years as a CNC Machine Operator. Current SMC responsibilities also include estimating (costs/cycle times for new work).

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