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Common Mistakes Buyers Make When Sourcing Subcontract Suppliers

Sarah Venning

We all know that sourcing for subcontract engineering suppliers can be difficult, especially if you’re speaking to suppliers you’ve never worked with before. Placing orders with previously unknown subcontract businesses can feel like a leap of faith, leaving you unsure as to the quality of service you will receive.

However, many manufacturing buyers unwittingly fail to give their project the best chance of success. Here are the five most common mistakes buyers make when sourcing subcontract engineering suppliers:


Setting Unrealistic Timescales:

You should expect to pay a higher rate for a fast turnaround.

While unforeseen circumstances sometimes occur that mean you have to source a supplier quickly, buyers should always try to give suppliers as much time as possible to respond and deliver the goods. Realistic timescales can vary depending on the time of the year, the required batch size and the number of different designs needed, but ultimately, three to four weeks is a good benchmark to aim for as a minimum.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that you should expect to pay a higher rate for a fast turnaround. Therefore, you can potentially save money by sourcing as far in advance as possible.

Read: Non-Disclosure Agreements: A Guide For Buyers


Focusing On Price:

A cheap price does not always mean a good supplier.

A cheap price does not always mean a good supplier, which is why you should consider the bigger picture before placing an order. Sometimes, a more expensive supplier may be able to offer additional value-adds that will make their service more appealing than a cheaper option; for instance, a KAN-BAN system may be advantageous if you’re working on a high-volume project, while accreditations might prove to be beneficial if the parts are going into a specific industry.

There’s also the old adage that says if you buy cheap, you buy twice. Quality issues surrounding low-cost components can bring about more headaches than the price saving is worth. That’s not to say that every ‘cheap’ supplier will provide substandard parts - they may have low overheads that enable them to pass cost savings onto their clients. This is why it’s so important to communicate with would-be suppliers prior to committing your business.

Read: What Makes a Good Subcontract Engineering Supplier?


Providing Unsuitable Drawings:

 It’s really important that you double-check that all of the required information is included.

The quality of the drawings you provide for a project cannot be understated, due to the fact that this is what the suppliers will use to provide you with an accurate quotation. Therefore, it’s really important that you double-check that all of the required information is included. Remember, your drawing will need to show measurements for all three dimensions - even if your design is a flat component, the material thickness will still need to be indicated. It’s also vital that your drawing contains information relating to the material grade, as well as tolerances and required finishes.

Another common mistake that buyers make is to provide the drawing in a format that is unsuitable for the process. For instance, laser cutting suppliers tend to work with DXF files and therefore, PDF drawings may not be compatible. It’s worth finding out whether your suppliers favour a particular file format and doing your best to accommodate their preferences.

One final point - if you’re drawing up the component by hand, then the use of a ruler will always result in a more professional drawing that will make suppliers take you seriously!

Read: Qimtek Engineering Reviews - Buy & Supply With Confidence


Being Unclear on Details:

A supplier can only work with the information you give them.

A supplier can only work with the information you give them, which is why it’s so crucial to ensure that you have all of the necessary information before putting a project out to quote. If you’re using Qimtek’s sourcing service, then your sourcing advisor will run through a list of questions with you - this is so that all of the required information is included on the project, thus preventing multiple suppliers from contacting you with the same questions! Remember, you can change the project details even after it has gone live - just let your sourcing advisor know, so that they can message interested suppliers with any updates.

We will also ask you for your approximate annual spend on subcontract engineering processes. Although not essential, this information allows us to pair you with suppliers who are best-suited to working with a company of your size - we’re not just being nosey!

Read: Sourcing Subcontract Engineering Suppliers As a Startup Business


Communicating Via Email Only:

An actual conversation with your suppliers will give you the best chance to assess their suitability for the work.

Many buyers will only communicate with potential suppliers through email only, which can lead to problems in the business relationship further down the line. While we appreciate that busy schedules make it difficult to accept phone calls, an actual conversation with your suppliers will give you the best chance to assess their suitability for the work in question, as well as your business. After all, nobody wants to work with someone whom they don’t get along with personally, especially if you’re looking to partner with a supplier on a long-term project.

It’s also worth noting that communicating exclusively by email can prove especially problematic if your project is of an urgent nature. The time it takes for emails to be typed and responded to is far longer than collecting all of the required information during a five minute telephone conversation. If you’re sourcing for an urgent project and you’re unavailable or out of the office, then it’s best to provide an alternative contact whom suppliers can speak to in your absence.

Read: Five Easy Ways To Get More Quotes


If you're looking to source a new subcontract engineering supplier, then why not try Qimtek's professional sourcing service? It's free to use and will put you in touch with suppliers who have the capabilities needed to undertake your project!

Click here to use Qimtek's Drag, Drop, Source! service

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About Sarah Venning

Sarah is a sales & marketing content writer, with six years of experience within the engineering & manufacturing industry.  Working both at Qimtek and on a freelance basis, she can usually be found hammering away at a keyboard or with her head in a pile of engineering drawings. 

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