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What Makes a Good Subcontract Engineering Supplier?

Sarah Venning

When it comes to purchasing subcontract engineering services, every manufacturing buyer knows that it can prove to be a bit of a minefield. Many purchasers are left uneasy by the thought of using a new supplier to complete work for them, simply due to the fact that their service levels and standards are not yet known. Due to increases in demand or a PSL review, it is sometimes necessary to source outside of your regular vendors, leaving many buyers scratching their heads as to who to select.

Although placing an order with a new supplier is always – to an extent – a leap of faith, there are certain factors that you should bear in mind when putting a job out to quote. By taking into account the considerations outlined below, you can ensure that you don’t get stung by substandard quality and reliability.

Buy Competitively – Not Cheaply!

As the old saying goes, if you buy cheap, you buy twice – this is still true when it comes to the purchase of subcontract engineering services. Some suppliers will undercut everyone else in order to win the work, but the price they are quoting is unsustainable for repeat orders over a long-term period. Therefore, by choosing a supplier who has quoted significantly cheaper than the rest, you may find the price increasing over time, which ultimately results in you having to invest your faith in yet another new supplier when the cost becomes more than you are willing to pay.

You also have to question how a supplier is able to offer such a cheap price. Usually, there are sacrifices to be made in terms of quality and reliability, which will cause you more headaches in the long-run. Instead of opting for the cheapest quote you receive, a better strategy is to focus on those that are competitive, but realistic. This way, you can safeguard yourself against future price increases, while also resting assured that the end product will be up to scratch from a quality perspective.

Attention to Detail Speaks Volumes:

Whilst an engineering supplier who asks questions is great, as they're demonstrating a genuine interest in your project, be wary of those who ask for information that you have already supplied them. This should ring alarm bells as it demonstrates that the supplier has not properly reviewed the project, which may lead to mistakes or defects in the end product at a later stage.

By taking the time to speak with suppliers at the quotation stage of the project, you can easily assess which ones have thoroughly evaluated the suitability of your work for their in-house capabilities. This will save you potential problems further down the line – especially in relation to quality and reliability issues.

Honesty Is the Best Policy:

Mistakes and hold-ups in delivery are sometimes unavoidable, even with the very best of suppliers. Circumstances such as machinery breakdowns and staff sickness can render agreed timeframes unachievable, which can lead to late deliveries and delays. However, a good engineering supplier will not bury their head in the sand when these situations arise. Instead, they will keep you informed about the situation as soon as they possibly can, to allow you to make contingencies and explore back-up options.

Although every supplier will encounter unforeseen circumstances during the lifetime of their business, the best ones will do everything they can to remedy the problem and get your products to you as close to the agreed deadline as possible. Honesty and willingness to fix the problem is a sign of a customer-centric supplier whom you can rely on – that being said, those who consistently agree to timeframes, only to later let you down, are probably best avoided.

Good Communication is Essential:

A good supplier will keep you updated at every stage of the project, from order confirmation through to the dispatch of your products. Although this is never a guarantee, you can get a gauge of how good a supplier’s communication skills are right from the point of quote. If a supplier has emailed you a scribbled quotation containing not much more than a price – and certainly no introduction to their company – then this is rarely the calling card of a supplier who understands the importance of clear communication. Instead, those who have clearly laid out and itemised their quotations are far more likely to value long-term business and do all they can to keep you as a customer. This includes going above and beyond to reassure you at every stage of the project, not to mention communicating honestly with you if unforeseen circumstances should arise.

However, communication is a two-way street and it’s crucial that you make yourself available to potential suppliers throughout your project. Dodging telephone calls and ignoring emails will only come back to bite you later – at the end of the day, a supplier can only work with the information you’ve given them and nothing more.

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What do you think makes a good supplier and how do you assess this prior to order placement? Let us know your thoughts below!

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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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