In my experience as the owner of a Precision Machining Business, I have found that there are several criteria when choosing a vendor for my own work.
When checking with vendors to see if they are qualified and their facility is comprehensive enough to do my work, I look for the following things:
1. Is the company hungry, yet not desperate for work? Why do I say this? Because I want to work with companies that are willing to do their best. They will be up-to-date with technology and hopefully are showing what they are capable of through social media or a blog! Being hungry means they will still have the quality and turnaround time I want and will also be somewhat competitive on price. As a Precision Machine, Tool and Die business owner I understand the difference between spending a lot of money and getting what you pay for.
2. The second thing I do is find out what the company’s capabilities and understandings are with different materials. This is very important because we work with materials from stainless steel to medical implantable plastics and hybrid materials such as nitinol. Quite simply, can they work with the materials we call for?
3. Similarly, what are their machining capabilities? It’s much more efficient for me to outsource to one company than to three, just for one project. What are their in-house and out-sourcing capabilities, so I can save on time and paperwork?
4. I also want to know if there is somebody available I can talk to with knowledge and expertise. Can I speak with a decision-maker? This saves a lot of time.
5. Does the Machine Shop/CNC Vendor have design capability, or at least the ability to open up a design and make changes to a model or red line to print? You may ask, “I do my own designs, so why is this important?” If you think that way, you're very wrong. Machinists who design, run programs such as SolidWorks, make changes to models and are capable of redlining prints, are much better machinists. They also understand the constraints and needs of both design and machining. They understand more about their trade.
6. How many times have you gone for what you thought was a good price and you ended up with parts that did not meet the print, did not conform to your assembly, or you ended up talking to a supervisor or company owner that just told you, “Well, we made it to print!”? When working with machine shops, you need to know that you're working with a company that can interpret the prints properly, and if there are questions that they will call you instead of just making what they think they need to make by the print.
7. GD&T, how important is GD&T these days? It was created to standardize design, and it works very well when it's used. We are seeing an upswell of companies that do not know how to or do not want to use GD&T. My company, Baklund R&D, uses GD&T when we build products to ensure that customers’ parts work like they want them to. I grew up with GD&T because my father, a toolmaker with fifty years in the business, was a student of Lowell Foster, who was one of the forefathers of GD&T.
As you see, there is much more to choosing a company than how clean their floors are- although this shows a great deal of the character of a CNC machining business.
Thinking from the perspective of, “Who or what does this part or job need in order to be done properly the first time?” is a great question to ask to get the job done right!
Jon Baklund, President of Baklund R&D LLC, has 26 years in Tool & Die and Machining & Design experience and 11 years of running his own company. BRD also offers consulting in the Additive Machining (3D Printing) space, for companies large and small. Jon not only keeps up on technology, he is a thought leader in the additive machining realm and sees technology, like smartphones, as a way for employees to be more efficient on the job and maintain healthy, vital relationships. He loves spending time with his wife, eating great food and riding his Ducati on the track.