Metal fabrication services vary from company to company; some prioritize bulk production runs at a lower cost while others focus on smaller business with more options for customization. Some run the gamut in services, while others choose to specialize in only a few types of services. And then there are the relationships each forge with their customers.
Before deciding the best partner for metal fabrication services, you must look at each option from multiple angles. Below are five considerations when selecting the right metal fabrication company.
1. What are the Capabilities?
When considering capabilities in metal fabrication, you could be looking at the space itself — is it large enough to meet your business needs without the risk of problems during production? Or you could be looking at the services being offered. Here are a few common capabilities questions you should ask of any metal fabrication company you are considering working with:
- What materials does the company work with? It’s a good question, as not all manufacturers will work with the same products. For example, you want to be sure that your metal fabrication company can work with the size and thickness you prefer; likewise, you want one with capabilities of working with your specific metal type.
- What specific production services are offered? Your project might need one simple service, or it could require a whole host of production capabilities. Some key capabilities include cutting and forming, welding, fastening, assembly, installation, metal finishing (blasting or painting, for example) and single or large production runs.
- What about design? It’s one thing to take a prototype through production, but what if you require design services? Not all metal fabrication companies offer that. Ask each company you are considering whether they can work based on drawing (digital or printed), whether they can translate the drawings to shop drawings, and whether they are capable of starting from scratch without the help of an initial design provided by you.
2. What Experience Does the Company Have?
Manufacturing is an industry where experience matters. From the employees on the ground to the business itself, you must be assured that your metal fabrication company is sufficiently experienced to avoid costly mistakes.
Ask the companies you are considering about their knowledge as it relates to industry codes and regulations. Have them describe how they have fine-tuned operations over the years to be as efficient and safe as possible. Ask about similar projects they have done. And don’t be shy about seeking references from past customers. A good metal fabrication company will have plenty.
3. How Does the Company Prioritize Customer Service?
A long-term relationship with a metal fabrication company largely comes down to customer service. After all, you don’t want to do business with a company that fails to recognize your unique business needs or is unwilling to budge on details important to you.
4. How Does the Price Compare with Other Companies, and What Are You Paying For?
Get price quotes from each, but don’t necessarily compare apples to apples. There’s a reason for price discrepancies, and sometimes that works in your favor. For example, one company might use a higher quality metal or more precise cutting tools – meaning you can expect fewer costly mistakes in the long term. Some are priced higher because they are smaller shops that offer more customized services. While bulk can be cheaper, it might not be right for your specific project. Location can also negate the cost savings of a cheaper company, which leads to the next question you should ask.
5. Is the Facility Location Convenient for You, and Does it Make Sense for Business?
Business location is extremely relevant, especially in the manufacturing industry today. Whereas centrally located industrial hubs would have sufficed in previous decades, fuel costs, proximity to customers and control over the product itself are increasingly important for doing good business. That has resulted in manufacturing “clusters” found throughout the country. Whether you prefer a metal fabrication company that is near your own facility or close to your customers, be sure to crunch the numbers and make sure the company’s location makes the most business sense for you.
Tom Bonine is president of National Metal Fabricators Custom Metal Fabrication Services. The Chicago area firm, established in 1944, offers custom fabrication, angle rings, welding, and bar milling services.