Custom sheet metal enclosures present unique challenges, and qualifying a custom metal fabricator for your short-list can be difficult. Here is a punch list of questions to ask your potential fabricator around three critical elements for success:
- Industry Expertise & Proven Success
- Footprint/Supply Chain Strength
- In-house Capability
Questions to ask on industry expertise & proven success
If a manufacturer has successfully fabricated a custom enclosure line in your industry, they understand common challenges and how to overcome them. Ideal custom sheet metal manufacturers know precisely where they can provide value and success because they have hands-on experience building the product. You can leverage this expertise to increase your speed to market and minimize surprises in the manufacturing process.
- Are they manufacturing the latest products on the market?
- What is their market history as a custom fabricator?
- Can they provide examples?
- What types of metal they can work with?
- Can they meet the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) standards?
- Can they meet the UL 50 standard for electrical enclosures?
- Do they hold a UL file?
- What initiatives do they take to stay ahead of the curve as a metal fabricator?
- Are they actively present at industry events?
- What is their presence with industry associations?
- How many years of engineering expertise do they have in-house?
- How many years of contract manufacturing expertise do they have in-house?
Do they have customers like yourself? (This can be in terms of industry, specific product line, products with similar requirements, etc.)
Questions to ask on supply chain strength/ footprint
Footprint and supply chain strength are critical to product success. Fabricators should be able to not only meet forecasted demand but also be flexible to support new orders, increased demand and new shipping locations. It’s also about relationships. Efficient custom enclosure manufacturers have developed a streamlined process of coordinating activities with buyers and sellers within their supply chain. The significant difference between a managed supply chain and an unstructured one is focusing emphasis on trusted relationships. This streamlined process allows for better communication, pricing and more efficient coordination.
- Do they have manufacturing facilities to match your current and future footprint?
- How close are they to your markets (physical locations – centers)?
- Are they willing to invest in supporting the supply chain growth of their customers?
- Are they ahead of industry trends around your supply chain needs, such as tariffs?
Questions to ask on in-house capability
Many fabricators can handle custom enclosures to a certain threshold before they hit their tipping point, and this can negatively impact on-time delivery, installation dates and more. Capabilities go beyond manufacturing equipment and include in-house engineering capability to ensure the quality and reliability of the product.
- Do they add value beyond meeting your price expectations?
- Are they able to accommodate different product lines and demand schedules?
- How easy is it for them to implement design changes?
- Are they able to build prototypes?
- Are they willing to collaborate with your in-house team?
- What standards do they follow? i.e., ISO Certification
- Do their quality standards align with your own?
Control of Production:
- What capabilities do they have in-house?
- Can they provide an equipment list?
- Do they have a focus on safety?
- Do they have an engineering team on staff to collaborate with manufacturing?
It’s essential to ask these questions upfront.
Starting the search for a custom enclosure fabricator can be challenging to navigate through the sea of options, and it is necessary to ask these questions upfront, as well as other non-negotiables your team has. The fabricators who fit your needs won’t be afraid to answer the tough questions.
Looking for a fabrication partner for your custom enclosure needs? See examples of how Maysteel fabricates custom enclosures and kiosks for industry-specific solutions.
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