• November 2, 2023

Six Questions to Find the Right Contract Manufacturer for Complex Parts


Establishing a relationship with a new contract manufacturer for precision parts is no easy task. The challenge lies in moving past surface-level information to the intricacies of working together. While most RFQs have pertinent questions to get you started, evaluating communication, culture, and commitment can lead to a better-suited partnership. Ask these six questions to find the right contract manufacturer for your critical mission parts.

1) Is the contract manufacturer responsive?

You should get a sense right away if you’ll be treated as an important customer based on their responsiveness. That doesn’t mean you should expect your quotes instantly, but acknowledging your request shows they value your business. A lack of communication upfront can translate to a larger concern in the future; like when you need a mission-critical part on a time constraint, and they aren’t responding.

At JR Machine, we think of ourselves as a service company that just happens to make parts. We try to respond right away and do our best to return quotes within 24 hours whenever possible. That’s what we want from our own business partners.

2) Did the contract manufacturer ask important questions?

The RFQ process shouldn’t be a one-way street. You can evaluate a contract manufacturer’s experience based on the questions they ask. If a company you’re considering says “yes” to everything and never points out any concerns, this is a warning sign. Design for manufacturing needs to be considered. There are often problem areas in a part’s design that can impact part quality. CAD often suggests tolerances not feasible in the physical world. Discussing design for manufacturing at the beginning goes a long way to a project’s success.

Our team asks questions with an eye to the end result based on our experience with similar parts or materials to avoid complications down the road.

3) Were you offered access to experts?

Do you feel like you’re communicating in an echo chamber? At JR Machine, we’re happy to connect you with our executive experts like Tim Tumanic, Parker Tumanic, Scott Schenk, or another team member who will get you the answers you need, when you need them.

4) Were you invited to visit the facility?

Of course, you can’t visit every shop in the initial stages of an RFQ process, but there is no better way to get a sense of a company’s culture and capabilities than an in-person meeting. Touring the facility reveals additional insights into the company. Is it clean? Is it organized? Do people get along and seem to like their job, or does it seem like a place with high turnover?

5) Are there redundant machines?

RFQs often ask about a shop’s capacity, but that doesn’t provide the information you really need to know. Often the technology inside a contract manufacturer is a mix of equipment purchased over years without a strategy. A company might produce an impressive total of parts, but the machine used to make the parts has limited capacity. There may be only one machinist who knows how to operate it. What happens when that machine goes down or the machinist is not available?

At JR Machine, we only run DMG MORI equipment, and not just because we think they are the best. We have 24 identical machines in cellular layout that every person in the shop can run. If you need a part in just a few days, we always have an open cell so your part slides into our workflow and gets delivered on time.

6) Does the company have strong relationships with their suppliers?

Many industries, such as space exploration, green energy and oil & gas, require parts made from superalloys. The materials can be as difficult to source as they are to machine. Be sure to ask potential partners about the materials they stock, and what materials they can procure on short notice. We have a reliable roster of material suppliers, who value our partnership and our customers. We are in regular communication with them regarding our projected orders to prevent production bottlenecks.

Finding and establishing a relationship with a new contract manufacturer takes time, but we believe considering these six questions in your evaluation process will go a long way to find the best fit. If you have any questions about our processes, please let us know.