3 minute read • published in partnership with Universal Wolf
Insight: 5 questions to ask when choosing a sheet metal fabrication supplier
Finding the right companies to partner with is a critical step in securing your supply chain and setting your business up for the future. Having a sheet metal fabrication partner who is able and willing to scale with you as your business grows can help to smooth the transition when demand for your product increases. Craig Brown from Universal Wolf suggests asking these 5 questions when looking for a sheet metal fabrication supplier.
What experience do they have with your kind of project?
Experience with products or companies similar to your own is a good indication that a sheet metal fabricator will be able to meet your requirements. Look at their website, read their case studies, ask about previous work. For example, were a potential customer to review Universal Wolf’s portfolio, they would see that we have experience working with customers from a range of sectors on complex metalwork builds, from industrial machinery and compressors to refuse vehicles – each of which has their own specific technical requirements.
Are they able to handle the type, grade, and gauge of metal your project needs?
Sheet metal fabrication is not a ‘one size fits all’ discipline. There are many different types and grades of metal, each of which will react in a slightly different way when cut, fabricated, or welded. For example, there is a lot of movement in aluminium, and it has to be controlled and predicted when you’re fabricating it – particularly when welding. If your product features different types of metal, make sure you talk with your prospective supplier about their experience working with that specific material, and the skills and machinery that will support it.
What is the optimum machinery for your project, and do they have this facility?
While you may not have an in-depth working knowledge of the various different machines to be found on a sheet metal manufacturing site, your supplier should be able to review your drawings, advise the most appropriate method of manufacture and explain why. They could also offer design for manufacturing guidance to ensure that your product design is optimised for scalable manufacture.
Are they willing to scale with you and deliver the volumes required to meet increased demand?
Many customers we work with cite a lack of appetite to grow with their business as a key driver in leaving their incumbent metalwork supplier. Partnering with a sheet metal fabricator who is unwilling to ramp up their supply as demand for your product increases risks stifling your growth, generating supply chain issues and creating headaches further down the line. Choose a partner whose ambition to grow is in their DNA, and who will support you as product demand increases.
How much of your product can they produce in-house, and how much would be outsourced to an external supply chain?
How many times has a supply chain faltered because a fabricator was dependent on other third parties, who in turn let them down? Each time a product leaves site, it creates another element of risk and another opportunity for it to be damaged or incorrectly handled in transit. It also adds to turnaround time.
Partnering with suppliers who can undertake key metalwork processes in-house wherever possible not only helps to mitigate quality issues and reduce reworks; it also significantly reduces lead times for the finished product being returned to you.
Universal Wolf is proud to offer full-service metalwork capabilities, from design for manufacturing and new product introduction to painting, welding and fabrication and assembly.