Finding a good supplier for your engineering business can be difficult and there are many things to consider when looking at potential candidates.
Keep reading to learn some of the most important aspects of finding a supplier that can help succeed in various engineering businesses.
Supplier vs. Manufacturer
Some people may be confused by the terms “supplier” and “manufacturer” when they look at options online or when taking advice from other successful business people in the market.
When people refer to suppliers, they might be referring to any company or business that can provide you with products to build an inventory. This definition would include more terms that are often thrown around within the supply chain space: wholesalers and distributors.
Not all of the products that you can purchase from a supplier may be of your design, however. A supplier that can produce your novel product idea would be known as a manufacturer.
Where To Find Suppliers for Engineering Businesses
Researching suppliers for your engineering business doesn’t have to be complex or difficult now that many companies perform some aspect of their marketing or outreach online. That being said, there are some differences that you should be aware of when browsing through online directories and marketplaces for supplying services.
You should first consider whether or not you want your products and merchandise to be made domestically in the USA or overseas in foreign countries, and there are benefits to be had for both.
Domestic sources and suppliers will have higher manufacturing costs because of the superior quality of the manufacturing and labor standards that have been set out for the industry.
Because the majority of your orders may be from the US, you and your customers would experience faster shipping times. There is also a great deal of marketing appeal for products that are made within the US and North America at large.
No language barrier between yourself and the supplier means that you would be able to find reputable manufacturers more easily as well.
You might not be able to find a supplier that can produce your designs though because many products simply aren’t made in North America anymore. Highly specialized items may only come from companies like fasteners suppliers which can limit what suppliers you can work with domestically.
Many businesses like to outsource their production to suppliers from overseas because the manufacturing costs are usually much lower. There are also a wider variety of specialized suppliers for your engineering business and just a greater number of suppliers to choose from in general.
However, many end-consumers perceive products that are made overseas to be cheap and of low quality (especially when made in China). There are many other hurdles including communication barriers and difficulty in verifying if a supplier is reputable or not that might not make it worth your while.
The solution to many engineering businesses and, indeed, other businesses, in general, is to have at least one supplier domestically and internationally. The majority of stock is supplied by the overseas branch of the supply chain, but if there is some issue at the production house, you can fall back on the domestic supplier to help meet the demand for products.
Websites like Alibaba can connect you to overseas suppliers, while something like ThomasNet provides a domestic directory for your perusal.
Questions To Ask Potential Suppliers
When you’ve narrowed down where you want your products to come from, there are some key questions to ask any supplier before conducting business with them. If they are reputable and trustworthy, a supplier should have no problem disclosing the information in the below questions.
Can The Supplier Make What You Need?
Like in our discussion of domestic vs. overseas manufacturing, you need to ensure that the supplier can manufacture your product design. If they don’t have the resources to do so, you shouldn’t compromise your vision for your product.
Is There A Minimum Order?
Large minimum orders are relatively common practices for suppliers which can be a risky investment, especially for new, small engineering businesses that may not be able to use or sell that much product early on.
How Much Quality Control Do You Need?
Having higher quality control is always nice, but it isn’t necessary for many consumers of the product. Don’t pay for a higher quality than you need for your purposes.
Will You Have Design Support?
Your product idea may be slightly flawed in its original design, especially if you’re not a manufacturing expert. A good supplier may offer expert feedback on how manufacturable your product is for the machinery that the supplier has.