You’ve found your contract manufacturer! YAY!
But that manufacturer is only as good as its weakest link. It’s up to you to know all about the companies supplying your manufacturer. It’s time for supplier evaluations, and we've got a list of questions for a supplier evaluation checklist.
Your manufacturer should send an engineer and quality manager to visit suppliers for 1 to 2 days with a comprehensive supplier evaluation checklist in hand. Maybe you want to go, too. That's fine, but remember that's why you hired a contract manufacturer. And if the suppliers are overseas, unless they are native speakers, the evaluators making the trip need to hire a translator in advance to make sure that there are no misunderstandings due to language.
Supplier Evaluation Checklist Items should include (you will probably think of more questions)
- Types of products manufactured - What do they make? How long have they been in business? What’s the reputation of their product or products?
- Key customers - Who are their customers? What do they think of the company? How long have they worked with the supplier? Have they run into problems? How were the problems solved?
- Range of manufacturing capabilities and capacity - How much can they do for you? Can they grow with you? What types of resources are they looking to add?
- Basic supplier stats - How old are the facilities and machinery? How much land do they own? Are they in a position to buy more? What is their credit rating?
- Employee demographics - How many employees do they have? What are their skill levels? What are the training procedures? What are the turnover rates? What are the employee working conditions?
- Available equipment and equipment maintenance procedures - What equipment is available and are they looking to expand lines? How old is the equipment? What are the maintenance procedures? How often are the lines down?
- Quality - What quality systems, standards or certifications are in place (ISO, UL, Six Sigma)?
- Internal policies for worker health and safety - What types of procedures/policies do they have in place to ensure workers are kept safe from injury or from long term health issues from manufacturing processes or materials?
- Communication - How well do they communicate with you? What types of systems/processes do they have in place to facilitate good, timely communication?
Using whatever format you choose, create a form with the criteria above. Assign a grade to each supplier ( 1 - 5/Poor - Excellent/A - E) to create an overall ranking.
On your form, make specific notes of red flags and get answers to those concerns. Don't move forward on that supplier until those questions are answered.
Index ALL your supplier data. Take note of each suppliers strengths (whether it's something you use now or not.) This will give you a quick database of already qualified supplier for future jobs.
IMPORTANT: Existing suppliers should be re-qualified on a regular basis. Make sure this is a standard practice of your manufacturer. Frequency of re-qualification will depend on the category of part and type of supplier, critical or non-critical.
Qualifying suppliers is an incredibly important step in the process of getting your product made. Using an comprehensive evaluation form is a tool that will help you measure and analyze each suppliers potential risk, monitor their capabilities and look for ways to improve your supply chain.