Product Design & Development has compiled a list of the top 10 tips manufacturers should consider when choosing a contract manufacturer to build custom equipment.

  1. Certifications: Get a partner that has one level of certifications above what you actually need. For example, every production customer should demand ISO 13485 for its traceability aspects if you are not a medical company.
  2. Test Capability: Don’t just look for the ability to perform tests, but the ability to design and produce custom test solutions for your product.
  3. Customer Service Matters: Find a contract manufacturing (CM) facility that gives you a constant point of contact, other than the owner or a salesperson.
  4. Vendor Technology: Find a vendor with a technology road map that is ahead of your own.
  5. Don’t Be a Little Fish in a Big Pond: Pick a CM that fits your needs. Put extreme high volume with a Tier 1; put the lower volumes with a Tier 2 or 3, depending on your comfort level — even if you are a big OEM.
  6. Make Sure Good Data Systems Are in Place: Not just for redundancy, but systems that protect your IP.
  7. Established Quality: The CM should have an established quality system, with a 12-month track record, or longer. 
  8. Financial Stability: Make sure the CM will be in business for the long run. A key indicator is reinvestment in the latest equipment and technology. Find the door if all you see is newly acquired, used equipment.
  9. Employee Relations: Pick a facility that focuses on employee growth and benefits that create long tenures. Little perks matter (i.e. sport tickets), but some CMs will hire and terminate based on demands. In such cases, training will be suspect.
  10. Good Industry Mix: Make sure the CM isn’t focused on one industry. This could cause issues if that industry hits hard times. Telecom, for example, or more recently automotive.