When a project requires complex machined parts from an outside supplier, predictable and repeatable results are essential. When tolerances and deadlines are tight, there's no wiggle room for error.
Sadly, mishaps can and do occur but when they happen too often something has to give. A great supplier has the capacity and capability to absorb these mishaps. But finding them can be tricky and getting it wrong can be expensive. It pays to choose wisely!
Searching the internet for great precision engineering suppliers is like wading through a pile of very similar CVs. If every engineering website you look at is saying the same things - ISO approval, years of experience, 5 axis machines - how can you choose who is the best fit for the job?
This blog post outlines nine things to look for that make filtering the engineering wheat from the chaff straightforward. And... look out for the tenth, which really could be the clincher!
Every precision engineering website you look at will talk about quality and experience, so the conundrum is how to pick who to contact?
Checking for the underlying quality...
The first and most obvious thing to look for is to check which markets the company is familiar with. This information may be available on the home page or deeper in the site, a list of sectors is a start.
Second, you need to see examples of finished complex machined parts the engineering company has manufactured. This will give you an idea of what they can produce.
Sectors like aerospace and motorsport require only the highest grade materials which need to be completely traceable. So the third thing to look for is how responsibly a company sources materials. Is this mentioned on the website?
And, of course, you want to be sure quality inspection is of the highest standard. So an indication of the quality management equipment needs to be available. This is the fourth item to tick on the list - is quality inspection mentioned?
Number five is ISO 9001 approval. Very reassuring, this means efficient methods of manufacture, project management, quality inspection and continuous improvement processes are in place.
If the websites under consideration fail to provide all five you can filter those out as failures!
Precision machined parts don't just happen
No, successful precision engineering to spec requires a marrying of the following three elements - engineering experience, equipment and software. A suitable company will have all three elements to the highest standard.
Engineering experience cannot be bought
Experience comes with time served, engineering battles won and knowledge gleaned. You need to be sure you're dealing with experts. A good engineering company will have experts on hand, available to discuss any design complications and the like.
This is the easiest way to decide if a company is up to the task - talking to them. But before that call look for the website to elaborate on their engineers' expertise or experience. Is it convincing? This is the sixth item to check for.
Not all 5 axis equipment is made equal. You will need to know that the hardware has the capability required to consistently handle complex geometry to the level required. If the equipment is cheap, it's not a good sign! So for number seven check the equipment for more than just capacity. Can it handle the complexity of the job?
It follows, that if you're checking the hardware you should likewise make sure the software is high-end too. Cheap software means compromise and under-performing CNC machines.
When your parts require sophisticated engineering, the best machine in the world will not do the job efficiently without the software and the programmer to bring the machine to life. That's number eight.
These three elements need to be in place - quality machines, top notch software and a skilled programmer. All three elements converge to get the most from the machines. If one is missing, your project will not go well!
If any of the three elements are absent from a company's website, scratch that company from your list.
One stop workshop
Finally, you want a company to be able to handle a complete project from start to finish. You really don't want to have to manage the logistics of shifting components to another location for anodising or whatever. Hassle free projects require a one stop workshop. You should insist on it!
Although not comprehensive, this is a good start for filtering out the unsuitable. If a company website has evidence of seven or more of these nine things they are worth contacting.
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The tenth, bonus filtering element...
This is a clincher. A precision engineering company with the capability to produce complex machined parts to the correct standards will most likely pass this final filter. The case study.
A great case study will provide you with an excellent idea of what it's like to work with that particular company. And, on cue, here's our motorsport case study that gives you an idea of what it's like to work with Axis Precision Engineering Ltd.