Quality Checklist For Sourcing Custom Parts Overseas
Sometimes poor quality from a vendor isn't the vendor's fault. (Oops, we said it.)
By: Mary Iannuzzi on October 23, 2019
There are five major steps at the beginning of an outsourcing project that can make or break quality. Check out our list below for key points to communicate. Then, use our free Project Specifications Template for your own project.
A poor design will always yield a poor product. Your supplier will produce exactly what they have been told to produce via engineering drawings. They aren't likely to challenge a customer design, even if they see a problem. If your supplier does make design change suggestions, listen to their advice. They likely have a wide range of production experience and it’s worth hearing what they have to say. If you have the engineering bandwidth, run a finite element analysis on your design. Run mold flow analyses on mold design where applicable. Long story short, don’t set your supplier up for failure.
Be as detailed as possible with your designs. Imagine you’re submitting your design to a computer and that any missing or inexact detail will cause the whole program to fail. Dimension everything, then have a second set of eyes look for holes. Specify all tolerances.
If your part requires finishing and coating, specify thickness and corrosion resistance. No detail is too simple to include. If you force your supplier to decide the specifics, you’re going to get the cheapest option possible. Business is business.
This is especially true of material, as common materials can vary from country to country. There are no perfectly "equivalent" materials across designations, so you'll actually be looking at comparable materials. The Handbook of Comparative World Steel Standards is an excellent comprehensive resource for understanding this.
The process by which your part is made affects the final characteristics. Leaving this decision up to a supplier will result in your part being made via the cheapest process possible – even if the choice of production process seems obvious to you. If you want your bolts cold headed instead of machined, be sure to specify the process with your supplier and be clear that it must be made in this way.
This is a BIG rookie mistake. Invest time into creating a packaging standard that will ensure your parts don’t corrode at sea. Be careful not to over-engineer this. Packaging can get very expensive very quickly due to the material and labor involved. There is a fine line between ensuring your part is safe without upping the price. Ask your supplier for a price breakdown that includes the cost of packaging. Ask for their advice on packaging. They may have their own way to package that is just as good as your standard – and cheaper.
If you have specified all of the above to your supplier and received a quote, do it again. Many suppliers are overloaded with requests for quotes. The need to efficiently process them usually leads to a very generalized approach in the beginning. If you're happy with the price, we recommend following up to confirm all the details in writing. Try out our Project Specification Template to effectively communicate with your supplier.