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Need Something More From Your Stamping Vendor? Why Partnering With a Strategic Supplier Makes Sense

November 21, 2019

In this age of tightening budgets, purchasers are tasked with sourcing parts economically, and designers and engineers know parts must be cost-effective to manufacture. It’s tempting to think of a stamper merely as a vendor or supplier of materials. After all, if the part meets specification and budget requirements, surely that’s good enough. You might even save money on production.

But if you think of your parts as the outcome of a thoughtful design and manufacturing process, you’ll probably get even better results. That’s because by developing a good working relationship with your stamper you can save money and get added value for your investment. Read on to see how.

The Total Cost of Acquisition

When you need custom stamped components, you expect the vendor/supplier to provide components that meet your specs and timeline and ideally save you some money. It’s easy to approach your parts the way you might source materials and consumables used in production (e.g. metal coil, compressed air, hydraulic oil). You need an item and the supplier provides it, end of story.

Take this timeless example of custom die manufacturing from Stamping Journal. “Material often is specified using an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) number that allows for major variation in the coil material. Although the average mechanical property may work in the dies, material on the low end of the spec may cause failures.” If your supplier uses materials across the range of acceptable specified values, are you always getting the higher end of that range, or the lower end? In other words, is the raw material of consistent quality (which makes a consistent end product) or does it fluctuate?

If you focus only on price and timing you could be settling for good enough quality. That might save money upfront, but will you end up incurring extra costs downstream such as:

  • parts needing to be reworked
  • failure rate of finished parts or assemblies (and risk of later recall)
  • missed opportunities to alter the design and save money on manufacturing time, die/tool life, materials consumed

Like other types of custom manufacturing, stamping is about business relationships, but it’s far too easy to adopt a commodity mindset without considering your goals for the component in question, it’s use in the marketplace and the bigger picture of your business.

Quality is always a top concern, but automatically choosing the lowest bid or fastest turnaround time ignores the total cost of acquisition, which is impacted by several factors:

  • prototyping
  • die manufacturing (especially in-house vs. outsourced)
  • manufacturability of the part
  • materials specified
  • design tweaks that minimize defects and scrap
  • cleaning, packaging, and delivery schedules

What if the procurement team is sold on the value of collaboration and strategic supply but the designers and engineers are hesitant? They’re intimately familiar with the design intent component and might resist “outside” revisions or adjustments. Doesn’t the design team know best?

Trusting your stamper is critical and pushes some outside their comfort zone to be sure. “If [your] engineering team is convinced it has the best possible design, or it feels threatened by design suggestions, collaboration is destined to fail. Collaboration must be viewed as a healthy process that benefits everyone involved. It requires cooperation, discovery, and openness to new and better ideas,” according to Stamping Journal.

The skeptical should ask questions and review examples of past successful collaboration. A strategic supplier should have the expertise to fully understand what you want to achieve and have an investment in your success. A stamper’s experience with things like die construction, design for manufacturability (DFM), and real-world tolerancing ensure parts are designed with the big picture in mind.

Adding Value and Creating Partnership

Partnership with a strategic supplier includes value-added services and capabilities that impact the part in question and your operations. Examples to look for include:

  • Vendor managed inventory (VMI) – Your stamper may be able to sync manufacturing to your production schedule, providing components “just in time” for use. It reduces the amount of inventory you must store and manage and can help you with budgeting and other capital investment.
  • Custom, in-house die manufacturing as opposed to outsourcing tool and die-making to a third party. Your stamper’s understanding of design drawings and design intent means they can create tooling for optimal real-world production.
  • Purchasing agreements and long-term contracts for fixed pricing on materials and scheduled production promote predictability and stability and your own reputation as a reliable supplier.
  • Service level agreements that outline requirements and responsibilities keep both parties accountable. They also promote transparency by defining roles and expectations.
  • Thoughtful review and design of packaging help maintain part integrity after it leaves the stamper’s facility (e.g. cleanliness standards, readiness at the point of use for assembly).

These value-added capabilities are what make end-to-end stamping production truly strategic and mutually beneficial. You gain optimal-quality parts in assembly-ready condition when you need them. The stamper benefits by knowing how much raw material to order, and when to order it so savings are passed along to you. Understanding your timing requirements also allows them to schedule their own production workflows to your (and other clients’) advantage.

Value Builds on Value

If you are a supplier to customers of your own, such as automotive OEMs or medical device companies, you know that the quality of individual components (or lack thereof) has a ripple effect. Acquiring quality products from your stamping partner efficiently is critical for you to supply quality assemblies and finished products in turn. A stamped part isn’t just a commodity that meets the minimum requirements. It’s all interconnected and we can help.

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