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You hear it all the time from fabricators: engineers have a habit of designing for ideals without taking the required processes into account. In these scenarios, not only does the engineer risk limiting the number of fabricators who will take the job due to its complexity, but they also miss out on the opportunity to use a fabricator’s wisdom to optimize a part. Understanding that most fabricators have a wealth of knowledge at their disposal can help engineers simplify the part, reduce costs, and result in better quality.
While there are some situations where a complex design is necessary, keeping the fabrication of the part in mind during the initial design stages will prevent the possible need for redesign. Below find three tips on ensuring that a partnership with fabricators is successful:
- Ask for insight. Most fabricators are more than happy to work with a customer on a design, especially if it saves them headaches in the future. By discussing the intended purpose of each part, engineers can clearly dictate which tolerances are important to hold and which ones can perhaps be relaxed. As mentioned earlier, this collaboration also allows the fabricator to give suggestions on possible ways to improve the part or reduce cost. By developing a strong relationship with a fabricator, one may also be prompted to potential issues with the part function, whereas a fabricator whom you’re not familiar with may just make the part to the specifications noted. This is especially helpful when working on new product development where small issues may be overlooked when the focus is on other parts in the assembly.
- Know their capabilities. Knowledge of a fabricators in-house capabilities can also be very beneficial when designing a part. While many machine shops can produce the same part, how they may reach the completion of that part could be very different and thus have different cost and lead time implications. Being aware of the machinery at their disposal will also help to identify what processes they may need to outsource as well (e.g. finishing, welding). The more a fabricator can keep in-house, the better, as it eliminates potential for quality issues and keeps lines of communication more concise. By understanding how all these variables effect a fabricator, one can have a more comprehensive understanding of what is going into the part being designed.
- Understand their experience. Manufacturing is an industry where experience matters. A reputable custom metal fabrication shop won’t hesitate to show you the credentials of its engineers, designers and fabricators, nor will it shy away from providing references from satisfied customers. Not only do you need to know how long the company has been in the metal fabrication business, but you also want to know what types of projects they have done in the past. Some metal fabricators specialize in specific types of building, or only work on projects of a certain size. Their experience with past projects similar to yours is highly important. A well-established record may be the best reason of all to choose a particular shop.
Choosing a custom metal fabrication facility is an important decision that can deeply affect the level of your production quality and the overall rate of your manufacturing process. Before deciding the best partner for metal fabrication services, you must look at each option from multiple angles. Asking the right questions up front will help you narrow down your search and make the most of the newfound partnership.