Five Things Manufacturers Should Consider When Selecting a Contract Manufacturer

By John Sicard, Vice President of Professional Services, Webplan Corp.

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Five Things Manufacturers Should Consider When Selecting a Contract Manufacturer

When considering the outsourcing of your manufacturing, it’s important to understand the full impact of that decision. It’s equally important to conduct detailed due diligence of the potential contract manufacturing (CM) partner in order to ensure that you’ll experience the full benefits of outsourcing without sacrificing your own customer relationships.

Here are five things OEMs should focus on:

1. Don’t sacrifice visibility and control

It is important to understand you lose a level of visibility to what is happening on the factory floor when you outsource. It’s important to choose a contract manufacturing partner that offers a “glass plant” service to provide you with the ability to see an up-to-the minute view of your order status. It is highly unlikely that your CM uses the same IT infrastructure that you do, so requesting a demonstration of its capabilities in this area is an important requirement.

2. Proactively manage inventory liability

In most cases, outsourcing to a contract manufacturing partner doesn’t relieve you of the financial responsibility for the inventory that your partner acquires on your behalf. Look for a CM that can provide timely updates on your inventory liability position and who deploys best practices for optimizing available inventory across all of the sites that build your products. Ask for examples of its ability to collaborate between sites.

3. Measure the ability to respond to change

Your contract manufacturing partner’s ability to respond rapidly to your requested changes is a critical factor in ensuring that you have the ability to be responsive to your customers. Why? Despite the fact that a delay or a disruption is technically out of your control, your customer holds you accountable. Even when the disruption stems from customer-requested changes to an order or delivery date, their expectations for swift action and rapid delivery remain. Delivery performance is critical.

4. Check the ability to introduce new products

The window of opportunity for introducing new products to market can close rapidly, especially in the electronics industry. The speed at which Apple’s competitors were able to produce a device that mimicked the iPod was extraordinary. When that collides with the incumbent’s inability to meet demand, the lost opportunity that represents can be fatal. To ensure that your contract manufacturing partner is prepared for new product introductions (NPI), ask the executives to cite cases of how they’ve rapidly and successfully ramped up their factories to respond to these engineering changes and NPIs for other customers.

5. Map their geographic presence

Whether your business has a global footprint or specific geographic reach, inquire whether your CM has a plant in, or as close as possible to, those regions. It just may be that you’ll save time and money and be speedier to market if your goods are being produced in the market they are ultimately destined for.

The best test is to simply ask the potential contract manufacturing partner to describe to you its core competency in response management. If it includes references to the five key capabilities listed here, chances are, you’ll be in good hands.

Webplan produces software that fills the reality gap between planning and execution for rapid response manufacturing.

About the Author: Ben Trowbridge is an accomplished Outsourcing Consultant with extensive experience in outsourcing and managed services. As a former EY Partner and CEO of Alsbridge, he built successful practices in Transformational Outsourcing, Managed services provider, strategic sourcing, BPO, Cybersecurity Managed Services, and IT Outsourcing. Throughout his career, Ben has advised a broad range of clients on outsourcing and global business services strategy and transactions. As the current CEO of the Outsourcing Center, he provides invaluable insights and guidance to buyers and managed services executives. Contact him at [email protected].

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