How to Select the Right Small Batch Contract Manufacturer

Posted by Bruce Hendrick on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 @ 09:11 AM

Let's face it - finding a reliable contract manufacturer to handle your small batch orders can be a real challenge. Not only do you need to hire a company with the specific skill sets required to handle your work, but you also need a business that will act as a true partner, paying careful attention to your needs. How can you find the perfect contract manufacturing company? In order to make the best decision, here's a look at eight key things that you should consider when contracting with a third party manufacturer.

1. Batch Sizes

Unless your average order size is 1000+ units, it's in your best interest to seek out a contract manufacturer that specializes in small batches. Whether you need 5 pieces, 50 pieces or 400 pieces, these types of companies are tailored to handle these smaller orders even if you aren't sure of the exact batch you'll require. 

2. Flexibility

In the event that unexpected changes arise, you need to be sure that your contract manufacturing company is prepared to "go with the flow." Look for a manufacturer that has the ability to be flexible with its equipment and policies so that your order doesn't come to a screeching halt when something unplanned comes up.

3. Services Offered

Although it may sound obvious, it's important to take the time to verify that your contract manufacturer will actually offer the services that you need. Consider whether you need a manufacturer with expertise in a few focused areas who will outsource the remainder of the work, or a company that will handle the entire project in-house.

4. Minimum Orders

You'll find that some contract manufacturers require a minimum order size. If you learn that the majority of your orders will not meet those requirements, you'd be best served by seeking out a small batch shop that will provide you with options for ordering just a few pieces. 

5. Industry Focus

Find out which industries your manufacturer puts their focus on. While some larger companies may focus on just one or two industries, many small batch manufacturers are happy to process small volume orders for all industries.

6. Speed & Scheduling

It's important to find out how your prospective contract manufacturer handles scheduling. Clearly, the majority of manufacturers will give top priority to the largest batch orders. This means that if your orders are consistently small, you may not get a very fast turn-around on your boards or assemblies. In this case, it's a good idea to give your business to a manufacturer that puts an emphasis on small batch orders. When all jobs are sized similarly, you get your products much more quickly. 

7. Problem Solving Capabilities

Find a contract manufacturer that has a thorough understanding of the unique challenges of small batch work, and has a plan for addressing them. Your partner should always be ready to change in order to accommodate the next order, while still being able to give the right amount of focus and attention to current jobs.

8. Relationship Value

Do you value having a people-focused relationship with your contract manufacturer? If so, you may want to rule out operations that focus on customers with consistently big orders, as they may find it more challenging to interact with their clients on the level that you would prefer. By working with an operation whose customers have similarly small orders, there is a much stronger chance that both you and your project will be given the attention that you desire and deserve.

By taking the time to carefully consider all of these important eight factors, you'll find that you're prepared to hire a great contract manufacturer with confidence and ease. 

Circuit Board Manufacturing Partner Checklist

Topics: Small Batch Electronics, Contract Manufacturing