5 Steps to Qualify a Machining Vendor

Finding the right machining vendor is one of the most critical steps in getting a custom part or piece machined. However, qualifying a vendor, or finding the best vendor for your job can be a challenge if you’re unfamiliar with precision machining or you aren’t sure what to look for. Choosing the right machining vendor can make or break your machining project. Here we look at 5 steps to help you qualify a machining vendor and make the right choice for your project.

1. FIND OUT CAPABILITIES

Every machining vendor has capabilities that define what they can do regarding making a part, and what materials they can work with. This information is some of the most important for qualifying a machining vendor, as it allows you to understand what a machining provider can do and whether they can fit the requirements for your project.

The capabilities of a precision machining vendor refer to what machinery is used to produce results, the tolerances a machining vendor can work too, the dimensions, capacity and shapes of parts that can be created, and the materials that can be worked with.

It’s more efficient for you to work with a machining vendor that has experience working directly with your required materials, and that can work in-house to produce the parts at the tolerances you need.

precision machine engineer2. DO THEY HAVE THE RIGHT KIND & SIZE OF EQUIPMENT TO DO THE JOB?

You want to choose a machining vendor that both has the capacity to produce the volume you need, and is available and keen to take on the work you have. A machining vendor that’s too busy might not take your project seriously and will take too long to complete your order. Vendors that are not busy or invested enough may not be up to date with the latest techniques and technologies, exerting energy to do their best for your project. You want to find a machining vendor that’s fully invested in their industry, and yet still has the time to spend quality work in your project with an efficient turnaround time.

3. DO THEY HAVE A QUALITY SYSTEM IN PLACE

To maintain the standards of tight tolerances and the finish of the parts you are having machined, it is crucial that the machining vendor has a documented Quality System in place. It allows for the tooling and training of team members to execute the Quality System consistently and accurately. A Quality System should include:

  1. 1st Article Inspections
  2. In-Process Inspections
  3. Final Inspections

If you have a massive production project, a robust Quality System that is done throughout the entire job is critical to ensure that the parts are made to spec. Especially with tight tolerances. If your project requires Graphical First Article Reports or Point Cloud Data, you will need to find a machining vendor that has a CMM (Coordinate Measuring Machine) with the ability to import solid models and inspect to the model.

Examples are:

  • ISO 9001-2008
  • ISO 13485 Medical Device
  • ISO 10423-2009 / API-6A Oil and Gas
  • ROHS
  • ITAR

 4. WHAT ARE THE SKILLS OF THE OPERATORS AND ENGINEERS?

Being an effective machining vendor means more than just having the right equipment. You want to ensure the operators and engineers at your precision machining company are knowledgeable, experienced and accessible. At some point, you may want to speak with the Operations Team about your project, and it’s important to be able to have the opportunity to communicate your needs to get the result you want.

Throughout the process of machining, you may need to make adjustments and changes to designs. Are your providers able and willing to do this? Having the training, skills, and background to work directly with designs as well as production helps to ensure you get the result you want.

5. ARE THEY WILLING TO WORK WITH YOUR NEEDS?

The lowest price, the best machinery, or the fastest turnaround time all mean nothing if the machining vendor can’t provide what you want. Offering a design and specifications is not always enough – it’s worthwhile finding out if your vendor can interpret the designs correctly and produce the exact part you require. Ask your vendor to provide sample parts or to look at ways they can work with your needs discuss your requirements and customize their offerings to suit you can be invaluable.

Talking directly with your machining vendor and asking about these four points can help you qualify the vendor and establish whether they are the right precision machining company for your project.