Beyond the fundamentals of supplier approval criteria set by your own organisation’s best practice and ISO accreditations, the first thing to consider is the mix of services the assembly needs.
A typical box build assembly, by its very nature, comprises of multiple services, such as procurement, project management, sheet metal manufacturing, painting, silk screening, wiring and finally, the actual assembly, testing and shipping.
So many process steps between multiple suppliers can sometimes be a long way from lean manufacturing with unnecessary waste transitioning between processes.
With this in mind, a supplier that offers all these services themselves – rather than further subcontracting – can be an excellent recipe for success and result in a solution which is greater than the sum of its parts. Importantly, it reduces the potential likelihood of issues arising from miscommunication between your subcontractor and the other companies working with them to supply a secondary process.
For example, problems with a paint finish become a potential project delay where the issue is disputed between the state of the sheet metal before it was painted, and the painting process, rather than a single organisation having oversight of both.
Likewise, keeping everything on a single site and supplier keeps the process more efficient. No time or cost is wasted on logistics and packing as parts move from one supplier to another, both providing advantages to the time it takes to deliver the complete assembly, as well as reducing costs.
The final benefit of combining services is in providing another organisation with the big picture of the whole design, allowing them to understand each element fully. Design optimisation then becomes much more effective. The vendor is able to provide advice on how best to productionise that original prototype design, not just from one point of view, but the entire set of disciplines, and how they might interact differently.
An example of this would be how a small change in sheet metal design might make it quicker, and therefore more cost-effective, to perform the related processes such as painting or assembly further down the line. This is ideal for an awkward box build assembly making the transition from the initial rough and ready prototype or proof of concept to a completely finished and productionised device.
This also has another crucial benefit – this time, for project managers; this big picture view also helps substantially derisk the transition from prototype or design to realisation. For the same reasons, understanding the interaction between processes and parts of the design helps you identify potential production issues before they occur, thus reducing the risk of delays, or additional cost down to rework, or worse yet, the complete scrappage of parts.