Most of you probably have a handful of preferred fabricators that you use to cut your gaskets. What happens if you need to look for another fabricator for any reason? Do you know what questions should be asked to ensure you are finding the best fit for you?
If your fabricator and gasket material supplier aren’t one in the same, the gasket material supplier that you work with should be able to suggest fabricators that may meet your needs (we work with a lot of them). As a material supplier, we can point you in the right direction depending on what is important to you…geography, capabilities, etc.
However, if you want to do some of your own homework, we thought we’d put together a short list of some of the questions that should be asked when you’re looking for a new fabricator. We’ve seen and heard it all – and are here to give you the rundown.
What You Should Know
As you’re vetting new suppliers, in addition to all of the typical “new supplier” questions you will ask, you will want to at least consider asking some of these questions (if you didn’t plan to already).
1. What are your preferred cutting methods?
Asking this is a good way to gauge what type(s) of fabricating methods they use. Maybe you know the material you use only works best when it is cut with a laser…and maybe in their response they mention they avoid using their laser as much as possible….but maybe if you flat out asked if they do laser cutting they would have said ‘yes’. However, if it isn’t a strong suit of theirs you may not be happy with the results.
2. What types of materials have you worked with in the past?
This is going to give you a feel for the variety of materials that they are familiar with. The reason this is important is two-fold: 1) your material is either going to be one they physically work with a lot or it isn’t (which may give you pause) and 2) how much materials experience they have is either going to help you or hinder you in the future when you are working with new applications or have issues with your current material.
3. How large is your material suppliers network?
If the potential fabricator doesn’t make their own material and doesn’t have a large knowledge base in regards to #2, that might be ok. If they have a good network of material suppliers to lean on, you can be rest assured that the resources are out there. If you are needing to explore new materials for any reason, find out who these suppliers are and get in contact with them.
4. If I need technical support for a material, who can help me?
This is a question that should be very important to you, and is an extension of #3. If the fabricator is not the materials manufacturer, you need to know who is the person that you need to be calling. If it isn’t clear who is going to be able to answer your technical questions or help you troubleshoot, maybe you should keep looking.
5. Is my material a stocked item for you?
This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker if it isn’t, but you want to get a feel for how easily you’ll be able to get your hands on more material. If it isn’t stocked, you’ll definitely want to know how long the lead time is for the fabricator to get more (whether they manufacture it or buy it from a materials supplier). This may affect your buying habits.
6. Do you work with other OEMs that are in the same industry as me?
This also isn’t the end of the world if the answer is no, but getting a feel for how familiar they are with your industry may be a good thing. Whether it is volatility and change, or requirements and expectations, knowing up front if a fabricator is prepared for all of the curve balls you might throw at them may aid you in making your decision.
Making Your Decision
There are a lot of other things to consider when deciding on a new fabricator, but you’ll definitely want to consider asking some of these questions as well. We work directly with a lot of OEM engineering teams and since we don’t cut gaskets, we know the importance of selecting a fabricator that can do the job right AND still having the ability to talk to someone about specific materials.