Five Essential Traits of a Strong Supply Chain Partner

It’s 2022, and supply chains are still a mess. From delays in materials, to disruptions in logistics, to severe shortages in skilled workers, no market seems immune. No wonder 88 percent of respondents listed supply chain as their number-one issue, according to a first-quarter survey by the National Association of Manufacturers.

Where do we go from here? To help you build the supply chain you need to thrive – no matter what comes next – look for these five essential traits in your supply chain partners.

1. Agility

Consumer demand and end user preferences can be unpredictable – even without a pandemic or a catastrophic weather event to throw things for a loop. Supply chain partners must be able to manage and adapt to the unexpected by:

Having a strong grasp of historical demand and forecast data for your part to anticipate and plan for future volumes.

Managing capacity to be able to handle an upswing in volume.

Optimizing efficiency to avoid cost penalties for increased inventory turns.

Leveraging deep expertise in managing the ups and downs effectively.

2. Engineering and Design Expertise

For sophisticated, complex parts, you need a partner that can add value by driving new and better ways to design and mold your parts. Does your partner have experience in Design for Manufacturability (DFM)? Do they apply that knowledge to think differently about your challenges? This thinking can ultimately lead to better designs, less labor, better material selection, shorter cycle times, reduced costs, faster time to market and more.

Redesigning for Efficiency, Quality and Cost Savings

A customer brought us a housing with three separately molded and assembled parts. Leveraging moldflow and warp analysis, engineering and material know-how, and our proven processes, we designed a new tool that consolidated three parts into one. This reduced molding and manufacturing time and tooling expenditures and eliminated the potential failure modes in the assembly process.

3. A Penchant to Invest

Financial investments are important, but they must be coupled with investments in time and talent to support your program over the long term. That might mean making the extra effort to identify and customize the right equipment to optimize part quality, or dispatching project engineers to set up camp at your facility to ensure your project launches smoothly. Look for partners who embrace the opportunity to make critical investments that drive your success.

4. Bandwidth

Bandwidth. Capacity. Room to grow. However they say it, your suppliers have to be ready to ramp up and scale production as necessary. Better yet, look for a partner who also has redundant manufacturing facilities. This can reduce your risk and ensure capacity is readily available for your program as it evolves.

But bandwidth goes beyond the number of machines or the available floor space. It involves refined processes and experience with key manufacturing competencies that enable a supplier to adapt quickly (see Agility above) and manage volatility in production.

5. Proven Expertise

When it comes down to it, nothing beats experience. Especially when that experience spans a wide range of niche competencies that provide real value. Look for proven experience and processes in key areas, such as manufacturing launch or operational excellence in production of existing programs. From start to finish, the supply chain partners who have nailed these challenges before are more likely to help you long term.

Understanding What’s at Stake

With all the upheaval in supply chains today, choosing a contract manufacturing partner to launch new products or transfer tools is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Seeking these five traits will help you make the right call.

Stay tuned for our next article on the considerations for finding excellent domestic sources of supply to build your local supply chain.

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With roots in highly-engineered, complex manufacturing and a continuous Lean journey, Beacon Engineered Solutions is determined to be your first-choice manufacturing partner. We leverage decades of proven processes to master manufacturing complexities and deliver excellent results for your precision components.