When selecting a supplier for stamped metal components with close tolerances and critical characteristics, there are a few key factors to consider. While important, unit cost should not be the sole deciding factor as explained below. Making a purchasing decision based solely on the stated cost can result in general dissatisfaction with a supplier’s performance, or even a catastrophic situation. The following ten factors should be considered when selecting a precision die supplier: (1) years of experience, (2) ability to design precision dies, (3) ability to build and troubleshoot precision dies, (4) process control, (5) a mold maintenance program, (6) delivery time, (7) running speed, (8) spare tooling, (9) “attention to detail”, and (10) the ability to perform secondary operations (such as plating, cleaning, etc.).
First and foremost, it is essential to select a precision metal stamping supplier that has significant experience. Be sure to take the time to understand how long a supplier has been in business and familiarize yourself with the types of components they have stamped in the past. It is important to know whether a supplier’s expertise lies in flat parts, formed parts, or both. Take the time to learn about the supplier’s experience working with difficult, intricate parts, their ability to maintain close tolerances, and their ability to perform complex bends (on formed parts).
The second and third factor to consider is whether the supplier has experience designing and building precision metal stamping dies. A supplier who can design and build precision metal stamping dies will inevitably be much better qualified to succeed in stamping your components than a supplier without these capabilities. A supplier who designs precision metal stamping dies understands the importance of having certain features and stations in a die that will result in the highest efficiency and quality during stamping. A supplier skilled in building and developing precision metal stamping dies has the added advantage of being able to solve any unplanned stamping problems.
The fourth factor to consider when selecting a supplier for precision metal stamping is the supplier’s proficiency in process control. If a supplier is ISO certified, this provides a certain assurance that control processes are in place. It is important to understand how a precision metal stamping supplier creates and works with control plans. Visiting the supplier and seeing their quality system in operation is probably the best way to assess a supplier’s attention to process control. Determining the role of the quality technician at a supplier speaks volumes in ensuring that a job will be successful. Evaluating a supplier’s investment in inspection equipment is an additional indicator of potential success.
Next, it is helpful to determine if a precision metal stamping supplier offers a die maintenance program. This results in maximum mold life and optimizes your total life cycle cost for your stamped component. A proper mold maintenance program includes inspection of molds and mold components, synchronization and adjustment of molds/presses/peripherals, proper assembly/disassembly techniques, mold component replacement schedules, etc.
Sixth, a precision metal stamping supplier’s delivery history will reveal whether or not a supplier has the right systems in place to not only indicate a good delivery time, but actually deliver on time. If a precision metal stamping supplier does not officially track its on-time delivery performance, it is better to select another supplier.
The ability of the precision metal stamping supplier to achieve certain running speeds is the seventh factor to consider. An experienced supplier can work at higher speeds (while maintaining quality) and therefore offer the most optimized pricing.
The eighth factor to consider is spare tools. Often overlooked, a discussion of a spare tool list is critical to an accurate metal stamping job. A good supplier will suggest discussing spare tools in advance to maximize the chances of success of a stamping campaign. Make sure these costs are taken into account when evaluating one quote against another. Require all bidders to use spare tools. If a precision metal stamping supplier has the additional ability to manufacture its own spare tooling, this is a distinct advantage.
Next, it’s important to determine if a precision metal stamping supplier is one that pays close attention to the “fine details” of a job. In addition to looking at the quality of a supplier’s past sample parts, you can try to determine if a supplier is concerned about fine details by noticing their behavior early in the quoting process. A supplier who asks a lot of questions regarding part quality, key features and tolerances is typically someone who probably over-delivers on “attention to detail”.
Finally, a precision metal stamping supplier that has the additional ability to perform secondary operations is invaluable in terms of overall supply chain logistics. Typically, a supplier who can perform any of the following additional operations will provide significant savings to your business: cleaning, plating, packaging, product assembly, custom automation (in conjunction with the stamping operation), and machine vision inspection.