What is Protolabs Network?
Learn how we select and audit our network of global manufacturing partners for quality and reliability
High-Quality Manufacturing Guaranteed
Our network team at Protolabs works with a highly vetted network of around 250 manufacturers and holds each of them to the highest quality standards. To ensure all manufacturers uphold our standards, we’ve developed comprehensive systems for selecting and supporting our network partners. We continually audit our protocols to guarantee quality parts—every time.
How We Select and Onboard Network Manufacturers
Our network of experienced, specialized manufacturers gives us our breadth of capabilities and consistent quality. We have a strict selection and onboarding process for managing and growing this network. For every new manufacturer we bring into the network, we use a comprehensive seven-step process:
1. Initial Outreach
We approach manufacturers we believe meet our standard to gauge interest and assess the match.
2. First Evaluation
We conduct an evaluation to see if the manufacturer meets our qualification criteria. We also provide detailed information on what it’s like to work with us.
3. Factory Audit
An auditor on our Protolabs Network team assesses quality management performance and environmental/social compliance.
4. Legal Due Diligence
Every network manufacturer has to hold the right registrations and licenses. We do full background checks and sign formal agreements to ensure compliance.
5. Platform Access
Once manufacturers meet our standards, we give them access to the quote-building platform.
6. Technical Training
To ensure the process runs smoothly from ordering to delivery, we train every manufacturer on the technical standards, logistics and communication requirements behind the platform.
7. First 10 Orders
Supply chain managers monitor the first 10 orders of every new manufacturer. We perform onsite quality control for pre- and post-production.
8. Quality Assurance
To ensure that our network meets and exceeds industry standards, we audit our manufacturers on a regular basis and drive continual improvement.
How We Audit Our Network of Manufacturers
Manufacturing partners must consistently prove their quality after joining the network. We conduct audits every two years to ensure consistent quality across our network. These audits include quality audits to test capabilities and quality control, and social audits, to confirm environmental and social compliance. We also do frequent spot checks at our major sites.
Quality Management and Quality System
- Certifications (ISO/AS)
- Quality organization
- Quality policy & objectives
- Raw material (in/out record dates)
- Manufacturing process records
- Requirement level for suppliers/subcontractors
- Safe hiring practices and workplace protections
- Fair working hours, wages, and remuneration
Reception/Incoming Quality Controls
- Identification of incoming materials
- Quality control on incoming materials
- Incoming and outgoing management (FIFO)
Production and Packaging
- Identification of batches of ongoing orders
- Machines and manufacturing equipment
- Quality controls during production
Master Packaging and Storage/FQC
- Identification of finishes products/parts
- Inspection of finished product
- Health and safety conditions
Continuous Improvement, Certifications, and Quality Control
We aim to keep our line-item non-conformance rate below 1% and minimize part issues. If issues do arise, a corrective action plan goes into effect. The manufacturing partner involved finds the root cause of the issue and improves the process to ensure similar problems do not arise in the future. To make sure parts are made to spec, our manufacturing network adheres to detailed standards set by the Network team. It’s all about continuous improvement. Read more about Protolabs Network's quality assurance.
Thanks to our highly vetted digital network and ISO 9001-certified Quality Management System, it’s always possible to have parts manufactured with industry-specific certifications. Our manufacturing network can certify to the following standards: ISO 9001, AS 9100, ISO 13485, ISO 14001, and ISO TS16949. Contact your account representative at Protolabs to learn more.
Quality Control, Locally and Globally
Global: All parts (except for 3D-printed orders) being shipped to the UK, U.S., and EU will be inspected at one of our cross docks in Amsterdam or Chicago.
Local: Customers in the U.S. and EU can choose to onshore production by having their orders sourced through manufacturers within their custom-clearance borders. Those manufacturers then send parts directly to you, resulting in fewer logistical hurdles and much faster delivery times.
Enhanced Manufacturing Capabilities with Protolabs Network
Protolabs Network unlocks expanded capabilities across services. To move injection molding from low-volume (10,000+ parts) to higher-volume (100,000+ parts) production, try our network. Anodizing and tighter tolerances are available with CNC machining. And both molding and machining have volume pricing options for lower piece-part cost. You can even prototype quick and cost-efficiently with FDM 3D printing. Get more out of manufacturing with Protolabs Network.Try Protolabs Network