Finding the right purchaser-supplier match

By Laura Reeves


While you’re considering your options, you’ll need the answers to several key questions… so what questions should you ask?

  1. Does the supplier you’re considering have the manufacturing processes you need?
    If possible, visit their premises to see for yourself.
  2. Can the supplier respond as quickly as you need it to?
    Request reassurance the manufacturing speed and capacity is sufficient to meet your demands during product development, market launch and production.
  3. Does the supplier have a minimum order quantity?
    Some suppliers apply and require large minimum order quantity. If you only need low volumes initially, it’s usually best to look for an on-demand manufacturing service with no minimum restrictions.
  4. Will you get the right level of quality control?
    Is the standard offered appropriate to your product? For example, a medical-grade supplier’s quality control should be excellent, where this is not necessary for a commercial-grade product. Pay only for the level you need.
  5. Does the supplier work with the materials you need?
    If you need a wide choice of materials, on-demand manufacturing services usually have the best range in stock, and the expertise in using them. Plus, they have the ability to work with customer-supplied materials.
  6. Will you receive the design support you need?
    If you’re not a manufacturing expert, select a service that will support you you could benefit from advice on the manufacturability of your part or product.
Product Life Cycle
Making the most of digital manufacturing

As well as the ‘Questions to ask when choosing a manufacturer’, consider whether your supplier can bring you the benefits of digital manufacturing, this includes reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO).

TCO takes into account the direct and indirect costs of acquiring and using a part or product throughout its life cycle. Put simply, it’s the purchase price plus additional costs such as shipping and logistics, inventory, operation, maintenance, and retirement of the part. It’s a better measure of value or return on investment than looking at just the purchase price. Evaluating suppliers in TCO terms means focusing on quality, consistency, and on-time performance, rather than just the initial financial outlay.

How are suppliers reducing TCO?

As advanced production technologies drive the new industrial revolution known as Industry 4.0, more and more suppliers are using automated processes to assess, plan and produce custom parts and products quickly and cost-effectively.

For example, some on-demand manufacturing suppliers offer TCO benefits for manufacturing tooling and parts. This is achieved by:

  • Offering services that can manufacture a project or design as it moves from prototyping to production, reduces the cost and complexity of working with multiple vendors.
  • Availability of scale and advanced automation to support production meet delivery dates and improve on-time performance.
  • Reducing inventory costs, by offering purchasers the flexibility to order the quantities they need, when they need them.
  • Support demand volatility, when demand increases, parts get produced quickly, avoiding the risk of lost sales opportunities.
  • Utilising guarantees for injection moulding projects. Certain suppliers offer a lifetime guarantee to your tool when you re-order the same part, with no additional tool costs.


In summary, it’s worth taking time to find the right purchaser-supplier match. Think of it as a partnership that needs investment and commitment from both sides. And, as the digital age progresses, it’s wise to look for those extra TCO-saving benefits.