How to Create a Successful Outsourcing Partnership

Posted On May 10, 2017 By Protolabs

Since most companies lack the flexibility and capabilities to meet production demand when turnaround times are short, outsourcing is increasingly being viewed as a strategic partnership, rather than a supplier relationship. Outsourcing can be the only viable solution when in-house resources are stretched.

A row of industrial stereolithography machines
Outsourcing to a 3D printing service bureau can solve capacity issues when the quantity of 3D-printed parts exceeds in-house capabilities.
When is outsourcing necessary?

Product-driven companies often have split responsibilities. The first is to manage their day-to-day workflow, which involves standardized, routine processes. These processes are generally predictable to manage, with orders completed within quoted timeframes and customer expectations met.

In addition, there are ad-hoc challenges. These occur when routine is disrupted due to insufficient capacity to deal with a sudden increase in work—often driven by an unforeseen spike in demand, an urgent order, or a supply chain emergency.

At this stage, organizations need an outsource solution that can help them meet their assignments on time.

The benefits of outsourcing

An outsourcing partner can be considered an extension of the customer’s manufacturing facilities, with considerably lower costs and minimal risk. When a part design is complete, companies can rely on their outsource partner for production consistency and repeatability.

Whether the project is for a small engineering shop needing capacity relief, or for a larger manufacturer that requires a substantial or preferred supplier relationship, collaborative outsourcing can be the optimum solution.

An outsourcing partner can also expand the customer’s manufacturing portfolio with new capabilities and enable them to leverage their partner’s expertise. Outsourcing provides the flexibility to fulfill unexpected demand for prototypes or production parts using 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding services.

The complexity of the part design and the quantities needed will determine the appropriate manufacturing process. 3D printing is best suited for complex geometries and low volumes, enabling rapid iteration for prototyping or even low volumes end-use parts. Similarly, CNC machining can produce low quantities within tight timeframes and will be more cost-effective for simple part designs. Injection molding is typically leveraged for production volumes of plastic parts, but also appropriate for functional prototyping.

mold storage at production facility
Companies experiencing volatile demand can leverage on-demand production to manage inventory overhead.
What does a successful partnership look like?

The partnership between the customer and an outsourcing partner, in order to work effectively, requires a digitization of the manufacturing process. The process starts with a 3D CAD model that can be easily shared among stakeholders and manufactured by a network of CNC machines and 3D printers, or injection molding presses. These digital systems and processes are essential for establishing a two-way flow of data, and to fully manage orders from start to finish.

Additionally, customer confidentiality is a vital component in a successful outsource partnership. Outsourcing to a third party at any level in the supply chain requires a high level of trust, particularly when developing ground-breaking technology—especially in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and medical.

Ultimately, the two organizations share the same goal: to achieve the commercial objectives within the target timeframe, without compromising on quality and confidentiality.

Flexibility and adaptability in service provision are increasingly vital for companies, particularly in engineering and technology-related sectors. In response, prototyping and on-demand production requirements are being outsourced to partners that offer an effective combination of technology, process management, and expertise.

The difference outsourcing makes is clear

Companies outsourcing to Protolabs are supported by online quoting capabilities that offer real-time design for manufacturability feedback—including material specifications and quantity detail. With the design and manufacturing stages seamlessly linked through our proprietary software, orders can be completed in a matter of hours and customers can have parts in hand within days. We believe successful outsourcing is based on a simple formula: partnering in a way that works best for the customer and quickly meeting their needs with every order, every time.