Opinion Why outsourcing with trusted partners makes sense

Author / Editor: Stephen Dyson, Product Manager at Proto Labs / Rosemarie Stahl

Production might run perfectly smooth, but when manufacturers face urgent special orders, in-house ressources often reach their limit quickly. Stephen Dyson, Product Manager at Proto Labs, explains, why and how outsourcing can support quick delivery capabilities.

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An outsourced partner can be considered an extension of the customer's manufacturing facilities.
An outsourced partner can be considered an extension of the customer's manufacturing facilities.
(Source: Suzie Brockman)

Manufacturers often have split responsibilities. The first is to manage their day-to-day workflow, which involves standardised, routine processes. These processes are generally predictable to manage, with orders completed within quoted time frames and customer expectations met. In addition, there are ad-hoc challenges. These occur when routine is disrupted due to insufficient capacity to deal with the increased level of work — often driven by an unforeseen spike in demand, or an urgent or special order. At this stage, manufacturers need an outsource solution to assist delivering their assignment on target.

An outsourced ‘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, manufacturers can rely on their outsource partner for production consistency and repeatability. Whether the project is for a small engineering shop needing ad-hoc assistance, or for a larger manufacturer that requires a substantial or preferred supplier relationship, collaborative outsourcing can be the optimum solution.

Outsourcing provides the flexibility to fulfil unexpected demand for parts or prototypes using 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding services. Outsourcing 3D printing to create and compare complex parts quickly, allows for design adjustments to be made easily. With CNC machining or injection moulding, low to mid volume part quantities are produced in days. Outsourcing offers on-demand services and quick delivery capabilities—giving manufacturers a competitive edge—supported by design for manufacturability analysis and expert technical advice.

Outsourcing works best when it is seen as a partnership

Outsourcing is most effective when the both the customer and outsource partner use integrated, online systems. These systems are essential for securing two-way flow of data, and to fully manage orders from start to finish.

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 tackling ground-breaking technology. Sectors such as aerospace, automotive and medical, demand the utmost secrecy. A close, trusting, working relationship with the outsource partner is needed when rapid prototyping is required to bring a new product to market. Ultimately, the manufacturer and outsource partner share the same goal: to achieve the commercial objectives within the target time-frame, without compromising on quality and confidentiality.

At Proto Labs, we recognise that flexibility and adaptability in service provision are increasingly vital for manufacturers, 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. These benefits are alongside other essentials such as consistency, reliability and delivery speed. Companies outsourcing to Proto Labs will be supported by online quoting capabilities that offer real-time design for manufacturing 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 days.

Proto Labs manufactures prototypes and end-use parts, supported by on-demand production—with our speed and scale of production to keep pace with changing manufacturer demands. We believe successful outsourcing is based on a simple formula: partnering in a way that works best for the customer, meeting their precise needs with every order, every time.

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