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Adoption of digital manufacturing technologies often requires integration of new services and products/technologies. The following checklist provides considerations for manufacturers looking to select suppliers for their digital manufacturing implementation needs. How much of the checklist is used and how thoroughly will depend on your own needs. However, even a brief review using this checklist may help raise points that could otherwise be overlooked and become issues later.

This checklist is primarily for use as an aide-memoir and is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all possible issues to consider.

If over the course of your digital manufacturing journey you should find that you need additional guidance or facilitation, our team here at TechSolve stands ready to help.

Start by Defining Your Goals

  • What business need are you trying to address?
    • Improvement / optimization
    • A new challenge
    • A new opportunity
  • What’s your available budget?
    • What metrics will you use to define success and calculate ROI?
  • What’s your desired (or required) timeframe for acquisition? For implementation?
  • Are you addressing a local need (i.e., adding automation at a single workstation), or an enterprise-level need (i.e., CAD/CAM system, a full robotics line, etc.)?

Assess Supplier’s Suitability

Offerings

  • Will the supplier’s recommended solution(s) fit your business need(s)?
  • Will its solution(s) help you meet your business goal(s)?
  • Will its solution(s) fit your business constraint(s)?
  • Will its solution(s) fit on your production floor (i.e., what are the requirements in terms of  physical space, power, shop air, equipment rigging, connectivity, operating platforms, server         space, sensors, etc.?)
  • If the solution doesn’t fit your current set-up, can you adapt (or can the solution be adapted) with ease?

Location

  • Is the supplier based in the United States? (This is important if you work with government entities — especially if you’re a defense contractor.)
  • Would the vendor’s geographic distance from you inhibit your efficiency or profitability?

Culture

  • Does the supplier understand your business goal(s) for the project?
  • Does it offer sensible and appropriate advice on potential solutions?
  • Are its proposed solutions innovative, flexible and driven by problem-solving?
  • Is it compatible and willing to work with your other suppliers?

Clients

  • Who has the supplier worked with on similar projects?
  • What do those clients have to say about their experiences working with this vendor?
  • Do this supplier’s customers resemble your company?

Credibility

  • Research the vendor’s success stories / case studies, white paper publications, seminars, alignment with industry trends, involvement in industrial societies, etc.
  • Who are its competitors?
  • Will this vendor exist for the length of time you need it?

Relationship

  • Strategically, is it appropriate and necessary to develop a business relationship with this supplier? (e.g., consider long-term needs, alignment of supplier’s goals and needs with your company’s mission and vision, etc.)

Evaluate The Supplier's Capabilities

Resources

  • Are there enough people to execute the work?
  • Is the vendor well prepared to deal with contingencies (i.e., loss of a key person)
  • Does the supplier have the appropriate geographical presence for executing the project?

Infrastructure

  • Does the vendor have the necessary technical infrastructure to develop or provide the application/ product?
  • Can it provide demonstrations?

Delivery

  • Will it provide turn-key solutions?
  • Can it provide the complete range of services or products required for the project?
  • If not, could another vendor do so?

Research The Supplier’s Operations

Infrastructure

  • Is there portability across the vendor’s operating systems, hardware, etc.?
  • Would the vendor test in an environment comparable to your own?

Processes

  • Is the supplier formally certified (e.g., ISO 9000), or otherwise have robust, repeatable and measurable processes in place?
  • Does it have project tracking and reporting procedures in place?

Data Security

  • Where would data be stored?
  • What cybersecurity measures does the vendor have in place?

Maintenance

  • How available are replacement parts in the supplier’s inventory?
  • Will temporary replacement systems or products be available if a problem requires significant time to fix?

Think About The Supplier’s Policies

Commercial

  • Would there be a clear and mutually-acceptable agreement about intellectual property and deliverable ownership?
  • Would there be a non-disclosure agreement in place to protect your interests?

Data Policy

  • Would the data belong to you?
  • How long would the data be stored?

Maintenance Policy

  • What is its maintenance and troubleshooting approach?
  • What is its warranty policy?

Weigh The Costs

How does this supplier’s pricing compare to that of other firms you’re considering?

Consider the balance you’d see between cost, time and quality.

Could you afford the support plan/maintenance plan? Would it be a fixed cost (annual contract, for example) or variable cost (i.e., per-call, per-hour), and how long would you be locked into the agreement?

Now that you’re thinking about questions to ask potential vendors, the next step would be to consider the products and services they might offer you in terms of your business requirements.

How can you anticipate the value-adds? What concerns should you bear in mind?

Stay tuned to our TechSolve blog to find out key considerations for specific technology areas like additive manufacturing or robotics and automation. And, in the meantime, if you are looking for guidance on how to choose the right technology vendor our team would be more than happy to share what we know. You can Click here to contact us.