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  • Writer's pictureLocke-Brothers

Sourcing Manufactured Parts: 4 Reasons to Engage with Your Supplier Early

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes


No one understands your product better than your internal design team, they understand the end goal, and they know how to get there.

However, most designers are not also experts in each of the various manufacturing processes. No one is expected to know everything.

Knowing which process is right for your part design, whether it be for castings, metal fabrications, wireforms, or even custom fasteners, requires years of experience in a real manufacturing setting, not “book” experience.

For example, for decades, one of our customers was using a certain process to manufacture a part. To improve the quality of the part, it was decided to undergo a significant design change that would yield better performance of the product.

However, utilizing the existing manufacturing process proved to be not cost effective.

Being a manufacturer’s representative and experiencing countless manufacturing environments, Locke-Brothers was able to suggest a manufacturing technology that could meet the criteria of the new design at a competitive price.

Collaboration word cloud with the following: mission, communication, trust, support, skills, teamwork, discussion, connection, cooperation, brainstorming, planning

This recommendation was discovered in conversations with the customer over different parts through understanding their business.

By leveraging your suppliers’ technical resources and your manufacturer representative’s real life experiences, you immediately set your project up to be more successful.

By engaging early in the design process, you set your part up for the best product at the best manufactured price. If your supplier does not have the necessary resources, it may be in your best interest to look for a supplier that does.


That’s what we’re here to talk about.


Here are the top 4 reasons why you should engage with your supplier early on in the design process:

1. Reduced Costs

Graphic of a person in front of a blue touchscreen UI pointing at a gear that says "Cost Reduction"

In our experience, the largest opportunities to reduce costs normally come from supplier design suggestions.

Today, it is common that by the time a supplier has the opportunity to review the drawing it's too late to make a significant impact.

This is because the kinds of changes that a supplier might suggest usually affect a mating part, which at this stage has already been recently tooled up and cannot be modified.


By bringing in a trusted supplier early in the design phase, they can recommend key design changes to your part(s) that will likely bring down your total manufacturing cost.

In our experience, that cost reduction is often very significant.

If you are an OEM, for example, this would result in a substantial increase in your profit margin, thus allowing your product to be more competitive in the market.

2. Eliminating Unnecessary Components & Added Assembly

Group of engineers and designers standing around a table with drawings spread out. Behind them there is a touch screen whiteboard depicting a concept for product that they are building.

A simple design change can often eliminate the need for unneeded components that require expensive assembly time.


When a trusted supplier is brought in early in the design phase, they have time to study all the components’ and offer up real suggestions.

In some cases, we have been able to redesign a component that eliminates the need for one or two other components.

This can offer up massive cost savings. In many cases, this collaboration results in a higher quality product.

Did You Know?

There are 5 Key Advantages to Reducing Components

1. Lowered, or possibly eliminated, upfront tooling costs

2. Less SKUs to manage

3. Shorter assembly time required

4. Decreased chance of quality failures

5. Overall lower manufacturing cost

3. Faster Time to Market

Graphic of a clock with text on its face that says "Speed to Market"

Today, in most cases by the time a supplier of custom components is awarded a new part from the OEM, the overall project is already behind schedule.

So, in many cases OEMs are forced to award new custom parts to the supplier with the best current lead-time, and not the overall best supplier for the project.

At the end of the day this process works, but it adds a lot of unnecessary stress on the supplier and OEMs purchasing and engineering team. Every decision is met with a tight timeline, increasing opportunities for mistakes and something is bound to be missed.


If a trusted supplier was brought in early in the design stage, they can better plan for future projects.

They would be able to properly assign personnel to help ensure the projects are done on time and correct.

They would also be able to fully convey how much time is needed to build custom tooling and that time can be better planned out early on.

The supplier now has proper time to perform a full DFM (Design For Manufacturability). This step alone can help improve both your cost and time to market.

4. Shared Ownership

Partnership illustration showcasing all of the elements of successful partnership: collaboration, planning, share, performance, teamwork, synergy, success

Both OEM and the supplier have their own goals and objectives. Many times, they overlap because both companies need each other to be successful to win.

That being said, not everyone is always on the same page. Each team has its own set of priorities.


When a trusted supplier is brought in early in the design phase, they feel more invested in the project and have more to lose if the project is not successful. Many times, a supplier will work harder for their customer when they feel they are part of the process.

Added bonus for the OEMs: the OEM in many cases will build a stronger rapport with their supplier that can pay dividends when calling in future favors.


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