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FEATURE MECHANICAL COMPONENTS Tempted to source custom parts from the Far East but concerned about the


problems that may arise from this? Mike Doel, director, Blue Diamond Technologies, explains how, by working with a UK company that has an established and proven roster of suppliers, the risks of sub-standard components can be minimised


REDUCING THE COST OF CUSTOM PARTS I


n recent years, numerous UK businesses have saved costs through having


custom parts and assemblies made in China and other areas of the Far East. The engineering capabilities of these nations are now as good as anywhere in the world, and customers of reputable Far Eastern manufacturers can enjoy excellent quality while reaping the benefits of significantly reduced costs. This is not to say, however, that


the process is guaranteed to run smoothly, and for every success there is a corresponding horror story that highlights just how wrong things can go. While you might think that these problems are the result of misunderstandings due to the language barrier or unscrupulous factories charging upfront for inferior parts that bear no relation to the initial samples, more frequently the problems begin closer to home.


WHAT CAN GO WRONG? So, what can go wrong if you decide to source custom parts on your own? Typical scenarios might see a procurement manager trying to source a part from the Far East to reduce costs on a custom part. On paper, sourcing that part from China, for instance, might offer cost savings of 20% as a minimum, and perhaps up to 50% or more. But where do you turn to in the first instance? Choose the wrong supplier, and that plane ticket to China can start to look very expensive indeed. And what happens if the finished custom part seems fine initially, but it


becomes apparent over time that it isn’t working quite as anticipated, is traced as the cause of faults and stoppages elsewhere on the production line, or isn’t offering the anticipated lifespan? By the time the problem has been traced back to the Chinese sourced part, you might already have tens of thousands of them sitting in the warehouse.


ANOTHER OPTION So what is the alternative? Abandon the Far East completely and accept the higher cost of alternative sources, or cross your fingers and accept the risk of Far Eastern procurement? Happily, there is another option. By working with a UK company that


has an established and proven roster of suppliers, the risks of sub-standard components can be minimised. Blue Diamond Technologies, for instance, has many years’ experience in working with manufacturers from all over the Far East, and offers customers in the UK the opportunity to take advantage of significant price benefits while mitigating


“Sourcing through established and knowledgable suppliers provides an opportunity to help customers refine their product designs by suggesting


changes to a product or assembly. This helps to take risk out of the process of dealing with the Far East...”


the risk of the product failing to meet the application requirements. Sourcing through established


and knowledgeable suppliers also provides an opportunity to help customers refine their product designs by suggesting changes to a product or assembly. This helps to take risk out of the process of dealing with the Far East, firstly by taking responsibility from a design for manufacture perspective to ensure that the product a customer wants can indeed be made to meet the application requirements, and secondly by absorbing the risk of something going wrong during production.


32 JULY/AUGUST 2019 | DESIGN SOLUTIONS The process would typically


start with the selected supplier transferring the customer’s design information onto a manufacturing drawing, one that they can be confident Far Eastern suppliers will be comfortable working with. Once the customer has signed off the drawing, trusted suppliers can be engaged to provide samples to bulk standard. Further reassurance can be provided


by choosing a company that has the engineering resources to conduct a full suite of tests in house to ensure that the products have been manufactured to the required standard. Other samples would go to the customer for form, fit and functional tests. Once the production samples have been signed off by the customer, the factory is instructed to begin full production. As a final point on reducing risk, a


key problem for companies looking to source products overseas is the requirement to pay the Far Eastern factory up front. Some suppliers will manage these costs by requiring customers to only pay for the tooling. Stocks of products can be held locally with customers calling them off, typically over a period of one year, as required.


ELIMINATING THE RISK Careful selection of a UK expert can eliminate the risk for companies by mitigating the unexpected. The cost savings will always be there, and generally the more complex the part or the assembly, the greater the savings that can be realised. Indeed, where a procurement manager might have been asked to cut costs by focusing on having a single part made overseas, they may well find quite often that the real savings will come from focusing on the complete assembly.


Blue Diamond www.blue-diamond.co.uk


Blue Diamond Technologies, along with its sister companies Race-Tec Sealing and Stella-Meta, has recently been acquired by American company TRITEC Performance Solutions. TRITEC offers a world-class service in the engineering and


manufacture of outstanding mechanical components and custom-made parts. www.tritec-ps.com


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