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Local or national: where should my sheet metal fabricator be based?

April 18th 2018

When it comes to selecting a major manufacturing partner for your product, it can be tempting to only look at local firms with the belief that the closer they are, the faster the service. However by doing this, not only are you limiting your options, there’s also a chance you could miss out on working with a company which is a much better fit for your business.
Local or national: where should my sheet metal fabricator be based?

When looking for a metal fabrication partner, what factors should be prioritised in the selection process? View any online advisory site and you are likely to find that location appears lower down on the tick check list of supplier choice, if at all, and for good reason. Issues around cost, quality, reliability, value for money, service and communication are prioritised in the majority of cases.

Another important factor, all too often overlooked, is finding the right fit of partner to work with. At Universal Wolf we believe that this part works both ways.

For us ‘good enough’ is never good enough. We strive to achieve more and we’ve always believed that doing it better is the right thing to do. Our core capabilities have been developed over years to ensure we deliver a superior product to our customers. That’s why we consider every potential project carefully to ensure that we are the right partner and can add value to the product. If we don’t think that we’re suited to you, we’ll tell you up front so that we don’t waste your time or our own.

The company that is your perfect fit could be down the road or many miles away, matching you on all your needs and delivering to your most exacting standards regardless. When a company limits its search to local businesses only, it risks missing out on the firm that would be that perfect fit for them due to a self-enforced narrower pool of potential choices.

Competition benefits customers

It’s simple when you think about it. If there is only one printer in your area, and there’s plenty of demand for their services in that area, they can pretty much charge what they like and although they may provide a very good service, there’s no pressure on them to continually improve. With a stable customer base, they are at risk of becoming complacent. If another printer opens nearby, there’s competition. Each needs to try and have a better offer than the other and they may review and revise their services or charges, or both, to do this. The more printers that open, the more each must constantly evaluate and upgrade their offering relative to their competitors to survive.

These days, it’s easier than ever to make contact with firms around the country, therefore you can widen your potential ‘area’ very easily. The more companies you talk to the greater the knowledge you will gain of the different capabilities and solutions that are available to you and your business. A bit of additional effort at this initial stage will give you an accurate idea of what you might expect and what different firms are offering that best aligns with your specific needs.

If you limit yourself to what’s on your doorstep, you are not only placing yourself at the mercy of what only a few suppliers can offer you. The success of your relationship, and the project itself, will depend on whether these few selected businesses accurately represent what is possible given your needs and your budget. If standards are low or costs too high, you will be at an immediate disadvantage. It is important to keep in mind the impact that a poor supply chain could have on your business’ productivity and your ability to compete in your market sector – potentially catastrophic.

The myth of local advantage

Knowing all this, why would there ever be a tendency for exclusive focus on local suppliers? There are several reasons, from a mistaken belief that local is cheaper and/or faster, to a greater trust of what can be seen and visited easily and a desire to be able to get in touch with the company on a more regular basis. Let’s explore these.

Firstly, is it easier and cheaper to go local? Well not necessarily. This may have been true in the past, but with the advances made in logistics and the greatly improved speed and costs of even long distance transport and deliveries things are very different now. If your ‘round the corner’ manufacturer is disorganised or slow, your turnaround times are going to be impacted far more than if your supplier is based across the country but is fast and efficient.

Some decision makers argue that they feel the need to be able to physically see what is going on and monitor progress, but is that really a good use of their time? If you feel it is necessary to visit the site so regularly that your chosen partner must be on your doorstep, do you even trust this company enough to get the job done? The additional time required to continually check in with the firm in this way will impact your ability to maintain other aspects of your job. Far better to choose someone you can trust further away!

But surely it’s easier to keep in touch with a manufacturing firm just around the corner? In today’s world with the multiple advances in communication technology at our fingertips, you can just as easily contact a supplier at the other end of the country as you can your next door neighbour. And whilst it may appear to be easier to just pop in to visit the premises, no matter where they are located, you will still need to make an appointment; it’s common courtesy after all.

Our offer: local service, national level

Universal Wolf are headquartered in the North of England and we are proud to serve regular customers the length and breadth of the country with our complex fabrication solutions. Whether we are being compared with our near neighbours or rivals from many counties away, our unique offer sets us apart time and time again.

We believe that the key to a successful supply chain partnership is open, honest communication from the outset. We maintain a close, supportive and proactive working relationship with our customers from day one.

We pride ourselves on the quality of what we do, not only in terms of the end product, but in the service we supply from the very start to the end of the process. You will have a dedicated person to contact who will be responsible for your project and will act as a partner at every stage. Take a look at how we work and what we do.

If you’d like to get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you and your business with your sheet metal fabrication requirements, contact our business development manager Craig Brown for a chat or get a quote here:

If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in our guide to choosing the best sheet metal fabrication partner for you.