Table Of Contents
So you are looking for a new custom gasket manufacturing partner, or trying to decide if a potential partner is the right fit. Below we’ve categorized a rigorous list of checkpoints to consider, which will help you answer that question thoroughly before you even begin working with them!
The most important things you should expect from any custom gasket manufacturer include:
- Vertical Integration
- Multiple Supported Manufacturing Processes
- Fast Quoting and Design for Manufacturing (DfM) Reviews
- Defined Goals for On-Time Delivery and Quality
- Specialized Materials and Manufacturing Expertise
- Transparency and Dependability
- Support for Prototype or Production Volumes
- Up to Date Systems and Processes
- Registry Certifications
- High Security Standards
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You’ll see that we will allude to this particular item multiple times in some of the other entries in this list, but it is so important that it deserves its own call-out (and to be the very first one).
Pick a partner that provides a strong degree of vertical integration. The more steps in the manufacturing process that a single partner can cover end-to-end will provide huge benefits for you.
Some examples of steps that we’ve taken at Modus to provide vertically integrated processes for our customers include:
- SigShield: We have created an entirely new process specifically to manufacture RF shields. The process Includes manufacturing of metal housing, form-in-place gasket dispensing, plating, as well as addition of thermal materials, and RF absorbers. Typically customers are required to go through four separate vendors to complete this process.
- Clean room: We’ve added a clean room so we can build more assemblies for clients that require it.
- Assembly processes: We have added assembly processes to our capabilities that allow us to install gaskets and other subcomponents to a finished sub-assembly before sending it back to customers, meaning they have to do less assembly on their end.
The ultimate benefits that come from choosing a partner who is vertically integrated include:
- Faster lead times: finding a partner who has enough capabilities to provide multiple concurrent manufacturing processes on a single part means you don’t have to worry about shipping back and forth between sub-tier vendors in between steps in the process.
- Lower total cost: for the same reason as above, reducing your shipping costs between steps will reduce your overall cost to produce a part.
- Higher quality: different vendors have different quality standards, and often when sending a part through multiple vendors for each step in manufacturing results in a mismatch between quality definitions. A partner who can do more under one roof, and who meets your quality standards will be a winning relationship.
- Lower risk: the fewer times your part changes hands, the less chances for miscommunication between vendors or mismatches between requirements.
Multiple Supported Manufacturing Processes
While similar to vertical integration, this one is a little different. It is more about the individual manufacturing processes you may choose to take advantage of with a partner, and ensuring they have a breadth of capabilities.
A single partner that can do many things is far more valuable than many partners who can each do one thing. Make sure you know the full breadth of capabilities your potential partners have. Your goal here is to consolidate as many processes under a single roof as possible.
Doing this will provide a number of benefits:
- Simpler relationship management: having fewer partners to keep track of just makes life easier and will keep your procurement and purchasing process less complex.
- Lower costs: having multiple processes allows the manufacturer to use the process that ultimately provides you the lowest cost while still meeting all your design requirements.
Finding a partner with the ability to work with sophisticated elastomeric materials (see item number 5 in this list!) and has many manufacturing processes available to transform those materials into your custom gaskets will ensure you have a good long-term fit.
Fast Quoting and Design for Manufacturing (DFM) Reviews
When you need a part made, you often need it yesterday. Long quoting processes and Design for Manufacturing reviews can really make it hard to get the ball rolling as fast as you’ll want it to.
You should expect that your partner does everything in their power to get quotes back within 24 hours when possible, or 48 hours when they must rely on a material supplier or another party to complete the quote.
The DFM process should be built right into the quoting process, and you should have direct access to the technical staff who completed it should you need to ask questions or collaborate on design changes.
Defined Goals for On-Time Delivery and Quality
It goes without saying that quality should be one of the biggest considerations when choosing a manufacturing partner. The question really becomes how to evaluate that quality ahead of placing your first order.
There are a few ways you can start to get a feel for the level of commitment a partner has to quality early on including:
- Registry certifications: as mentioned later in this list, an ISO 9001 registry certification should be the bar you start from.
- Quality goals: find out what their organizational goals are for delivering quality products. For instance, at Modus, our goal is always a 99.5% quality rate.
- Published quality metrics: ask how frequently they publish quality metrics to their manufacturing staff, and if they will tell you what they are. For example, at Modus we check our quality metrics every day in our operational meetings and they are published for our entire manufacturing staff to see. If customers ask, we will gladly share these metrics with them as well.
- Quality feedback systems: your manufacturing partner should pull any reporting on quality and on-time delivery back in from customers and use it to inform and improve their processes.
Some of these questions will give you a sense for how much of a culture the organization has built around quality. And who wouldn’t want to work with a partner that has made quality part of their DNA?
Manufacturers with published quality metrics may be relatively common, but having metrics around on-time delivery is much less standard. Ask the partner you are evaluating if they measure their on-time delivery rate, and what it is.
Again, as an example, at Modus our goal is always to have a 99.5% on-time delivery rate. And, just like our quality metrics, we measure it and report on it every day during our operational meetings.
On-time delivery is as much a part of our DNA as quality is.
Specialized Materials and Manufacturing Expertise
As manufacturing has advanced, it has created more opportunities for specialization. Many manufacturers have developed and honed specialized talents that are difficult to find elsewhere.
Evaluate your partner based on their specialized capabilities, and ensure they have enough of them to support your needs. In many cases, more intricate manufacturing processes, like form-in-place gasket dispensing for instance, are as much of an art as they are a science.
Often gasket design can be relatively simple, but there are plenty of times where it crosses into the complex. For two dimensional gaskets, materials are often the place where complexity comes into the picture. Materials that must meet extreme environmental and performance requirements are not always easy to work with. For instance, we’ve worked with materials that have to be stored at -25O celsius, and then once cut, must go right back to that temperature.
Three dimensional gaskets are rarely simple. Depending upon design, dimensional and other performance requirements, getting the mold just right can be tricky.
Look for a partner that has honed their skills. It will also ensure they’ve got the expertise to provide appropriate design feedback so you don’t have to worry about costly redesigns down the line.
Transparency and Dependability
One of the most important things you should look for in a partner is dependability. When you need custom gaskets made fast, or need your design evaluated for manufacturability, you need to be able to trust the company on the other end. And the level of dependability you want will only be achievable if a partner has chosen to weave it deeply into the fabric of their company culture.
Your manufacturing partner should always be putting your needs first, looking to provide feedback that will reduce your lead times and costs, and finding ways to better serve your needs.
This particular aspect of your partner’s operations will really show in the people. Your individual dealings with team members will tell you most of what you need to know about the company as a whole in this aspect.
Support for Prototype or Production Volumes
Know what volumes your potential partner can support. You’ll want a partner who can stick with you from start to finish. This means they are capable, and well situated, to help you rapidly build prototypes early in your design process and can then scale to the production volumes required as you ramp up your production.
Up to Date Systems and Processes
This particular entry is usually the foundation for most of the items above. It is very difficult to provide high quality parts and have stellar on-time delivery metrics without top of the line systems and processes.
Expect your manufacturing partners to have up-to-date Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, and Quality Management Systems (QMS). The better job your partner has done with integrating these systems, the better and faster they will be able to deliver for you.
A good way to evaluate the importance your partner places on these systems is to ask what their roadmap for system improvement is over the next few years. You’ll want to see that the company is considering all of these things to be assured they will be a good partner even years into the future:
- Security and compliance: particularly if you are in the defense or aerospace industry, seeing a roadmap for CMMC compliance across all systems will be important.
- Transparency: as quality systems are improving, it is becoming increasingly possible to allow complete transparency for customers into a manufacturer’s quality systems.
- Automated quality checks: advances in quality systems are also opening the possibility to include quality specs embedded into designs themselves, and creating the potential for customized quality checks to be completed automatically, and sent directly to customers, during the manufacturing process.
- Feedback systems: there should be plans to incorporate automated systems to support constant process improvement using internal data and feedback directly from customers for quality and on-time delivery.
Your partner needs to have registry certifications provided by an industry recognized registrar. At minimum, your custom gasket manufacturing partner should have an ISO 9001 certification.
ISO 9001 is an international standard that details requirements for a quality management system (QMS). The certification demonstrates a partner’s ability to consistently provide products that meet stringent customer and regulatory quality requirements.
For defense and military related products, your partner will need an International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) certificate. The purpose of the certification is to ensure the manufacturer will exercise the correct control over the export of defense and military related technologies.
For Aviation, Space and Defense applications, your partner will need an AS9100 certificate certifying that they adhere to the international Quality Management System standard created by the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG).
Keep in mind that each certification process is no small effort for a manufacturer to go through, so each certification they’ve achieved above the bare minimum shows that partner’s commitment to supporting a specific industry or to taking quality a step beyond what is required.
High Security Standards
Security is another item on this list that has been mentioned various times in other entries, but again, is so important we decided to call it out separately.
Particularly if you are in the aerospace and defense industry, or serve the government or military in any capacity, security is of the highest importance. It is imperative your designs remain safe, and are only seen by the right sets of eyeballs.
Even if you are not in industries where it is required to have that degree of security, knowing your designs are safe from falling into competitor hands is still an important factor in selecting a trustworthy partner.
Look for a partner that adheres to NIST standards at the bare minimum, but finding a partner that is actively setting themselves up to meet CMMC standards is even better.
The Bottom Line
Each and every item on this list fills one of two buckets: trust and competency. You need a partner you can trust, who will be there when you need them. And you need a partner who has the technical competencies you require. This list will help you vet potential partners in both categories with more detail than you may have in the past.