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What to Look for in a Metal Fabrication Partner
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What to Look for in a Metal Fabrication Partner

January 7, 2021

When looking for a metal fabrication partner to complete a job, there are several factors to consider. While everyone looks for a competitive price, and appropriately so, there are many other factors to consider to make sure you are selecting the right fabricator for the job.

First and foremost, it is important for you to know the scope of work and as many details about the project as possible. In order to select the best partner for the specific job, it’s helpful to know the details of the job so you can assess the various company choices against the specifics needed for the project.

Here are some items to consider:

Capabilities

Every fabrication shop should be able to tell you what they are particularly good at, whether they specialize in specific industries or types of projects, if they do custom work, have turnkey operation capabilities, what certifications they hold, and if they have the equipment necessary to complete the project. To help you assess each prospect’s capabilities, here are some things to consider:

  • Do they have the expertise and equipment necessary to complete the project type? If your project involves structural steel, pipe work, duct work, or something else, you want to make sure the shop has the equipment and any specialized machines necessary to perform the work.
  • Can they complete the process needed? If the scope of work involves design, fabrication, and installation, is the company capable of turnkey operations? If not, you may end up managing several vendors and coordinating their work.
  • Do they work with the type of metal and materials needed for your project? For example, some shops work primarily with sheet metal, while others specialize in heavy plate. Make sure the shop you select is a fit for the type of materials your project requires.
  • Does your project require certain certifications, such as ASME? Make sure you know what specialized certifications your project may require and find a partner who has the required ones. Better yet, being able to certify internally can save on time and coordination.

Size of Order/Quantity

Some shops are better equipped to handle large quantity projects that may require robotics, automated welders, and other equipment and processes. But if a one-off custom fabricated piece is what is needed, then selecting a shop with experience designing and fabricating custom pieces may be the best choice.

Knowledge and Experience

Most metal fabrication businesses have account representatives and/or project managers, however, the services they provide to customers may vary from shop to shop. These representatives should be knowledgeable and equipped to talk to you about the scope of your project, answer your questions, proactively identify and address any project concerns or possible obstacles, propose solutions, and lead the process to get you an accurate and thorough estimate for the job.

This is where an experienced team can have an advantage. Through years of working on challenging projects, problem-solving, first-hand experience with a wide variety of project types, and learning from mis-steps, an experienced team is typically more proactive and solution-oriented in identifying and trouble-shooting issues because of the depth and breadth of their knowledge and experience on the job.

Reputation

A company’s reputation for quality work, delivering projects on time, safety measures and record, flexibility, and doing whatever it takes to get the job done successfully is an important consideration when selecting a fabrication partner.

No one has the patience for multiple mistakes or the time for a job to be redone. That said, mistakes are a fact of life and will happen, no matter how prepared and experienced the team. So once a mistake happens, a company’s reputation rests on how well they handle the unexpected and “do whatever it takes” to course-correct and successfully complete the project. Do they commit to a delivery date and meet it? Are they flexible, adaptable, and easy to work with? Do they continue to deliver good service and communicate thoroughly through unexpected challenges?

Often times there will be a few metal fabrication shops that are capable of doing the actual work you are looking to have done. It may come down to the work style, customer service, communication, and overall reputation of the company that can tip the scale in your selection of a fabrication partner.

Location

The distance between your facility and theirs is also an important factor to consider. This may be particularly critical for field service/installation work and for projects that involve shipping the finished product. Make sure you understand how each prospective vendor charges for travel, per diems, shipping, and other related fees.

While it’s common for some to rush to cost as the determining factor in who gets awarded the project, it is important to consider these other factors when choosing the right metal fabrication partner for your specific project. After all, not taking the time to evaluate and select the right partner for the job may end up costing you more than just money.