Finding suppliers can be a major pain for any manufacturer. You have to balance the often-conflicting demands of quality, price, and service – and then, if the supplier you choose turns out to be unsatisfactory, you have to go through the whole process again.
Choosing the right hose clamp manufacturer presents its own kinds of challenges. Clamps are relatively small and inexpensive, but the job they do is critical: They literally hold your stuff together. For this reason, it’s essential that you find a supplier you can rely on to get you the clamps you need when you need them and at a price you can afford.
These five tips will help you as you compare clamp manufacturers.
1. Consider The Quality Of The Materials
In today’s economy, steel is a global commodity. The issue to consider is not where the steel was made, but how it was made, and from what materials. Stainless Steel is an iron alloy containing chromium, nickel, and carbon, plus sometimes other elements, such as molybdenum.
Different grades of steel are determined by the precise proportions of these various elements. Any particular batch of steel may or may not meet those standards, or it might fall just barely outside the acceptable range, in a way that won’t be picked up by the usual testing.
But obviously it’s impossible to test all of the clamps you buy, or even a meaningful sampling of them if you’re buying in significant quantities. Instead, look for a supplier with a proven track record of using quality materials.
2. Consider The Quality Of The Manufacturing
The other side of the quality coin is the manufacturing process. Quality clamps are the final result of taking process control seriously. You need to find a supplier with an engineering track record that ensures consistent, high-quality clamps. This includes four elements:
- Designing and creating a prototype of a part that meets your needs
- Designing and debugging a repeatable production process for building that part
- Testing output once an hour or more to catch products when they start falling out of spec
- Diagnosing and fixing production problems as they arise
To be confident that your supplier is following these procedures, look for one that meets the requirements for ISO 9001:2015 certification. This proves the supplier has developed a quality management system (QMS) that ensures efficient and effective production.
3. Look For A Solutions-Oriented Supplier
A supplier should be judged not only on the products you’re buying but on the overall experience of working with them. You want a supplier that will dig into your problems with you. They should have not only engineering skill and experience but a willingness to find solutions for your problems.
Even if you don’t need custom orders, look for a supplier that provides a hassle-free experience in two ways:
Ease Of Ordering
Ordering should be easy and straightforward, whether you’re placing one order at a time or setting up a recurring plan. You may want to set up a blanket order on a 12-month purchase order; not all suppliers will be willing to let you do that.
A Record Of Reliability
You need a supplier that has a record of reliability, of shipping the right products and shipping them on time. For this reason, you want a supplier that makes customer service a priority.
If problems arise – and they almost always do – does the supplier reach out proactively to let you know what the problem is and how they plan to solve it? And if you contact them, do they step up and tackle the problem, or do they try to duck responsibility? When dealing with an offshore supplier, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to get a response to your questions and concerns.
To determine if a new hose clamp manufacturer is reliable, find out how long they’ve been in business and ask to see testimonials and references. Even better, find out if the supplier offers a guarantee.
4. Consider Value, Not Just Price
It’s tempting to just go for the lowest price, but a more important consideration is value – what are you getting for what you pay? It’s almost always worth paying a little more for a quality product: You’re not saving any money by paying less for a product that fails faster or more often.
In addition to the products themselves, consider intangibles of your relationship with the supplier. Value also comes from the supplier’s support and responsiveness, as well as inventory availability – all of the aspects considered above.
5. Know Your Own Needs
Every buyer has to determine for themselves how to balance one need against another. Quality, price, service: Which is the most important for you?
The answer varies based on your industry and your place in the food chain. For a large manufacturer like an automaker, if you don’t have parts or if they’re faulty, the line would shut down, costing you $100,000 or more every day. For this manufacturer, relationships are far less important than getting quality products delivered on time.
Enterprises in highly competitive industries tend to be more price-sensitive: They’re worried about the need to add value to their products. And for some smaller manufacturers, the issue of client service is paramount. When there’s a problem, they need someone who will pick up the phone and take care of it ASAP.
When sourcing industrial clamps, you’ll need to determine for yourself how to decide among quality, price, and service. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a supplier that can provide all three.