After several years of manufacturing mining-industry products in Wisconsin – using Schaffer-fabricated components – an OEM customer moved its operations to another state. The heavy fabrication and assembly work, however, has remained here with Schaffer Manufacturing in Wisconsin. The customer is unable to identify a new local supplier that can play our role in its supply chain.

Locating a contract manufacturing supplier much closer to the customer’s relocated operations is the logical and preferred tactic. But the Schaffer relationship and results – which span 20 years – make it worthwhile for the customer to have parts fabricated in Wisconsin and then shipped out of state.

During this 20-year collaboration on how to optimize manufacturing, there have been literally hundreds of Schaffer-led refinements and adjustments. The examples range from major design-for-manufacturability improvements to production-floor adjustments that often are too subtle to receive much notice.

There is a lot that has gone on during 20 years of metal fabrication. Is there one theme that is common to everything that has happened over that amount of time and volume of production? In my opinion, from the customer perspective, there is a critical success factor. The work has to be about continuous improvement and best-possible outcomes and not just “metal in, metal out.” In other words, you need to be confident that a supplier conducts business by always keeping a critical eye on every detail. It makes no difference whether the work that day involves a routine, long-time supply project, or ramping up the first production on parts for a new product.

Attention-to-detail, in a manufacturing plant, gets executed using lots of different skills, processes, systems and techniques. But the approach doesn’t get any traction unless it is central to a supplier’s mission and culture.