No matter what type of OEM or manufacturing operation you have, maintaining reliable suppliers and parts has to be a priority. It’s amazing how many OEMs go for lowest price or quickest delivery without checking out the supplier. Too often, they get stuck with inferior parts, the wrong part, or the supplier is unable to provide parts the next time and OEMs have to hunt for a new source.
The fastener industry promises to reach $134.2 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research. That means there are a lot of fastener suppliers out there delivering parts of varying levels of quality and reliability. In fact, the Grand View Research report notes, “The industry is highly fragmented and competitive in nature with small and large-scale manufacturers in the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, and India.” The level of global competition makes it that much more difficult to find a reliable supplier who can deliver quality fastener parts at a reasonable price.
Here are five of the most common mistakes that OEMs make when they choose a fastener supplier:
1. Making Price the Primary Criteria
The old saying “you get what you pay for” is true more often than not. When shopping for fasteners, you have to balance quality with price. Naturally, you have to find a supplier that can deliver goods at a price that allows you to maintain your margins, but buying inferior fasteners will cost you more in the long run. Consider why that supplier can offer the lowest price. Is it because the materials are inferior and therefore cost less? Do they skimp on shipping, which could affect delivery time and your production schedule? Make sure you know what you are getting and what is at stake before choosing low-priced parts. Remember that if the price of parts seems too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Choosing the Wrong Fastener for the Job
Fasteners come in all shapes and sizes and understanding their performance specifications is essential if you are going to avoid production delays and deliver products of superior quality. When considering fasteners, be sure you use the right product for the job:
- Tensile strength: The amount of tension that can be applied before the fastener breaks.
- Fatigue strength: Fastener fatigue can be caused by age, overtaxing the part, or other factors. Fatigue strength is usually characterized by the number of times a fastener can be stressed or taxed before it fails.
- Shear strength: Shear strength is defined as the maximum load that a fastener can handle at a right angle to its axis until it fails. When you have a more demanding application, such as transportation systems, fasteners will need to have a higher shear strength. Some fasteners have to handle a load across one transverse plane (single shear), while others have to withstand two transverse planes (double shear).
- Torsion: Torsion is the measure of the amount of torque or friction that a fastener can handle before it breaks. When applying torque to a fastener, most of the energy is used to overcome friction, so 85 to 95 percent of the effort is spent tightening a bolt or fastener, leaving 5 to 15 percent for clamp load. Any change in friction conditions, such as surface finish, lubricant, temperature, and so on, can affect the torque and therefore the clamp load of the fastener.
- Materials: Depending on the application and environment, you will need fasteners with different performance tolerances. High-performance applications, such as aircraft, need fasteners that are lightweight but able to handle ongoing vibrations. Fastener materials need to match the application for optimal performance.
3.Failure to Vet the Supplier
Any type of supplier relationship is a partnership; they provide the parts and materials essential to your operation as part of an ongoing contract. You want to choose your partners wisely, which is why you want references. Be sure to ask other customers about the supplier’s responsiveness, delivery record, and other factors. You need partners you can count on.
4. Choosing a Supplier that Lacks Variety
Your business will grow and your needs will change. You want to ally yourself with supply chain partners that have the parts and resources to support that growth. It’s easier to strengthen the relationship with an existing partner than to continue looking for new suppliers.
5. Not Working with a Top-Tier, Factory-Authorized Stocking Distributor
If you work with an authorized distributor, you improve your chances of timely parts availability. For example, if delivery timing is important and the part you need is out of stock, a factory-authorized distributor is in a better position to suggest alternatives to ensure production isn’t interrupted.
These are just five common mistakes OEMs make when choosing a fastener supplier. Distributors should be strategic partners, able to provide the materials and parts you need when you need them. Choosing the best supply chain partners from the outset will save you significant time and money in the long run.