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What are your outsourcing best practices? An Arena reader round up

In our recent outsourcing series, we asked our readers a simple question: how much of your production process should you outsource?

We shared our thoughts on the subject and presented a variety of options from outsourcing just final assembly to outsourcing all parts of the production process, including purchasing.

And we were pleased to see that many of you chimed in to share your own first-hand experiences. Read on to learn how your peers in the field manage outsourcing.

Outsourcing advice from the field

One advanced manufacturing engineer believes that the more you outsource, the less control you retain over your business.

For me, the only sound reason to expect successful outsourcing of any part of a design is if you are producing in your market. In other words, if you are manufacturing in the location where you sell your products. (I realize there are exceptions.)

As a manufacturer, you need to keep control of your materials and processes. Any time you outsource, you are relinquishing some degree of control of your business to someone else’s business. I have yet to find an outside source that is more concerned about my business than its own. I would expect that. There will always be that barrier of money between the two entities.

Another reader pointed out that there are ways to reap the benefits of outsourcing while maintaining control over production.

Consideration must be given to where and to whom your outsourcing is going. If you don’t have the resources in-house, it makes sense to ‘turn things over’ to an entity with the capabilities and expertise.

Local outsourcing (within the same community, state or region) could make sense for many of the areas to be outsourced, even though the term ‘outsourcing’ often has a negative connotation, especially off-shore outsourcing.

One senior design engineer shared how a business should determine an outsourcing approach that works for multiple departments.

I would recommend that [a business] sets up a common meeting with all departments or functional heads to discuss its outsourcing strategy. The company should understand process flow, ask individuals to take macro-level steps to plan, and then compile everything. This way, the business will get a lot of input and recommendations.

On the flip side, another reader believes it’s best to keep the organizational ‘non-technologists’ away from the decision-making process altogether. He advised to let the engineers determine the best outsourcing approach.

Build a competent engineering department, properly engage them in product management and trust what they say. They are the stewards of the technology that goes into the product and will manage all the interrelated issues that arise within and without the organization.

Do you have an opinion to share? We’d love to hear it! Post your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.