How to Choose a Contract Manufacturer

Business Insights

The UK economy is expected to recover lost ground very quickly in 2021, at a much faster rate than was predicted at the start of the year. In March and April, the Bank of England, the IMF, Deloitte and a host of other agencies revised their forecasts upwards. The Bank of England, for example, now expects the country to see growth of 7.25% this year, as the vaccination programme takes effect, lockdown measures ease and businesses return to greater productivity.

However, this presents a challenge for manufacturers. After a prolonged period of furlough, lay-offs and supply chain disruptions, resuming full productivity won’t necessarily be easy. Consequently, the next few months could see a significant upsurge in demand for contract manufacturing; outsourced services that can help to bridge the gap between production capacity and rising demand in a fast-recovering economy.

Contract manufacturing has always been a useful option for businesses during periods of expansion and restructuring, but choosing the right partner is essential. Getting it wrong can entail rising costs, long delays and issues with quality assurance.

Whilst many companies may appear attractive on the surface, making the right choice relies on more than just checks on equipment, accreditations and capacity. It’s also important to consider how a contract manufacturer might grow with your needs, and how its sits with respect to your company values and the demands of particular projects.

In this article. we provide a short guide to the principal considerations.


Internal quality systems are useful indicators but it’s also important to look for a contract manufacturer with independently accredited quality certification. ISO9001:2015 is particularly relevant; it’s a recently updated standard based on quality management principles, including a customer focus and approach for continual improvement.

Experience and Technology

Experience matters when outsourcing services. Naturally, your chosen provider should be familiar with the latest techniques and technologies. From brake press bending to laser cutting and press work, make sure that you examine the full range of contract manufacturing services on offer and – crucially – look out for any gaps in provision.

Equally, look at the company’s project track record. It’s a good sign if a shortlisted supplier has worked in similar sectors and on similar projects; being a good fit is about more than just having the appropriate kit.

That said, equipment is of course a key consideration. Look at the plant list provided by the companies you are considering. Can they meet your immediate needs? And what about the future? Do they have the technology and the capacity to grow with you? Do they own all their own equipment or would they have to use external contractors if your needs changed? Some simple checks now could save considerable disruption further down the line.


Your chosen supplier should certainly have experience of your specific industry, but experience of a range of sectors can be helpful. It brings knowledge of new technologies and approaches that could potentially improve efficiency or introduce cost-saving opportunities.

Expertise and Communication:

Ask about the credentials of the team who will be responsible for your project. Experienced, well-established teams imply a stable company and a depth of knowledge. Communication is also vital, so make sure that your chosen partner absolutely understands the brief, the intended outcomes and the importance of operating transparently.

For the same reasons, agree channels of reporting and accountability up front. If challenges arise, you need to be sure that your supplier will alert you to them quickly so that you can address them promptly and together. Likewise, make sure that you will have direct access to the whole project team, not just an account handler.


We are living through a period of considerable economic instability, and a contact manufacturer that goes out of business would be a major challenge. So look for a supplier that’s in good shape financially, and that has a history of stability.

Values and Reputation:

Ultimately, the best contract manufacturers are those that work as a genuine partner; one that’s committed to your success. If a supplier is genuinely prepared to go the extra mile, that will be reflected in its reputation, so check out industry reviews and don’t be afraid to ask for references.

By Adrian Hyland
Business Development Manager for Contract Manufacturing, Dudley Industries Limited.