St Marys Carbon Knowledge Base

Guidelines on Finding the Right Manufacturer for Your Product or Part

Choosing the ideal carbon graphite manufacturer for your product or part can be overwhelming, especially when it's specialized like aerospace design. Let’s explore why it’s important to find a manufacturer that’s a good fit as well as what questions you should be asking before moving forward.


Why the Right Manufacturer Is Important

Your manufacturer plays a significant role in your business. They convert your designs into finished products and parts, which means they help determine whether you achieve success or fall short of expectations.

Defining what makes a manufacturer a “good” or “bad” partner isn’t necessarily easy. What makes a partnership great for one company might be exactly what another company doesn’t want.

However, there’s no denying that it’s essential to find a manufacturing partner that works for your business.

There are several negatives that come with bad manufacturing partnerships:

  • Changing Suppliers Costs Money: Switching from one supplier to another requires time and resources, both of which will slow you down – and any sort of slowdown will hurt your bottom line.
  • Building New Relationships Takes Time: Having a strong relationship with your manufacturer is a convenience. You know who to talk to, what to expect, and how to grease the wheels when hiccups arise. Having to start that process all over with a new manufacturer is never ideal.
  • Inconsistency Creates Confusion: If you can’t settle on one manufacturer, it’s difficult to establish a process and confusion can arise. There’s no way to eliminate human error, but consistency is key for minimizing it.


Critical Questions for Potential Manufacturing Suppliers


1. Do they have experience manufacturing parts for your application and carry the necessary materials?

There’s nothing wrong with trusting a manufacturer willing to enter uncharted territory for you, but there’s nothing like the peace of mind that comes with working with an experienced manufacturer. For a variety of industries and applications, there’s no room for error. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear, “This carbon graphite grade is exactly what you need,” when you relay your specifications?


2. Do they develop and mix their own carbon graphite grades?

There aren’t many companies that do this, but it’s certainly something to look for in a manufacturer. Companies that develop and mix their own carbon graphite grades have the ability to customize their existing products or even develop something new to meet the needs of your application and industry.


3. What carbon graphite customization options do they offer?

If the manufacturer can’t customize carbon graphite to meet your needs, then you’ll have to go back to the drawing board. Ideally, a manufacturer should offer a variety of base materials such as carbon graphite, electrographite, copper graphite, resin-bonded graphite, silver graphite, and graphite impregnated with other metals.

A great carbon graphite manufacturer should be able to accommodate any of these requirements:

  • Corrosion resistance
  • Material porosity
  • Environmental requirements (e.g., FDS, ROHS, WRAS, lead-free)


4. What will the communication process look like?

Communication is essential to any relationship, and manufacturing is no different. Each carbon graphite manufacturer has its own communication preferences, so make sure to ask potential suitors about their product development and collaboration process.


5. Will you have a dedicated account manager?

Having a go-to contact can make a world of difference, especially when juggling several projects and deadlines. A great account manager should understand your products and industry, provide solutions that meet your needs, and address all of your concerns and questions.


6. What is a typical lead time for an order?

If you have deadlines you need to hit, your manufacturer can’t be holding you up. Before moving forward with a manufacturer, make sure to have a discussion about lead times. A great carbon graphite manufacturer will work with you to meet all of your deadlines. Also, make sure to ask about how they handle rush orders.


7. Do they offer any alternative manufacturing options?

Carbon graphite parts are traditionally molded to a rough shape, or perhaps a slug or a plate. Once these parts are baked in an oven, they’re then machined to meet the required dimensions.

However, if you’re focused on cutting costs, ask potential manufacturers if they offer any alternative manufacturing options. Carbon graphite parts can also be pressed to size. In this manufacturing process, many or all of the parts can be molded and baked into the correct dimensions without reducing quality or effectiveness.

Molding these parts to size instead of machining them can significantly reduce costs.


8. Are they able to scale to meet your developing needs?

If your business is growing, you need to find a manufacturer that can accommodate your expected growth. Make sure to have a conversation about this before making any decisions. The last thing you need is to have to switch manufacturers a year or two down the line.


9. Are they committed to innovating and improving their offerings?

Carbon graphite manufacturers that invest in their employees and search for opportunities to innovate are often reliable, dedicated, and built to last. Partnering with a manufacturer that checks this box will bode well for your business, especially if you value innovation.


Selecting a Manufacturer

You know what you need and want from a manufacturer; the difficult part is finding a manufacturer that can deliver both. Take the time to vet potential manufacturers and ask them some of the above questions. The more homework you do before making a decision, the more likely you’ll be to form a great partnership.

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