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Benefits of Contract Manufacturing for Printed Components and Finished Goods

Recent global events have put countless manufacturers in the difficult position of being unable to supply product, mostly due to circumstances beyond their control. Material scarcities, labor shortages, inability to get materials shipped in and goods shipped out, the list goes on. As a result, manufacturers have since been forced to reconsider their entire supply chain and overall manufacturing processes. Many have come to the same conclusion: to increase efficiency and reliability, they must simplify their processes and reduce the amount of suppliers involved. Or, as we like to say, less cooks in the kitchen.

Let’s take a look at how a brand can achieve this, and other benefits, by working with a contract manufacturer, particularly when the assembly or finished goods require some sort of specialty printing.

Cost Savings

By working with a single source supplier, money is saved in many ways. First, purchasing costs are reduced. Everything goes on one purchase order. This generally means one invoice, and only one processing cycle. Done. So much less involved than dealing directly with a handful or more suppliers. In addition, the manufacturer does not need stock raw materials or parts, some of which will sadly never leave the warehouse. As another major benefit, the supplier is responsible for providing the assembly or finished product to the agreed specifications. If the supplier makes a mistake, the burden is on them to resolve it, not the manufacturer. In certain situations, this could lead to huge savings.

Improved Turnaround Times

Most products or sub-assemblies require multiple manufacturing processes. For instance, the ones that we typically handle may require machining, fabricating, laser work, powder coating in addition to a long list of secondary and finishing operations. That’s a lot to coordinate! A contract manufacturer relieves this burden. Often, they are working with trusted suppliers with proven track records. And, truth be told, these suppliers are often likely to give priority to long standing customers.

For example, let’s review a subassembly that we produce for a major manufacturer. We coordinate multiple process that starts with procuring powder coated metal backing plates. These may have mounting PEMs® for switches or circuit boards, which we take care of as well. Typically, we will also manufacture the overlay including adhesive work and die cutting, then apply the overlay to the plate assembly and deliver the completed subassembly to our end customer. This greatly simplifies their sourcing process, while saving them a good amount of money (and grief) as well.

Reduced Need for Skilled Labor and Capital Equipment

We all know the old saying, “You can’t find good help these days.” This one has surely stood the test of time! In fact, it’s now more relevant than ever. Complex manufactured/printed products require employees with a wide range of varying skillsets. Whether it’s a rather simple assembly job, or a more complex arrangement, why deal with the burden of finding and keeping skilled labor when the contact manufacturer has them in house or a phone call/email away?

The same rings true for capital equipment. Machinery typically carries six or seven figure price tags, in addition to the skilled labor required to operate it. And let’s not forget the recurring training and maintenance costs!

These are just a few of the benefits that manufacturers can receive when working with a single source supplier for assemblies and finished/packaged goods. It’s important though to make sure you partner with the right one. While we could probably write a whole blog on that topic alone, here are a few pointers: Look at their portfolio, see what brands they’ve worked with and what they’ve done for them. Make sure they are confident that they can take on your work based on its complexity, volume and target delivery dates. Established contract manufacturers will typically take what they know they can handle. Some of us like to get creative and take on bigger challenges. But at the end of the day, the contract manufacturer wants to be the hero of the story, not yet another source or sourcing aggravation!

Introducing our New MVP: Delivering Better Quality without Inflated Price Tags

Advances in printing have come a long way over the last thirty years. This is thanks mostly to the advent and acceleration of digital printing technology. When comparing the capabilities of today’s digital equipment to how things were done back then, the differences are almost unimaginable. (We won’t bore you with the details.) Better yet, the technology continues to improve, bringing further increased quality, efficiency and other significant benefits.

We Pushed the Limits, Again

The latest addition to our equipment lineup, our impressive Iridesse system, is no exception to the trend. It boasts a six-color engine, that can lay down CMYK in a single pass, in addition to specialty spot colors. (More on that later.) While this press is impressive right out of the box, we’ve already been able to push the limits of its capabilities. By leveraging the creative thinking and problem solving we’re well known for, we’ve adapted the use to our customer’s needs, materials and applications. For instance, we can print directly on plastics and other materials more efficiently with better quality than ever before. But there’s much more to it. 

Keeping the Lid on Prices

One of the greatest benefits of implementing this new technology is the ability for us to continue to offer competitive and predictable pricing, at a time when price tags seem to grow larger by the day. There are several factors that contribute to this:

  • The equipment is faster 
  • It’s less expensive to operate, with lower maintenance costs
  • The increased speed, efficiency and quality helps compensate for continually increasing material costs. This allows us to absorb those increases, rather than passing them along to our customers.
  • Significantly improved uptime. This means we can be more productive, while minimizing material and wasted resources.

Wait. It Can Do WHAT?

In addition to improved overall performance, the equipment can do some pretty cool things that help reduce process time and increase quality. For instance, it can lay down white, gold or silver. Previously, extra steps using additional equipment were required to achieve this. It also boasts a higher resolution, 1200×1200. While this capability isn’t new, the fact that it can achieve this without slowing down is a big benefit. This equates to noticeably better quality, without increasing runtime. Further, it offers us better color control, thanks to an onboard spectrophotometer. That’s just a fancy way of saying improved color matching and consistency across the run, and from job to job. 

The Machine is Green!

Not only do customers benefit from all of this, but so does the environment. The machine operates much cleaner than its predecessors. In fact, it’s almost chemical free. Better yet, it doesn’t create any waste! None, it doesn’t even have a waste tank. Environmentally speaking, this is a vast improvement. As an added bonus, it also consumes less power. 

Improved quality. Reduced manufacturing expense. Increased speed, reliability and uptime. All of this adds up to giving us the ability to make your products look great, without destroying your budget. 

Curious to see how you can benefit from this impressive technology? Reach out to us with your needs today. 

Achieving the ‘Impossible’: Printing on Complex Metal Fabricated Powder Coated Parts

“If it’s not flat, it can’t be printed on.” That’s the prevailing thought when it comes to printing directly on fabricated powder-coated parts. Yet, printing in some form, whether directly or indirectly, is required for marking, instructions, and of course, branding. While it is typically challenging to print directly for several reasons, we can tell you that it’s certainly not impossible!


Why Do People Say it’s ‘Impossible’?

So, why is it so difficult to print directly on complex powder-coated parts? It’s pretty simple, printing processes by their very nature are designed to lay down ink on flat surfaces. Complex parts have unusual geometries that don’t lend themselves to being printed on easily. So instead, manufacturers will often resort to labels. While this may be a good solution in certain situations, it’s a compromise that comes with drawbacks including:

  • Labels have a tendency to peel off over time. This may be due to environmental conditions such as heat or other climate-related factors, or thanks to people being unable to resist the urge to peel of a label, particularly for items in public.
  • To achieve proper adhesion, powder-coated metal requires an engineered adhesive. This adds inevitable cost and complexity to an otherwise simple product.
  • Labels complicate inventory management. In addition to managing the product, labels need to be inventoried as well. They take up space too, a precious commodity.
  • They increase procurement costs well. They require a purchase order. They need to be made. Received. Billed. Paid for. They also come with minimums. For short runs, manufacturers are essentially forced to buy more than they need, thus wasting money.


How Can Printing on Metal Powder Coated Be Done?

With a bit of ingenuity and determination, printing on complex powder coated components can be achieved, with impressive results. While we won’t give away the secret sauce, we can tell you that it involves creative approaches to workholding, and “outside the box” thinking when it comes to overall process. In fact, no two jobs utilize the same exact method. There is always some variation required to accommodate the part and the customer’s needs. Let’s look at some things that were thought to be impossible, but were able to be done.

  • A fabricator that makes side panels for welding equipment had big dreams: they wanted to brand them. The challenge is that the panels have vent flanges. We came up with a process that allowed us to screen print on the panels after they are powder coated. The result? A beautifully branded product, with type and graphics that will stand the test of time.
  • A west coast transit system uses brochure holders to disseminate information to the public. A sticker certainly won’t last for this application. In fact, digital printing wouldn’t hold up either, due to wear from public use. Our solution allows us to hold these components in such a way that we can screen print directly on them. In the end, logos and descriptions printed on them will withstand the beating they will take.
  • A manufacturer of instrument panels came to us with a challenge. They needed help putting markings on the front control panel. But the presence of thumb screws, and other components made it difficult. We developed a process allowing us to screen print in small areas with precision. Stickers or vinyl might have been an easier way to achieve this, but there’s no way they would last in this high touch, high use environment.

These are just a few of the many success stories we like to share. Regardless of the industry or use, they all have the same theme in common: printing on powder coated components is not impossible. We do it all the time. As a result, our customers get a polished printed product, without the hassles associated with labels. The printing is durable, attractive and stands the test of time.


If you have an “impossible” printing challenge for powder coated parts, let us know about it. We’d love to help engineer a solution tailored to your needs.