As companies with intricately designed products and applications grow and expand, they face an increasingly important challenge: The more they advance as niche specialists, the more vital it becomes to establish a network of trusted suppliers. This is the point where “suppliers” become something more than vendors: they become part of the team, contributing directly to the quality of the product and to the business’s success.
In the case of analytical instruments, one of today’s niche market leaders is Analytical Flow Products. And one of AFP’s outsourcing partners is Macfab. The following, based on an interview with Pete Duclos, AFP’s Technical Sales/Marketing and Support Manager, describes how Macfab met and exceeded AFP’s product development expectations.
The client: Serving scientific and industrial OEM and end-user customers worldwide, Analytical Flow Products (AFP) is a Quebec-based developer of high-performance laboratory hardware and methods. Since its formation in 2007, the company has registered over 20 patents. Its core offerings include gas chromatographic valves, analytical instrumentation, tight shut-off diaphragm valves, fittings, and, most recently, stackable cartridge pneumatic actuators. AFP also provides technical support services and a full range of product accessories.
The challenge: Focusing on applied research – and operating first and foremost as an R&D centre – AFP is accustomed to working with third-party manufacturing companies, most of which are US-based. However, because of the sharp declines in the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar that had occurred over much of the past year, for one of its new development initiatives AFP also wanted to assess potential Canadian contenders.
For AFP’s Pete Duclos, the challenge had as much to do with competency as with cost. One of the components in the new product they were developing was made with PEEK (polyether ether ketone), known not only for its excellent mechanical and chemical resistance properties but also for its sophisticated production requirements. “People should not go to a shop that’s machining metal thinking that they can give you good plastic parts,” Pete cautions.
Macfab has deep experience with PEEK and other advanced polymers
“People should not go to a shop that’s machining metal thinking that they can give you good plastic parts.”
Of the three competing companies, the project was awarded to Macfab. Macfab’s thermal treatment procedures for stabilizing materials, including PEEK, was a major factor – and of course, so was Macfab’s quoted price. But as Pete points out, Macfab delivered superior results in all key aspects of the project:
The finish: “There was absolutely no porosity in the surface finish. My employees, when they were inspecting the product, said, ‘Wow, this product looks as shiny as glass – no machining marks’. Macfab knows this material well and understands our application’s requirements.”
The fit: “Because we were mating two parts together, the fit needed to be perfect. They made a sub-assembly for us, with a metal part and a plastic part. It turned out that instead of us doing the assembly, the cleaning, and quality checking, the parts we received from Macfab could be dropped into the assembly and worked right away. The parts were delivered promptly, everything was clean and assembled properly.”
Turnaround time: “What was interesting with Macfab, when we needed quick turnaround for a prototype, they delivered, while others took too long on lead time.”
The bottom line
Fast response time is critical in most any industry, and especially where prototyping plays such an important role, but as Pete Duclos emphasizes, speed can never come at the expense of quality. “We’re an R&D centre. We focus on developing innovative solutions for our customers. This is why we need good suppliers with high quality parts.
“When we’re doing prototyping, R&D, we want to prove the concept, but we need quality parts for that. If we have them quickly, but not with the right quality, then we’re not proving the quality of our concept, we’re just checking the quality of the supplier. That’s why we put our trust in Macfab, because they know how to do it and they do it right.”