20 Questions for your Outside Fabricator

The benefit of working with a 3rd-party fabricator is pretty clear: it can help you boost your company’s capacity to deal with more or larger projects.

And while there are many factors to consider before hiring another company to complete the fabrication of your glazing systems, you can avoid and mitigate most risks with smart planning and clear communication.

Never fall into the trap of assuming everything will go smoothly. Always get the facts straight before you commit to working with a 3rd party fabricator.

Below are 20 questions you should ask before fabrication:

  1. What’s the fabricator’s pricing model? Does it include overtime expenses if the project falls behind schedule?
    Unexpected expenses can really cut into your profit margins. So be sure you understand what happens if the project doesn’t proceed as planned.
  2. Who is my contact person before, during, and after the construction process?
    Knowing who to contact for questions or updates at all times will not only save you time, but help prevent a situation in which different people at the company give you conflicting information.
  3. What quality control procedures do they use to ensure a smooth process?
    You can’t foresee every problem, but you want to be sure that the company you’re contracting has a solid plan for quality control. A solid plan demonstrates maturity: all experienced companies know the importance of doing things right the first time to avoid costly rework.
  4. How complicated is the job compared to work they’ve done in the past? In particular, do they have experience fabricating similar systems?
    It’s important to find a contractor with proven experience in the systems you’ve designed. Choosing a less experienced fabricator is risky.
  5. Does the price include partial assembly of any frames?
    You and your fabricator should be on the same page about which frames will be assembled completely and which ones will only be partially assembled. Partially assembled frames will of course take more time to install at the construction site, so it’s important to account for this upfront.
  6. Is the gasketing precut, installed, or sent in rolls?
    The answer to this question will help you plan your construction process. Precut or installed gasketing will usually take less time to install than gasketing that’s sent in rolls.
  7. Does the fabricator have CNC equipment for notches and cut-outs?
    Computer-aided fabrication processes boost the speed and quality of construction, which should help keep costs and fabrication time down.
  8. Is delivery an option?
    Fabricators that deliver completed frames can help you manage your project more efficiently. Just make sure the additional service is worth the cost. And be sure to have a plan if the fabricator is late on the delivery.
  9. If delivery is an option, what equipment do I need to receive the frames?
    You don’t want to be stuck with frames at the construction site that you can’t properly move or store. Make sure you have everything you need to accept the delivery.
  10. How early can I have material delivered? Is there a fee for storage if the project schedule changes?
    Some fabricators will charge you an extra fee for holding on to inventory while you get your project back on track.
  11. Are there any specific requirements regarding shop drawings?
    It’s critical that your fabricators completely understand your shop drawings — and that they can be processed by any CNC equipment in use.
  12. Does the fabricator require .DWG files of my shop drawings?
    If not, make sure they have all the file formats they need.
  13. Who is responsible for optimizing material prior to ordering? Do I have to share these optimization reports?
    If you’re responsible, it’s critical to provide optimization reports before sending your drawings for fabrication. Otherwise, your material costs will be higher than you might expect.
  14. Can I request that the project be fabricated in phases?
    This could help you avoid storing frames at the construction site for extended periods of time. On the other hand, it could increase the complexity of the job for your fabricator.
  15. Can I visit the facility and inspect material during the fabrication process?
    As long as you don’t get in the way, fabricators shouldn’t have a problem with you visiting to verify quality and check whether fabrication is occurring to spec.
  16. How is the material wrapped, identified and/or bundled?
    You may prefer or need material delivered in a certain way, so be sure your fabricator can accommodate this.
  17. Can individual components be wrapped per opening, or are like sizes bundled together? Is the cost the same for different options?
    This could affect which frames you unwrap first and how frames are stored at the construction site.
  18. Whose responsibility is it if framing is damaged during fabrication?
    Understand who’s going to foot the bill in the event of damaged materials.
  19. Does the fabricator require that I order extra material to cover minor mistakes and/or issues?
    Some fabricators will be able to tell you upfront what error rate to expect.
  20. What is the process and/or impact if material is delivered from the manufacturer damaged?
    You need a clear plan for what happens if material arrives damaged. It’s important to understand how this will this affect lead times and project costs, and to account for various scenarios beforehand.

Get honest and thorough answers to the 20 questions above and you’ll significantly increase the odds of a successful and profitable project.