Plate it, Paint it, Anodize it The Perfect Purchase Order!

This article was written by Marko Duffy, President of Marathon Manufacturing Services.  It describes what is required  and what should be taken into consideration when writing a PO for any metal finishing job. 

When you send your intricately machined or fabricated parts out to your finisher, are you giving them enough information to do the best job possible? You may be doing a terrific job giving the plater, anodizer, painter everything they need to know and if so congratulations!   You’re one of a few.

Having been a metal finisher for many years, I have seen all types of Purchase Orders. From the proverbial cocktail napkin to the 14 page dissertation, there are all kinds of Purchase Orders that we’ve seen and dealt with with varying degrees of success.

Not as Easy as You Think!

The best Purchase Orders always tell us the following info:

Customer Name / Address / Phone / Ship To – Sounds simple but you’d be surprised.
Customer Contact – Might be the buyer, might be the shipper, might be the person in the shop who can best answer questions about this order or part.
Number of Pieces – An accurate count helps! “1 Lot” is not necessarily going to help and if it is “1 Lot” maybe you want to add “16 pieces total” or something.
Due Date – “Hot”, “Hot Rush” and “Super Hot Rush” are NOT due dates. I don’t care if you write today’s date as the due date, give the finisher some idea when you need these to be done and in shipping. An accurate date gives a finisher a target and possibly time to do them well.   At the very least, a due date that cannot be met gives the finisher a reason to call you and negotiate a date they can meet or a premium charge if necessary.
Finishing Specification – “Nickel Plate”, “Paint Flat Black” and “Hardcoat” are not really enough. If there is a MIL Spec , ASTM Spec, AMS Spec or any other call out from your customer, you should be sure to either include that with the parts or at the very least be sure your finisher has it. Assuming that your finisher has a voluminous library of every specification is a sure way to get burned… Potentially literally!
Tight Tolerance Information – Is there a hole, slot or diameter that is really tight or super critical? Better let them know! Asking before you make the parts what kind of tolerances the finisher need may help as well. You may make life easier for both of you and make the end user a happy customer.
Critical Features – Is there an area that has to maintain a very smooth surface? A hole that needs to be kept burr free or super smooth? How about a groove where something has to slide that can’t be altered in any way? Remember Murphy’s Law? “If it can go wrong it will”? Well Murphy was a metal finisher before he became a philosopher… If it can go wrong it will, unless you write it down and let the finisher know.
Not So Critical Features – Think about the painter that spends a lot of time trying to cover an area that is tough to reach. Is that area even visible? Is “overspray permitted”? Is there a surface that will be re-machined after plating or anodizing? All good info for the finisher to know as they will, and should, charge you for all the effort put into the part. You can save time and money with a little bit of communication.
Minimum / Maximum Build-Up – The coating thickness determines a lot about the finished part.   Letting the finisher know your expectations may be crucial to your success. If you have to machine or fabricate a certain dimension in some way that may effect how the finish should be applied you’ll only be helping your self.   If a finish callout is say .5 – 1 Mil of plating and you’re expecting the 1 Mil but you get the .5 and the dimensions are off, you’ll wish you had.  
Other Critical Info – Did you make 500 but only need 250? Can you send the spec or the Purchase Order to the finisher before the parts get there? Is there masking and if there is did you give the finisher a chance to get the right plugs, caps, discs, tape or fixtures before the parts were “Super Hot Rush”? Is there a packing requirement that you should share? Are you going to unwrap all the parts when they get back to your shop? If so maybe the finisher doesn’t have to wrap each part individually like they’re being shipped around the world?

Be a Part of the Solution

All of these things and more can make a huge difference in the delivery, time and quality of the order. I have over the years had some customers that were terrific at communication and not surprisingly those were the happiest customers I had. Once again, like so many things in business, it comes down to communication.   You just can’t have too much of this!
For many machine shops and fabricators this is all routine and redundant. Many finishers have done a great job educating the makers of the parts to give them what they need. There are some of you, some of us, that can always do a better job at this. The Purchase Order is the place to start the finish off right.

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