When you’re looking for a source for metal fabrication work, we understand you’ve got options. We also know how difficult it can be to find the right company for your needs. You might use spreadsheets and weighting factors to evaluate prospective suppliers on a host of criteria. Maybe you judge a business by the owner’s handshake. Or perhaps you think price is all that matters. Whatever approach you take, we’d like to offer some advice for finding a business that won’t just be a supplier, but a metal fabrication partner for the long term.

Why Partnerships Matter

Partnership is about trust and mutual understanding. When a supplier knows what their customers want and expect, they can do a better job of anticipating their needs. The supplier can plan better and suggest improvements, and together they can find ways to manage costs.

So how do you find a metal fabrication partner? You’re about to find out.

Capabilities are at the Heart

Fabrication is a very broad term. It covers working with sheet, extrusion, rolled steel section, and more, plus a host of cutting, shaping, bending, joining, and finishing processes. There’s often more than one way to produce a feature, realize a function or achieve a result, and deciding which is best takes experience as well as technical skills. So we suggest you start your search for a metal fabrication partner by assessing capabilities.

Specific factors to consider are:

  • Range of fabrication equipment available – turret punches, laser cutters, folders, press brakes, and more
  • Age and technological capability of the equipment – to what extent are CNC controls used, and does the supplier have the programming tools and expertise to make full use of them?
  • Welding resources – MIG only, or do they have TIG and resistance welding too?
  • Scalability – the ability to produce one-offs and prototypes, and then scale up to production quantities
  • Finishing resources – coating, assembly and even packaging for shipment and storage

When assessing capabilities, it’s a mistake to look only for what your current project requires. Next month you might need something else, and if your chosen fabricator doesn’t have those resources you’ll be going through another sourcing exercise. So look for a business that’s invested in a wide range of equipment and processes, and has the expertise to use them.

Engineering Resources

Some fabrication shops will produce exactly what’s on the print or napkin. A metal fabrication partner will take the time to think about what you’re trying to achieve and will offer their ideas.

You might want to do your own detail design, and that’s okay, but how about asking your fabrication partner to do the design for you? With their experience and detailed knowledge of their equipment, they’ll likely find ways to improve functionality and durability while saving some money in the process.

So, look for a fabricator with engineering expertise and resources. Do they have CAD systems, and do they have engineers skilled in their use? Even if not relevant to your current project, it might be useful for the next one.

Supply Chain and Logistics

Can they meet your needs for shipments? Especially with larger fabrications, you may only want to receive a few pieces each week rather than the complete order in one go.

Lead time is another factor. Are they close enough that, if you need changes there aren’t trailer or container loads of parts to be reworked?

Can they be flexible if your volumes suddenly rise or fall? Some businesses don’t like to deviate from an agreed schedule. Others will listen to what the problem is and see what they can do to help.


Everyone will say they do a quality job, but there are some specifics you can look for:

  • Certifications – for the Quality Management System, but in specific areas too, especially welding
  • Awards and testimonials from current and past customers
  • Case studies describing particular problems that were solved or needs met

A walk through a fabrication shop can give a sense of the pride that’s taken in the work. Being clean and organized is a good indicator that they care about doing things right, (which is one of the values Verne Wiley embedded deep in our culture here.)


You can tell a lot about a business by the way the people you interact with act and behave. Do they ask questions and listen? Do they care about the people who work there? A company might say they have a family culture, but it takes a visit and careful observation to see if they walk the talk.

And if you’re wondering why a family culture matters, here’s why: it’s about doing things right rather than chasing a dollar. Wiley Metal Fabricating has never deviated from that principle.

Seeking to be Your Long-term Metal Fabrication Partner

Whether you need a single-piece fabricating or are looking for a long-term source, it’s important to find the right partner. Taking time to evaluate capabilities, engineering resources and more will result in receiving the fabrications you need, and it will save you having to repeat the exercise on the next occasion.

At Wiley Metal, we offer an extensive range of fabrication services and we always take the time to understand exactly what the customer wants. For us there’s no such thing as “good enough”: our goal is customer satisfaction, which is how it’s always been.

If you’d like to learn more about our attitude to customer partnerships, or if you have a project to discuss, we’re ready. Contact us and let’s talk.