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5 Tips for Dealing with Suppliers and Prototypers

Dealing with suppliers and prototypers can be tricky.

How do you guarantee that they really understand what you need them to produce? How do you know who to trust or what their quality will be like - or if you’re paying too much?

Navigating this landscape can cause headaches, and no-one wants to be disappointed by a sample that doesn’t meet their expectations. Here at Bayly Group, our industrial designers and engineers can relieve the burden from you by using our experience and contacts to get the best result for you.

But what if you’re flying solo? Here are our top 5 tips for dealing with suppliers.

Tip 1 - Ask the ‘dumb’ questions

No-one likes feeling uninformed or exposing their inexperience. But often, asking the ‘dumb’ questions can be exactly what you need to do to get important details, prevent incorrect assumptions, and get the best outcome for your product. Whenever our team are dealing with new technologies or materials, we often begin our conversations with ‘I’m going to ask a lot of dumb questions…’
We find most suppliers really appreciate the interest, honesty, and thoroughness of our inquiry. This builds a good relationship, strong understanding and sets the scene for open, ongoing collaboration. When it comes to guaranteeing you’re making the best decisions for your product, there’s no such thing as a dumb question.

Tip 2 - Use lots of visuals

When it comes to specifying your product, more IS more. The more avenues for misunderstanding you can remove by using visuals, the better.
So much can get lost in translation, interpretation, and the handovers within the supplier’s company from sales to technical staff. So if a picture is worth a thousand words, a well-thought-out drawing is worth two thousand.

It’s also important to make sure these drawings have all the important detail. Why not just send a drawing and type the specifics in an email or tell them over the phone? It’s likely that the drawing will be printed and make it’s way through the supplier’s factory without the email / phone call notes. This is why we minimise the potential for miscommunication by ensuring every important detail makes it onto the drawings - even if we’ve already told someone over the phone.

Tip 3: Use standard methods of specification

Tolerances, colours, paint types, material grades, material hardness, surface finish ... there are standards for just about everything nowadays. We have drawers full of standard samples, and our suppliers and prototypers have corresponding, identical ones, so we know that we are talking about the same thing.

Examples of specification vocabulary:
Colour: Pantone
Each colour has a specific number and you can buy a swatch to ensure you’re looking at what the supplier is looking at. Specification eg. ‘Pantone 636’
Hardness: Shore Durometer
There are several hardness scales you can compare your product to. Shore A is most common for soft materials, and Shore D for hard materials. Specification eg. ‘Durometer 70, Shore A’
Materials: Name, composition, grade, (and standard where necessary)
Plastic specification eg. ‘ABS, 20% glass fiber reinforced, injection molding grade’
Steel specification eg. ‘Steel Plate - Grade 250, AS/NZS 3678:2011 compliant’

Tip 4 - Ask for samples and examples

Over time, Bayly have built a database of suppliers and prototypers who we trust as specialists for their particular operation. We know their work will be high quality, timely, appropriately priced, and that they will be good to work with. But without this, how do you know what to expect? Whenever we consider using a new supplier, we ask them for examples of their work and samples. Don’t be afraid to ask for examples of work they’ve done in the past, to boost your confidence that they can achieve what you need. And wherever possible, get them to send you physical samples for you to check before you commit too much.

Tip 5 - Get full, official quotes from several suppliers

Simple over-the-phone advice can be great for something indicative, but may leave out important (and potentially expensive) detail, which makes it hard to compare pricing from one company to another once you start getting to specifics. An official quote is also a great place to confirm the supplier’s interpretation of your needs. Thoroughly checking a supplier’s official quote is a very important process for us, and if you’re approaching them yourself, it’s absolutely your responsibility to ensure the details are clear, defined, and correct.

And if you’re struggling, give us a call!

We find that some suppliers are much more interested in dealing with a product design agency than with an individual. Bayly have had clients approach a supplier, only to receive minimal help or information. When Bayly contacted the supplier as their Product Design consultancy, we have been given a tour and the works.

We have go-to specialists for a wide variety of manufacturing and prototyping needs from injection moulding, thermoforming and packaging, to electronics, woodwork, laser cutting, welding and more.

If you’re looking for assistance getting your next product design prototyped or into production, or would like more information for developing a new product, contact our Melbourne Product Design team today at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or give us a call on +61 3 9413 9000. We’d love to chat!

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Australian Synchrotron

The Pantone Colour swatch is a common tool used to communicate specific colours with a supplier 


Australian Synchrotron

Examples of prototype samples


  Australian Synchrotron

 Materials need to be specified for the supplier whether it be plastic, metal or composite.