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A Comprehensive Guide to Outsource Manufacturing: Risks, Benefits & More

by | Apr 20, 2023

The global outsourcing market has been growing steadily over the past 50 years. The average manufacturer outsources 70% to 80% of its finished product. Outsourcing is not only about cost saving; rather, it is becoming a strategic option that may power the twenty-first-century economy. Outsourcing can increase productivity and competitiveness 10- to 100-fold, according to The Outsourcing Revolution: Why It Makes Sense and How to Do It Right.

Outsource manufacturing involves contracting a third-party manufacturer to produce products, components, or parts previously manufactured in-house. But what exactly is outsourcing manufacturing? 

This article will explore its definition and why companies choose it. We will also discuss when it makes sense to outsource and how to do it. Additionally, we will cover the potential risks associated with outsourcing and provide tips on choosing the right manufacturer. So, let’s get started.

What is Outsource Manufacturing?

Outsourcing manufacturing is a process that allows businesses to delegate their manufacturing activities to third-party vendors. In simple terms, it involves the transfer of the entire or a part of the manufacturing process to another company specializing in that specific task. It can range from a single product component to a complete end-product assembly.

When To Outsource Manufacturing?

Using a manufacturer can provide numerous benefits, but it may not be the best choice for every company. There are various factors to consider when deciding whether to outsource your manufacturing or not. Here are some situations when using a manufacturer can make sense:

  • Lack Of Expertise: Outsourcing can be viable if your company lacks the technical knowledge or expertise required to manufacture a product. For example, suppose you’re a medical tech startup that specializes in digital health solutions but needs to manufacture hardware components. In that case, outsourcing can help you leverage the expertise of a manufacturer with the necessary technical skills.
  • Cost Savings: Outsourcing manufacturing can help companies cut costs in several ways. For example, it allows companies to avoid the capital expenses of building a production facility, buying equipment, and hiring and training employees. Plus, companies can benefit from lower labor costs, as manufacturers in countries with lower human costs can offer more affordable production.
  • Scalability: Outsourcing production to a manufacturer allows companies to scale production based on business needs, especially for seasonal fluctuations or unexpected market changes. For example, a snack food company that produces candy can use a manufacturer to increase production during the holidays when demand is higher for holiday parties and gift-giving.
  • Focus On Core Competencies: Outsourcing also helps companies focus on their core competencies and key business areas, such as research and development, marketing, and customer service. As a result, it allows companies to allocate more resources to areas directly contributing to their competitive advantage.

How to Outsource Manufacturing?

Outsourcing, or contract manufacturing, can offer several benefits but requires careful planning and management to ensure a successful outcome. Here are some steps on how to outsource manufacturing:

  • Determine Your Needs: Identify the products, components, or parts that you want to outsource, along with the quantities required and any specific requirements for quality, materials, or delivery.
  • Research Potential Manufacturers: Identify potential manufacturers who can meet your requirements. Look for manufacturers with experience in your industry, a track record of delivering high-quality products, and a capacity to meet your production needs.
  • Evaluate Potential Manufacturers: Evaluate potential manufacturers based on their pricing, quality standards, lead times, communication skills, and other relevant factors. Conduct reference checks and site visits to understand their capabilities better.
  • Negotiate Terms: Once you have identified a suitable manufacturer, negotiate terms, including pricing, quality standards, delivery timelines, and other relevant terms.
  • Develop A Contract: Develop a contract that outlines the expectations and requirements of both parties, including the scope of work, payment terms, delivery schedules, quality standards, and any other relevant points.
  • Provide Specifications: Provide the manufacturer with detailed specifications for the products, components, or parts you want them to produce, including any technical drawings or other documentation.
  • Monitor Production: Monitor the manufacturer’s progress throughout production to ensure they meet your quality and delivery standards. In addition, conduct regular inspections and audits to ensure the products meet your specifications.
  • Manage Logistics: Coordinate logistics with the manufacturer to ensure the products are delivered on time and to the required destination. Keep track of inventory levels and adjust production schedules as necessary to avoid stockouts or overstocking.

By following these steps, you can successfully use a manufacturing partner and achieve cost savings, quality improvements, and other benefits that outsourcing can offer.

The Risks for Manufacturing Companies that Outsource

When manufacturing companies choose to outsource their production, they expose themselves to certain risks that come with this business model.

  • Quality Control: When a company hires a production partner, it gives up direct control over production. Ensuring the final product meets the expected quality standards can be challenging. The contract manufacturer may use subpar materials or manufacturing techniques that differ from those used in-house. It can result in poor-quality products that damage the company’s reputation.
  • Intellectual Property Theft: Sharing sensitive information with a manufacturer exposes a company to the risk of intellectual property theft. It can happen if the manufacturer decides to use the proprietary packaging designs, formulas, or technology for their benefit or to sell to a competitor. A company may have little recourse if intellectual property theft occurs without proper legal protection.
  • Supply Chain Disruptions: When a company outsources its manufacturing, it relies on the outsourced manufacturer’s supply chain. Any disruption in the supply chain can significantly impact the company’s ability to deliver products to its consumers on time. It can result in lost revenue, reduced customer satisfaction, and reputational damage.
  • Communication and Cultural Barriers: Using a manufacturer from a different country or region can create communication and cultural barriers. Misunderstandings can occur due to language differences, time zone differences, or cultural norms. These barriers can affect production, delay delivery times, and create additional costs.

Companies must carefully vet potential manufacturers, ensure proper legal protection, establish clear communication channels, and implement robust quality control processes.

Also Read: Key Considerations When Choosing a Private Label Manufacturer

How to Choose the Right Outsource Manufacturer?

Choosing the right outsourcing manufacturer is critical to the success of your business. The right manufacturer can deliver high-quality products on time and within budget. In contrast, the wrong manufacturer can cause delays, quality issues, and cost overruns. Here are the key factors to consider when choosing a manufacturer:

  • Industry Experience: Look for a manufacturer with experience in your industry. They will better understand your specific needs and requirements, which can lead to a smoother production process.
  • Production Capacity: Ensure the selected manufacturer can meet your needs. They should have the equipment, facilities, and workforce to produce the volume of products you require.
  • Quality Standards: Look for a manufacturer with a strong commitment to quality, which can be reflected in their possession of relevant certifications such as ISO 9001 or other industry-specific standards.
  • Cost: Cost is a significant factor in choosing a contract manufacturing company. However, it’s essential to balance cost with quality and production capacity. Look for a manufacturer that offers competitive pricing while still delivering quality products on time.
  • Communication: Communication is key to the success of any outsourcing relationship. Look for a manufacturer that communicates clearly and regularly, providing updates on production timelines, quality control, and any issues.
  • References: Ask for references from potential manufacturers and follow up with them. References can provide valuable insights into the manufacturer’s strengths and weaknesses, helping you make an informed decision.

By considering these factors, you can choose the right manufacturer for your business, setting you up for success in the long term.


In conclusion, outsourcing manufacturing can offer several benefits for businesses, including cost reduction, improved efficiency, and access to specialized expertise. However, before deciding, companies should carefully evaluate their core competencies, expertise, scalability, and cost savings to determine whether outsourcing or in-house manufacturing is the best option for their needs.

Frequently Asked Questions on Outsource Manufacturing

What are the benefits of outsourcing manufacturing?

Outsourcing manufacturing has many benefits, including lower labor costs, cost reduction, the ability to focus on core business, access to specialized skills and expertise, and a significant decrease in production costs.

Why should companies consider outsourcing their manufacturing needs?

There are numerous advantages for companies to outsource manufacturing, such as lower labor costs, access to specialized skills and expertise, the ability to focus on core business, and the ability to supplement existing in-house manufacturing. However, outsourcing has risks, such as cost overruns and a loss of control over the manufacturing process, which companies should carefully consider before deciding to outsource.