There are many issues that need to be evaluated when deciding between offshore and US manufacturing of silicone keypads and products. They include:

·    Communication
·    Design Support
·    Quality
·    Shipping Time
·    Color and Tool Approval
·    Expediting
·    Materials
·    ITAR Certified Molding Companies

There are few reasons companies decide to buy their silicone keypads and products from overseas. Manufacturing and labor costs are generally the reasons companies decide to buy offshore. There are, however, many reasons to consider buying from a reputable US silicone keypad manufacturer.

Communications, quality, design support and timely shipping are among the most overlooked components when deciding to buy overseas. The  main reason for domestic companies to buy offshore is low product cost. The big question is, what makes up cost? The issues not taken into account when calculating this factor are the costs related to communicating back and forth, design of the product and using the correct material. How are quality issues handled? What about color approvals and first article for tool approval? These are savings that can be acquired during the design phase of the product and not during the manufacturing phase. Most of the cost savings are achieved during the design phase, not the manufacturing phase.

Another variable to consider when buying offshore is shipping. There are two options for shipping; air and sea. The overwhelming option is by sea. Shipping by sea takes an average of three weeks, but can take much longer due to weather, customs, etc. Another issue with the extremely slow shipment is if the product is already shipped and a rework is needed or the order is expedited for the customer.

Fees are another factor to take into account. There are fees in getting the product from factory to port at both ends of the cycle. The company also needs to insure the shipment during delivery. Depending on the size, shape and weight of product produced shipping by air is another option with its own host of fees.

Quality is the next aspect to consider. The manufacturing of the silicone product, such as silicone keypads, requires constant attention to achieve superior quality. Because of the low labor cost, many unskilled workers are utilized in the production process. This can result in a high percentage of defective low-quality parts. Materials are another factor in cost analysis. Gum stock or liquid injection, quality and performance are the cost issues, depending on your and customers’ expectations of the final product.

Distance is another factor to consider. Travel to overseas locations to establish relations with a company is long and expensive, not to mention impractical. The different time zones can present hurdles when you lose a day of communication. When looking for design support and help in ease of manufacturing a product, the language barrier and time zone issues can be very frustrating.

When working with the military, most applications are classified by International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR). This classification usually restricts the product from being made outside of the US and any non-national employees from viewing or working on the project. This restriction means ITAR certified molding companies must do the work. There are strict guidelines for the silicone keypad manufacturer to follow and documents required for each product. ITAR certified molding companies must have a certification from the government to manufacture any ITAR products.