Whether you are manufacturing your first product or are looking for a new supplier, sourcing manufacturers locally is a constant challenge for creatives and small businesses alike.
Make Works are are all about opening up manufacturing information, so here are some tips to help you with finding a manufacturer in Scotland.
Researching and finding manufacturers is a long, ongoing process so the first thing we would recommend would be setting up a reference spreadsheet or a list somewhere. The idea of this is to keep track of who you’ve looked at, what they do, who else they work with and whether or not you’ve spoken to them yet. Over the years you will end up with a fantastic collection of suppliers to call on (and share!)
Start the Research Online
As much as Google has the answer to just about everything, when it comes to manufacturing factory websites haven't quite caught up. To get the best results, try using specific search terms for that industry such as the production process or location that you would prefer to find a fabricator. You’ll need to be persistent and for once continue to pages 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (or further) to find what you are really looking for.
When we are feeling uninspired we sometimes we use Google maps to search manufacturers in a specific area. We’re also known to use Google Street View, placing ourselves in an industrial estate, finding factory names on signage and following up the name from there.
As we've referred to before - when you do find somebody, never judge a factory by its website. Hunt out the phone number or the email address and see if you can arrange a facotry visit.
The other thing is to keep an eye on social media accounts. More often than not, artists and designers will tag a fabricator, supplier or factory in their instagram feed or twitter.
The same goes for social media accounts of press featuring Scottish manufacturers, or public projects that are working with local suppliers.
As an open manufacturers directory, we’d love for you to use Make Works for your factory finding, and discover the hundreds of manufacturers, suppliers and workshops listed. There are three ways to find manufacturers on Make Works: using the search, browse or roulette function. You can also find lists of suggested manufacturers on our blog.
The more traditional directories can be difficult to navigate and sparse on information, but are useful in the first instance. Yell.com and Thompson Local are two that we use on occassion. For fashion designers the Lets Make it Here directory is also pretty useful and for illustrators, Good Press have a useful resource of printing suppliers.
We’d also recommend hunting out old trade directories at your local library. Sometimes the suppliers listed are still in business.
Tradeshows and Events
Sometimes the best way to find a manufacturer is to meet them in person. The manufacturing industry in Scotland have a number of conferences like the Scottish Textiles and Leather Association Conference or the SMAS Conference later this year. UK-Wide try Meet the Manufacturer in London, Subcon in Birmingham or the annual EEF Conference. Our tactic for these events is to prowl the booths, get as much information and samples as you can!
You can also come along to a Make Works event like Maker Speed Dater, which we try to run every few months.
Ask for recommendations
Referrals and recommendations from your peers are often second to none. This has been a bit more difficult in the past. For example, in fashion, cut and sew manufacturers are few and far between people were less willing to share. Generally though this has changed recently and the creative community tend to be willing to help one another.
Here are some key people we've found are a hive of information:
- Designers, makers and artists in your community
- Workshop technicians
- Gallery or Artist assistants
- Your local makerspace
- Manufacturers - if they don’t do what you are looking for, use your charm and ask them if they know somebody that does.
The most important thing when you are asking other people for this sort of information is to be respectful of their time and expertise in sharing it with you. If you have found a brilliant supplier or manufacturer in Scotland and would like to share it with the community, you can suggest a factory for Make Works here.
If this has been useful you might want to read our Tips for Manufacturing in Scotland
If you are really stuck you can message us directly, or become a Patron and get for factory sourcing support as a reward!