If you're looking for a new partner to produce plastic packaging for your products, then you should draw up a shortlist of suitable companies. While price is always an important factor, it's not the only consideration you should make.

To choose the right manufacturer to work with, ask the following questions.

1. Do They Understand Your Business?

While packaging manufacturers often work across various sectors, it's a good idea to work with a company that understands your business needs. A company that has worked for other businesses in your sector or that has produced the types of packaging you need is better able to deliver exactly what you want.

For example, if you work in the food service industry, then your packaging will have to meet various safety and health standards. If you choose a manufacturer that has produced food-grade plastic packaging in the past, then you can be confident that they know what they need to do.

So, ask companies if they have worked in your industry before. Ask to see examples of their past products. If you need to meet certain standards, check that they understand how this impacts your orders.

2. Do They Offer a Full-Service Solution?

While you can sometimes order stock packaging, there may be times when you need a customised solution. While you can use external consultants to help you design the packaging you need, it's often easier to use a manufacturer that has an in-house design team.

If you can use the company from design to production, then you get a one-stop service. You don't have to pay a designer and then wait to get the design to your manufacturer. It might be quicker and cheaper to use a packaging company with a full-service solution.

Plus, a company's in-house designers often have a better understanding of the manufacturing process. They know what works and what doesn't. You are less likely to have to deal with costly mistakes and delays.

3. What Are Their Lead Times?

While manufacturers can give you estimated lead times on the example orders you discuss with them during your selection process, you also need to know how they might handle changes in your order schedules, sizes and types.

For example, a manufacturer might be able to produce your regular order to a specific schedule. But what if you have to increase its size quickly because of an unexpected uptick in orders? What if you want to do a small trial run using a different kind of plastic or packaging design?

Ideally, you want a manufacturer that can be agile on lead times. If this incurs extra costs, it's good to know about them in advance.

Once you've asked plastic packaging manufacturers these questions, you should start to cut down your shortlist to the most suitable companies.