Choosing a fabrication shop for many small businesses and entrepreneurs usually comes down to who's local. While there's nothing wrong with choosing a local fabricator, it's still important that you do some research. It's fine to source locally, but make sure the metal workers you contract are the ones that are right for your project.
What You Should Check for
There are a lot of things to look into before you choose a fabricator for your parts. Some of the information you need is likely online. But some of the stuff you need to look into may require you to do some legwork.
Affinity – If your local fabricator has a long history of welding agricultural equipment parts, that's fine. But if you need custom made screws to attach two disparate pieces of a project you're working on, then it's not so good.
Even if the shop has the ability to make your screws, it doesn't mean that it's the shop for you. Make sure the fabricator you choose has a history of making the kind of product you need. Even better, check to see if the shop has a background with working with your particular industry.
Equipment – The type of equipment a shop uses matters a lot. The equipment at the shop's disposal will dictate how fast they can do a job and the price they might charge for the job.
An old school fabricator that uses a lot of older machining techniques may charge you less, but it may take longer if you need a lot units. A shop that employs lasers in their machining process can get your product to you faster. But the pricey and energy-hungry equipment may come with some overhead that you have to pay for.
Sourcing – Unless you don't particularly care about the quality of the materials used, it's useful for you to know where the shop sources its raw materials. There's a difference between cheap metals and quality metals of the same type. The same goes for plastics and any other kind of material you need your object created from.
Ask your potential fabricator who they purchase materials from. Then look into that manufacturer or wholesaler.
Capacity – If you just need one prototype then capacity probably won't matter. But if you need a thousand welded t-joints and you need them by yesterday, then you need to know if the shop can handle the order.
Not all metal works shops can accommodate all types of runs. Even the ones that can accommodate your order may not have the capacity to do it within your time frame. Inquire about your potential shops run capacity.
If your local shop can satisfy you on all of these points, then you should certainly take advantage of their services. You can even sacrifice one or two of these points depending on your needs. Just make sure that you look into each one. From there you can make an informed decision.