Updated May 2019
The Request for Quote (RFQ) and competitive bidding process is an important one for the plastic injection molding industry. Not only does it help OEMs secure the best overall value and quality results for their production needs, but it also rewards high-performing contract manufacturers with business, providing competitive pressure for the innovation, specialization, and continuous improvement which keeps the industry healthy and responsive to customer requirements.
Unfortunately, problems often arise in the bidding process which negatively impact both OEMs and contract manufacturers, leading to inaccurate proposals for injection molded tooling and parts. Without accurate proposals, customers can’t make the best decisions for their plastic part needs, leading to costly production problems like high scrap or reject rates, or being unable to meet production demands due to outgrowing the Contract Manufacturers (CM’s) production bandwidth.
Open, accurate, and responsive communication between the OEM and the potential vendor is key to avoiding these problems which prevent quotes from meeting the customer’s requirements. A key vehicle of that communication is the RFQ, which can eliminate inaccurate assumptions which lead to inaccurate quotes and convey the same complete and accurate information to each bidding molder.
In this article, we’ll discuss more specific tips OEMs can put into practice to ensure that all the competing quotes they receive will be accurate and comparable.
Remove all assumptions by documenting and detailing everything you need
When CMs incorporate assumptions into their quotes which don’t reflect the needs or reality of the customer, those quotes can be way off in price, or promise more than they can actually deliver. This is why customers need to be detailed and explicit in the RFQ’s they send out.
There are several pieces of information which must be included in the RFQ in order for the CMs to accurately estimate the per part, tooling, and shipping costs. Here’s a list of the most critical information which must be included as part of the RFQ package to prospective molders:
3D CAD files and 2D drawings of the part
Injection molders cannot produce an accurate quote without the vital information contained in the 3D CAD files. 2D drawings are also helpful, but if those drawings aren’t provided, then at least the material requirements, overall tolerance expectations and CTQ (critical to quality) need to be provided in the RFQ.
The base resin and any additives such as colorants or fillers should be on the RFQ. Besides determining the raw material costs, this information is needed for other reasons. For example, some resins are corrosive and fillers such as glass fibers are abrasive—both of which can degrade the tooling. CMs need to select tooling materials (and surface treatments) with such issues in mind, as well as factor in the costs of careful monitoring and maintenance.
Required annual production volume.
When new molds are designed, this is the requirement which drives the size, cavitation, and SPI mold class (e.g. 101, 102, or 103) —and thus has a large impact on the tooling cost. Large, multi-cavity, hot-runner molds produce the lowest price per part for an OEM. Not all customers, however, can afford the high upfront costs of those tools. Also, the CM needs to calculate the cycle time necessary to produce all the parts needed in a year, and cycle time drives much of the cost of injection molding plastic components.
This annual volume and release quantities will also dictate the number of cavities and is extremely important to error on the side of higher volume to ensure your tool can keep up with future demand. While typically the functionality and visual requirements dictate the runner type (hot or cold), the annual volume can also be a factor.
Projected demand for the next three years
If the monthly and annual production demand is expected to increase over the next three years, those projections need to be listed on the RFQ. Not only will this aid in the monthly production planning for the CM as demand ramps up, but these projections will also enable the quoting CMs to propose a long-term manufacturing solution which will not quickly become a bottleneck.
Estimated future demand can also be helpful for augmenting the molding process with automation down the road. Therefore, including projected future demand in the RFQ provides the bidding vendors visibility for potential automation solutions which can be added to help reduce overall costs while increasing throughput.
Deadlines relating to vendor selection
What date is the quote needed by? When will the winning vendor be selected? Your potential injection molder needs to know these deadlines in order to properly prioritize (and if necessary, expedite) the quote. Tooling design engineers and other personnel may need to be diverted from other work in order to meet those deadlines, depending on when that quote is needed.
When will the tooling and first production parts be needed?
The sooner the parts are needed, the less time there is for mold design and fabrication, resin sourcing, molding process validation, and other necessary activities. This leads to higher expedite fees for materials and higher labor costs from extended hours.
Will secondary operations be needed?
If so, which ones? By listing additional requirements such as kitting, assembly, heat staking, or laser marking on the RFQ, you provide full-service CMs the opportunity to simplify your supply chain and reduce total manufacturing costs.
What type of packaging is required?
Packaging each part individually will be much more expensive than bulk or layer packaging, especially for large release quantities. If a part requires specific packaging due to the type of product or the industry it’s used for, that information needs to be in the RFQ.
What are the validation requirements?
Some molders can work with a customer to accommodate a custom production part approval process (PPAP) or a tailored IQ/OQ/PQ. Regulated industries will have specific, stringent validation requirements. If this is the case for your component, spell it out on the RFQ.
What certifications are required?
If the new part is a medical device component or product and needs to meet ISO 13485 or FDA requirements, that needs to be stated on the RFQ. Same goes for defense parts and FFL or ITAR certification. Specific certifications impose process, documentation, and other requirements on the manufacturing process which can increase the tooling and per part costs.
Who are the main decision makers for the project?
By listing the names and titles of the key deciders on the RFQ, the bidding CMs will be better able to provide the proper information in the most effective way to the ones who must evaluate and act on that information.
How many other vendors are bidding on this same RFQ? Are they domestic, offshore, or both?
Customers looking for the lowest price per part could send an RFQ to 7 to 15 potential suppliers, compared to 2-5 molders if that OEM is looking for a more strategic molding partner…If those potential suppliers know that a low price per part is the top priority, they will be able to propose a solution better optimized for that low cost per molded part.
Accurate Quotes Begin with Accurate RFQs
When customers send out both 3D models and 2D prints of the mold to all the bidding injection molders, all three of these issues are addressed, resulting in more accurate quotes received by the OEM.
Customers can use the above list as the basis of an RFQ checklist for future projects. The more complete and accurate the information given to the molders is, the more accurate and reliable their proposals will be, and the more likely production of the part or parts will run on schedule, efficiently, and cost effectively.
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