Companies and individuals requiring machine shop services are now able to search online to match their requirements against a growing number of job shops now entering the market, that supply these services. There is now a thriving online marketplace of job shops and buyers in search of a more efficient way to procure this type of service without the usual geographical constraints that normally limit the relationships between customers and job shops.
Buyers can now post RFQ’s (Request For Quotation) containing their detailed requirements which may include drawings, CAD specifications and any other supporting documentation. The interested job shops are then able to choose those jobs that suit their capabilities and their capacities. Over the past six months, 905 jobs for a total of 22.5 million dollars was posted on the network for processes like screw turning, precision machining, die making, five axis machining and form fabricating.
The system does not just connect buyers with sellers. It encourages two way communications which are essential to the whole process of procurement. Suppliers are able to make suggestions for manufacturing issues or to request clarification on technical or pricing questions. There is a messaging system which enables one-on-one communications or even allows buyers to post their messages so that all shops may read them.
Tools are provided to enable buyers and job shops to manage and organize any outstanding quotations. RFQ’s may be sorted and grouped in any number of ways and can include detailed or summary reports. Buyers are able to expose their requests to the entire network or just to the smaller groups that they choose. Their selection can even include a single shop enabling closer collaboration in order to promote the customer to supplier relationship.
One of the first steps to be taken by a job shop is to create a search filter to identify the type of jobs that the shop is able to produce. Criteria can be set up to look for requests from a specific industry, the size of a specific lot, a delivery window or a certain manufacturing discipline. The job shops can create as many filters as they need.
On one particular site, the process has been largely automated although there is an annual charge for the service but no individual transaction costs. Both buyers and job shops may use any combination of online or offline communications to negotiate their business transactions. If the customer and the machining facility are in agreement after negotiating terms, any further communications may be concluded offline.
Once a quotation has been identified, the automated quote system may be employed to guide the machine shop estimator through the process of compiling the quote. The quote is created dynamically based on the RFQ information supplied by the buyer. The job shop then completes the quote by filling in the fields detailing machining costs, material costs, tooling costs and shipping charges. The total of all costs are then calculated.