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July 7, 1999

5 Min Read
The perfect RFQ

Editor’s note: Consultant Bill Tobin of WJT Assoc. has ordered hundreds of molds in his career, and has consulted on mold performance for many molders and OEMs. Here he makes some specific recommendations on how to write the perfect Request for Quotation.

How many molders really consider the cost of the mold they’re purchasing? Or what exactly it is that they’re getting for their money? The cost of just about any mold is equal to a really nice fishing boat. A complex ultra-high-volume tool has a price tag equal to a very fancy house. And what exactly is it that the moldmaker is providing for this cost? As the saying goes, “No one goes to the hardware store to buy a drill; you go to buy the hole.” The drill is simply the tool used to make the hole. In the same sense, molders don’t go to a moldmaker to buy a mold. They go to buy capacity to produce parts.

Therefore, it is vital that molders take the time to write a request for quotation (RFQ) for a new mold that asks for exactly what they want. Moldbuilders are not mind readers, so the RFQ must be as clear as possible.

Here’s what often happens. A molder receives an order from a client for a project of 50 million widgets a year for a market that looks like it will last at least five years. After looking at the material—HIPS—and calculating the cycle time, the molder adds in the profit and decides the project could mean serious cash.

As the next step, he calls the moldmaker and meets to look at the prints. The project requires two 32-cavity hot runner molds. The molder and moldmaker discuss numbers and timing. After the meeting, the molder promises to send an RFQ. Since the client is paying for the molds, the quote is necessary to make sure the price is right for both customer and molder. After all, 32-cavity combination hot runner tools are pricey, so everyone wants to get his money’s worth.

When the RFQ is sent out, it looks something like this: “Design and build two 32-cavity hot runner molds. The molds are to produce widgets for West Industries per drawing dated February 14, 1999 at engineering level XX. The tooling is to be dimensionally qualified per All Plastics’ qualification procedure before it will be released for shipping to our facility. Finished tooling capable of production is to be delivered to All Plastics’ dock on or before the close of business August 31, 2000.”

All the basic elements of an RFQ are represented: design the mold; build the mold; qualify the mold producing parts to print; and deliver the mold on time. However, there are some significant flaws in this RFQ that could ultimately lead to project failure, or to increased costs for the molder or its client.

Here is the short list of things that were omitted:

  • Whose hot runner will be used? How many zones are needed? Will the moldmaker or molder purchase the controllers?What about secondary equipment—jigs, inspection gauges, and so forth? Are these part of the moldmaker’s obligation?In what molding machine will the mold fit? What are the critical dimensions?How heavy will the mold be? Can the molder’s crane lift it?While moldmakers are loath to guarantee or even quote cycle time, the molder is not buying molds, he’s buying capacity. Somewhere in the RFQ must be a statement that the tooling set is capable of producing the expected quantity of parts per year with reasonable maintenance and reasonably predictable downtime for machine maintenance.What tooling specifications is the moldmaker using? It’s naive to ask for a Class A tool. There is no industry-recognized definition of “Class A.” For the briefest of descriptions, look in the SPI manuals. While not descriptive enough to bet a paycheck on, they are better than nothing. There are also other tooling specifications that can be purchased.Will the molder have approval of the design? If the molder doesn’t feel competent enough to approve the design, a consultant should be hired. A cost of $500 to review a mold design is such a small portion of the overall tooling investment that it more than pays for itself. Once the design is approved, which should be done in writing, the moldmaker is no longer responsible for anything other than the execution of the design. What about engineering changes—will the moldmaker hold delivery dates or let them drift as a result?What about payment terms? The client may have a different philosophy than the toolbuilder, leaving the molder stuck in the middle paying one and waiting for payment from the other.What if the molder’s client cancels the project? Who gets burned? What are cancellation terms?What about progress reports? Will they be timely (weekly)? Will the molder need to inspect the moldbuild once every two weeks? If so, and the two are not nearby, this could be a logistics nightmare. Consider teleconferencing. Making progress reports via e-mail and having the moldmaker videotape the tooling in progress could be a possibility as well.

In the end, the RFQ can make or break a molder, especially on a large project. Therefore, it’s vital that the molder knows exactly what’s being purchased and covers all angles on the initial quote. If in doubt, ask for help. Hire a consultant or ask the advice of other molders. Don’t be left trying to explain to a client about a mold that doesn’t work, late shipments, or bad quality. And most importantly, don’t be caught on the short end of a pricing structure that wasn’t worked out properly in the beginning.

Contact information
WJT Assoc.
Louisville, CO
Bill Tobin
Phone: (303) 499-3350
Fax: (303) 499-4116

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