By Hallie Forcinio, contributing writer, The American Mold Builder
Successful quotes depend on good information and communication, but strategies behind responding to a request for quotation (RFQ) vary. Some companies respond to all requests, others are more selective. Accede Mold & Tool Co., Inc. (Rochester, New York) and Westfall Technik Inc. (Willernie, Minnesota) shared information about their processes.
Assessing the opportunity
At Accede Mold & Tool, virtually every request for quotation (RFQ) is accepted. “We look at the quoting process as a marketing opportunity,” says Camille Sackett, vice president of sales and project management. The company specializes in complex injection molds, such as two-shot molds, stack molds, spin stacks and rotary cube molds. The RFQ also may point out the need for new technology. In that case, the company might undertake an R&D project.
Although Sackett looks at every RFQ, she notes: “We only focus on Class 101 pilot and production tools. If an opportunity comes in that doesn’t require complex actions or specifies a different product Class, we try to connect them to the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) or another mold builder. We want to keep the business in the United States and don’t want contact with Accede to be a dead end.”
For Westfall Technik, an in-house “filter” document helps gather information and analyze the risk involved for projects outside its usual scope. The decision to respond to an RFQ depends on a combination of factors – the right customer paired with the right part or the right cavitation or the right molding machine requirements. “For us, the ‘perfect opportunity’ comes in the form of a thorough RFQ from a customer or potential customer that . . . values a well-engineered and documented mold design, which can be executed to 0.0001 inch day-in and day-out,” says Justin McPhee, vice president and general manager at Westfall Technik Inc. “The key for each company is to define what perfect means. . . . look at your most profitable jobs to help find your perfect customer,” he advises.
“Perfect customers” often have the highest capture rate, which means the moldmaker and its customers are on the same page and less back-and-forth communication is required. “Our goal is to win the work and provide the customer with a great solution,” says McPhee. He adds, “If you are quoting everything that comes across your desk, it is likely that neither of those things will happen. By being selective, we can put more focus and detail into the quotes that we do provide. The additional amount of detail put in at the quoting stage helps ensure that the quoted delivery [lead time] is not used up trying to get answers that could have been worked out during the quoting phase. We all have experienced a situation where the delay in getting information or approvals does not move the final delivery date.”
Quote preparation time varies from a few hours to more than a week, depending on the complexity of the project, whether the quote is budgetary or actual and the number of outsourced components. “If an existing customer needs a 32-cavity mold, the quote might take four hours because we can pull learnings from similar projects,” says Sackett, who prepares each quote in collaboration with company President and Owner Roger Fox, with input from Brett Lindenmuth, vice president of operations, and Adam Filippetti, vice president of engineering and technology, if needed.
Quotes must consider material availability and price volatility. At the moment, lead time is the biggest challenge, so communication with suppliers, customers and the internal team is key so everyone understands the timing. Sackett continues, “If we are doing a turnkey program and bringing in an injection molding machine, it’s 22 to 30 weeks to deliver the machine.”
Internal communication gained importance during the pandemic, which posed operational challenges for both companies. Having many office and engineering staffers working from home, “made communication and training more difficult,” recalls McPhee. At Accede Mold & Tool, the pandemic forced an almost overnight reprioritization of work in the shop to focus on essential medical projects. “We had a lot of conversations with customers outside the medical space about delayed deliveries,” admits Sackett. “On the quoting side, communication became more important than ever because we needed to turn away projects from some long-time customers.” With many deferred projects, once the essential medical molds were out the door, the company turned its attention to clearing its backlog. “We sub-contracted a fair amount of work to smaller shops and worked with them to make sure they were meeting quality requirements,” says Sackett.
At both Westfall Technik and Accede Mold & Tool, quotes typically are valid for 90 days. However, McPhee notes, lead time needs to be monitored more closely than pricing. “We usually are able to honor lead time for 30 days,” he reports.
Ninety days from quote to order may not be sufficient. Sackett explains, “Some opportunities take more than a year to make a decision and get funding. A lot of times we are quoting molders that haven’t secured the order yet. But we see that as an opportunity to build a relationship by following up on the quote, staying engaged and providing support over time.”
Sackett uses the company’s CRM system and email and phone calls to follow up on each quote until it turns into an order. “The cadence is different for each opportunity,” she notes.
At Westfall Technik, one of the two quoters who prepared the quote typically follows up, with assistance from sales as needed. McPhee reports, “We generally like to keep a single line of communication until the order is placed, which is when the design and engineering team takes over as the point
person for all technical details.”
Capturing post-quote metrics varies, too. Westfall Technik does not specifically track quote data, but does monitor quote capture rate, which went from 10% to about 30% when the economy was booming and then slipped a bit to 22.6% in 2020.
Sackett says Accede Mold & Tool chooses not to monitor its quote-to-order rate “because we sometimes use estimating and quoting to showcase our competencies and skills. Responding to RFQs outside our usual niche also helps us monitor the market and identify trends – for example, the rising interest in post-consumer content – which could cause more wear on tools and dimensional instability.”
After an order arrives, Accede Mold & Tool calculates profit and loss by monitoring costs and productivity across operations. It also tracks orders to make sure the customer pool is balanced and longstanding customers are being served. Sackett concludes, “We learn from all the quotes where we don’t get the order – price is too high, lead times are too long, etc. We reflect on all the feedback customers and prospective customers give us. We gather all this information, and it definitely drives business strategy for the coming year.”