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Machine Shop Customer Drawing/Model exchange & RFQ processing

Machine Shop Customer Drawing/Model exchange & RFQ processing

(OP)
I'm thinking of starting a website with a colleague of mine tailored to small 1-5 man machine shops. The goal is to streamline the process of receiving drawings/models that your customers would like quoted. Right now, the process for getting a quote from a company involves a lot of emails, phone calls, new revisions, etc.. Doing things through email means you need to spend a lot of your time organizing incoming information into the right "pile."

You would have a website (a "portal") that you can post a link to on your own company's page. Your customers would be able to log in to this portal to create a new RFQ and upload any relevant documentation & comments. Any time your customer needs to update to a new Rev, you need to send your customer a new quote, add comments to the quote, or make any changes to the RFQ, you can do it all through this website instead of through email - which makes keeping track of all that "stuff" a lot easier since it will be automatically organized by the RFQ/Customer Name.

You, as the shop owner, would have a "dashboard" view of all your open RFQs, and an archive of all past RFQs. The customer would have a similar dashboard, but obviously only have access to their own RFQs.

There would be little setup beyond creating a user account and posting a link to your custom portal on your website. From then on, customers can log-in, and submit an RFQ to you without calling/emailing. A quote can be sent back to them through this portal as well, and payment can be automated via credit card or PayPal.

The portal would be unique to your company, and no others (without your permission) would have access to any of the data. There would be no third-party branding (aside from your company's logo) on the portal at all.


Questions/Feedback:

1) Would a service (for a set monthly fee) that gives your customers a custom portal to log in to your website and submit a new RFQ along with detail drawings, descriptions, etc.. be of interest to you?

2) What would this be worth to you ($5/month, $30/month)?

3) What features would you want to see in this website in order to make it worth implementing?

RE: Machine Shop Customer Drawing/Model exchange & RFQ processing

I'd be concerned that my stuff might become visible to a competitor.

How is checking status on a website hourly different from or easier than checking email hourly?

Note that even Outlook can sort incoming mail into folders, so the website doesn't add much value there.





Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Machine Shop Customer Drawing/Model exchange & RFQ processing

Before you get too deep in the development cycle...check & see if there are existing solutions.

I've bumped into dozens of sites over the years for Design/Build/Fabrication Shops. Many have a "Customer Portal" for posting their confidential files for quoting. I've never accessed or used these portals, so I can't say if the mechanisms were store-bought or home-grown.

I worked at a company once that handled customer communications with a portal system and maintained rigorous Version Control of the CAD data. This business was automotive so Version Control was absolutely critical. Also, the files were monstrous size and required FTP for transfer.

TygerDawg
Blue Technik LLC
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering
www.bluetechnik.com

RE: Machine Shop Customer Drawing/Model exchange & RFQ processing

plenty of sites like that out there already..
http://www.mfg.com//

Personally I see little benefit if any..

How hard is it to send a simple email with a PDF/step file attached to get a quote and one more email to submit a PO and one more to request a quote on a revision? Its simple already.

RE: Machine Shop Customer Drawing/Model exchange & RFQ processing

Personally I encourage the conversation with the customer for several reasons.
1. Not everyone does drawings the same way.
2. We get many "concept" drawings only. We don't always get a full set of drawings.
3. Quite often we see an easier way to do something and feel an obligation to bring it up to a customer.
4. We like to talk to people so we can find out what is really going on. Are they just checking price or are they really going to build it.

Thomas J. Walz
Carbide Processors, Inc.
www.carbideprocessors.com

Good engineering starts with a Grainger Catalog.

RE: Machine Shop Customer Drawing/Model exchange & RFQ processing

I have used mfg.com to find potential new sources for stuff.

I have not gone far enough to actually pull the trigger and buy anything, but I have gratefully accepted a lot of good advice, and gracefully acknowledged a lot of heartfelt but not useful advice gained through mfg.com.

Mfg.com has a fair amount of fine print, most of which amounts to "Use us to find sources, but PLEASE call them and discuss your drawings and your needs."
... similar to tomwalz's excellent advice.





Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Machine Shop Customer Drawing/Model exchange & RFQ processing

Many services like this already in existing. B2B clearing houses go back at least 20 years, if not longer.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Machine Shop Customer Drawing/Model exchange & RFQ processing

(OP)
Great responses/information everyone. Thanks for the replies.

I still think there is a better way to handle customer communication at make-to-order manufacturers (job shops) than emailing. Emails are often specific to a particular job or a quote - and keeping track of what belongs where can be a hassle with setting up labels, folders, etc.. in your email.

Do you see value in being able to flag incoming emails as a correspondence for a particular quote/job? Then, in the future, you can look at a threaded conversation of all emails/correspondence for that particular quote without having to dig through all your emails?

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