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A Website For Work

Buyers and sellers of manufacturing services do business on-line.

Buyers and sellers of manufacturing services do business on-line.

Ashop may have the latest manufacturing equipment and software, but neither is much good without incoming work orders. While most shops advertise their manufacturing services in directories, such as the yellow pages, or rely on manufacturing representatives and word-of-mouth to get work, others are logging onto a website that links them with buyers seeking custom-manufacturing services.

The site,, headquartered in Atlanta, not only matches buyer requirements with optimal suppliers, but lets users manage the sourcing process, collaborate, perform due diligence, and establish a private network of preferred vendors.

Buyers post request for quotes (RFQs) at no cost, and suppliers quote for business meeting their expertise and capacity.

Suppliers register/ subscribe to the site for an annual fee and set up an on-line agent/filter. In doing so, they specify work attributes such as "milling aluminum parts" only or just "jobs with over 1,000 pieces."

Site members can create as many agents as they want, allowing them to find work for individual machines. This lets them adapt to cyclical workloads and fill holes in capacity. "Supplier members anticipate when a certain machine has capacity and then use agents to get work at that specific time," says Mitch Free, president/ CEO and founder of MfgQuote.

To post an RFQ, buyers enter data such as delivery dates, part amounts, and intent (switching suppliers, make-versus-buy comparisons, and so forth). They upload CAD files, choose a process they want quoted, and indicate desired supplier attributes such as only local-area suppliers or those with certain certificates.

The site offers e-drawings integration, which converts files to neutral formats so buyers can upload CAD files in any format without having the same CAD system as suppliers. This feature is the result of a partnership with SolidWorks of Concord, Mass.

After receiving an RFQ, suppliers study the job drawings and send messages to the buyer if needed — both parties have each other's company information. The supplier then prepares and privately submits a quote for the job.

Using buyer-supplied attributes and supplier-specified agent attributes, makes an "intelligent" match.

The buyer reviews the submitted quote and performs due diligence via supplier profiles that include ratings. These ratings come from previous transactions where both buyers and sellers rate each other (one to five stars) based on multiple criteria. For instance, suppliers are rated on quality, delivery, and general responsiveness/customer service.

The site also lets supplier members embed video presentations, brochures, images, and more into their profiles for buyers. MfgQuote also posts these profiles on Internet search engines as standalone pages. "We are exposing suppliers to buyers through two channels," comments Free.

MfgQuote does not withhold the contact information of the parties involved, which is why it is a subscription-based site. "We are not a middleman for the transaction," says Free. "The site's focus is matching buyers and suppliers at the exact time they need each other."

Free is often asked if the site guarantees a shop will get work, and his answer is "No, our job is to expose the supplier's message to the right audience. The burden of success is on the supplier."

An actual hook-up
For Intellipack of Oxford, Conn., a shop needing a complex component made, found GTI Precision Machining in Powder Springs, Ga., a shop looking to keep a new machine busy. Both shops benefited from the on-line hook-up.

On the buyer side, Intellipack avoided having to add a procurement staff and reduced its time to market for a new product. GTI, on the supplier side, quickly found a buyer with needs fitting the shop's capacity and capabilities.

Intellipack is a foam-in-placepackaging company with prima-rily two product lines, one of which is a handheld, foam-dispensing gun. Within the gun is a manifold measuring approximately 942 in. with tolerances ranging from 0.001 to 0.0005 in. and feature requirements within ±0.002 in.

GTI machines the part in two setups on a five-axis Deckel Maho DMU 70, and there's a lot of drilling, tapping, and milling of small pockets using end mills 3 /16 in. in diameter and smaller. According to Michael Galinac, GTI engineering manager, as soon as he saw the drawing on , he knew this was the type of work the shop wanted.

"Our growth is in complex machining of prismatic parts that require full five-axis capabilities — intricate shapes, challenging materials, and medium-to-high volumes," he says. "It's a shame to have to run three-axis parts on the DMU 70 just to keep it busy."

He adds that "being able to interface and begin relationships with companies that have needs in areas that we're trying to expand is a huge advantage, and we would have never found Intellipack without ."

Galinac uses the site selectively, but at one point, quoted a wide range of RFQs involving different volumes and material types. "We now pass on a lot of RFQs, but when we find a good fit, we market the shop to the buyer in every way possible on the site," he says. "The key is accuracy in the quote. It has to be fair to both parties."

According to George Bertram, vice president of engineering at Intellipack, an immediate result of using , aside from finding so many suppliers he didn't know existed, is the ability to link up with quality vendors without committing incredible amounts of man-hours. "You build a network of suppliers that have done good work for you in the past, and you go back to them. At the same time, you look at new ones that seem promising," he says. makes Intellipack more efficient and cost effective. Bertram says that being able to find suppliers to make parts at quality standards, for a fair price and at predictable deliveries, means Intellipack gets to market faster than its competition.

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