When suppliers log into the Fabricating.com environment, they're greeted with a screen that allows them to see the available RFQs in the marketplace that they are able to quote on, based on their capabilities. This can include both "direct RFQs" which are those submitted by current customers in which they are requested to quote as well as "public RFQs". The first screen appears quite similar to any general cockpit for suppliers in a marketplace environment, but it is beyond this where the vertical specific marketplace capabilities begin to come into play (e.g., adding machine and capability types to allow for more accurate RFQ/supplier matching).
To understand the depth of this matching process, as suppliers are managing their profiles in the system based on capabilities, they can list out, based on template response forms the types, the types of materials they can work with for a given machine or process. For examples, for metals this might include structural steel, stainless steel (V2A, V4A), tool steel, spring steel, cast steel, aluminum alloys, titanium alloys, zinc alloys, etc. For plastic and synthetics, this might include thermoplastics, elastomers, carbon fiber reinforced plastics, glass fiber, etc.
Aside from the ability for suppliers to highlight what their capabilities are on a highly specific granular basis -- and then to enable a match to buyer RFQs -- they can also rapidly view and quote RFQs based on relaying design engineering specifications in the system. Gaining visibility to CAD-level details, for example, on the line item (drawings are uploaded into the system in a PDF form) is a quick process.
In the future, we expect Fabricating.com to provide a more advanced collaboration toolset that looks more like shared PLM than a simple PDF flat file, but for now, the process is simple enough. In addition, because the RFQ fields require detailed information mapped to highly specific production processes groups (e.g., sheet metal forming and punching/forming within it) and basic part information is pulled from the design drawing (e.g., length, width, diameter, material thickness) suppliers can quickly gain a detailed line level view into what they're quoting.
The quoting process on Fabricating.com is asynchronous (i.e., no real-time competition or auctions). When suppliers are ready to respond to a quote, they are presented with a straight forward environment for quoting on the line level on a total cost basis which allows them to enter delivery schedules, unit price, additional one time costs (e.g., tooling), total unit price and currencies.
This is all pretty standard stuff. But what stands out more is the ability one would expect in more advanced e-sourcing toolsets -- for suppliers to quote in Excel and upload this into the system. Even in cases where there are potentially hundreds of line items, suppliers can enter their quoting information in a single formatted Excel sheet and then upload this into the application. Fabricating.com locks only a handful of specific fields for this Excel-based quoting, allowing suppliers to customize their responses with additional information.
In summary (for suppliers):
- Fabricating.com has built an environment which simplifies the time for suppliers to respond to RFQs that are already more closely matched to their specific manufacturing capabilities than typical marketplaces
- The system is designed to scale for larger RFQs (i.e., more line items) than are typical in a marketplace environment through a data management, visualization and quoting process that goes beyond the basics
- Design collaboration with buyers is limited to date in that it does not yet bridge design/engineering and sourcing systems other than through PDF exports
In the final post in this series, we will explore the buyer experience of Fabricating.com, the solutions integration capability (buy and sell side) beyond Excel and provide our analysis of how this new service fits into the existing marketplace landscape -- and who is most suited to take advantage of it.