Sourcing Raw Materials? New Platform Bomfire Goes Live!

At the recent eWorld event, one of the more unusual presentations came from William Bridgman, MD of Warren Services, based in Thetford, Norfolk. Unusual, because he isn’t either a procurement practitioner or a solution provider. Instead, he is an entrepreneur who runs his own business, started by his parents. Now it is a 120-person, full service engineering business, doing laser cutting, welding and assembly work for core clients – everything from winches to power-generating flooring, agricultural equipment, and offsite construction for the residential sector (such as balconies).

The firm often sits alongside clients, “making sure the clients don’t design a product they can’t make”. Some products might require 100 different suppliers – so Warren Services takes away the hassle of dealing with a complex supply chain.

Bridgman was a very engaging and lively speaker, but there was interesting and relevant content along with the energy, as we’ll see. He talked about the digital journey he has been on, via CAD, Oracle ERP and so on. But procurement hadn’t really kept up – complex requirements were communicated by email, which was not good for tight timescales such as when the firm works on stage shows for acts like U2, Robbie Williams and the Stones!

So, they started to look at how they could improve efficiency, and also reduce dependence on their limited procurement resource. He talked to some eProcurement providers, but “most of the products seemed to be designed for large firms”. Then he stumbled across Bristol-based Market Dojo, and liked the idea of an easy-to-us, software-as-a-service, rapid-to-implement and low-cost solution.

Bridgeman wanted to reduce the cost of doing the transaction, and share knowledge. But he quickly found it was hard to make price comparisons across the products he was buying because of different specifications and definitions. So he asked Market Dojo if there was a way of embedding information so “every time we buy in the platform we get consistency”.

Clearly, this was going to take time and effort – and every engineering firm would have to do the same onboarding and classification if each went down the same route. So, he said, “what I really want is an engineering marketplace” with all the engineering products – and all the suppliers.

Now this only works if you have the industry knowledge to categorise, classify and populate the products. So Bridgman created a joint venture with Market Dojo to create Bomfire, a “marketplace for manufactured products”. He wants to appeal to the one-man band as well as bigger firms; and “this will help greatly with stock levels and planning too”.

Suppliers are keen because this will drive accurate descriptions of what is wanted. But some are slow to catch on; “we realised we have to hold the hand of some suppliers, but it will make their life easier in long term”.  But Bridgman said what he can’t understand is why no-one has done this before – perhaps because these things are usually driven by solution providers or procurement folk whereas he was an actual buyer and user.

Since eWorld, Bomfire has gone live in Beta, with a fee of £100 per user per month for buyers, and free use for suppliers. At first sight, it looks pretty good. It provides an RFQ template to drive pricing, so while it is a catalogue in the sense of clear definitions and specifications, pricing is based on suppliers coming back with quotes. The first step along this journey is the focus on raw material procurement which is where SMEs in manufacturing have the majority of their spend. All very interesting – and we’ll take a more detailed look at the marketplace shortly.

But the final word goes to Bridgman. “The time of custom manufacturing is here – even farming groups want what might seem like standard equipment in their own colours. This tool can support that change we’re seeing in the engineering industry”.

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