Stecker Machine Blog

A Step-by-Step Guide to the RFQ Process & Choosing the Right CNC Machine Shop

05/22/2023 | Brad Kurtzweil

Do you rely on the RFQ process to get accurate quotes from your CNC machining partners? This vital process not only results in a quote (as well as details into timelines, capabilities, machining techniques, external services, and more), it serves as a guide after the work has been awarded.

In Part 1 of our recent series on cost-effective, on-time CNC precision machining, we explored how to go from RFQ to a successful project. In part 2, we covered the ultimate measuring stick of every machining project — precision — and how a CNC machine shop creates a precision part. Both are worth a quick review before reading today’s blog.

Now, let’s break down the steps within the RFQ process, explore how CNC machine shops handle them, and see how a “top shop,” Stecker, provides added value during each step.


Step #1: RFQ Package is Submitted

CNC Machining CAD Model for RFQ

The customer of the CNC machine shop digitally sends a package — typically an email or a dropbox for downloading. If the part exists, an actual sample is sent to the shop for evaluation.

A typical package includes a blueprint, CAD model, material specs, material provider (customer or shop), required specifications, annual quantity, timeline, and processes required (machining plus pressure testing, assembly, etc.). It’s common to have more than one part in each RFQ package; 4 is about average, but it could be up to 20.


How Stecker Adds Value
For current customers, Stecker can work from only a CAD model (no print) to generate budgetary pricing. Although not an official quote, this helps familiar customers know the potential cost of a part.



Step #2: Internal Review Starts

CAD model CNC blueprint

Appropriate team members are asked to review the package, starting with the sales manager who determines feasibility based on the shop’s capabilities and experience. Most parts within a package will be quoted but, based on this review, some may not.

Internal teams review the blueprints for any inconsistencies, extreme tolerances, concerns, and process challenges. While an engineering department’s insights are involved throughout the RFQ process, their input is especially important during these initial steps.


How Stecker Adds Value
A successful reply to an RFQ also incorporates design for manufacturability. DFM can drive costs down, simplify product production, minimize design rework, and keep overall quality high. Stecker puts an emphasis on DFM during RFQs.



Step #3: A Good Fit is Determined

precision machining parts

precision cnc machining parts


The sales manager has the important task of making a decision if the RFQ warrants a reply based on the internal review. One key aspect during that review is finding a good fit between the customer and the CNC machine shop.

What’s a good fit? Matching the project’s needs with experience, material knowledge, capabilities, tooling, service, and more. When the sales manager OKs moving ahead, the RFQ is entered into the CNC machine shop’s ERP system.


How Stecker Adds Value
An RFQ request may state expected quality assurance measures while in production — 100% inspection of one critical feature, or numerous features requiring additional inspection. Not only does Stecker meet customers’ regulatory requirements, but our own Quality Management System finds and corrects errors before any part leaves the shop.



Step #4: Vendor Vetting

CNC Machining Complex Parts

External value-added services are also accounted for in a quote. Does the part need to go to an assembly operation? Does it have to get pressure tested or balanced? What about painting or coating?

Vendors deemed a good fit for the part(s) are asked to reply in order to accurately complete the RFQ. Vendors within a trusted and well-managed supply base add confidence and create seamless project after seamless project. A supplier list should be audited annually to ensure reliability.


How Stecker Adds Value
With annual spending around $50 million on castings, one of Stecker’s strengths is its foundry partnerships (currently 60). With that number, the exact right one is selected based on the casting material, process, and quantity needed. Don’t force a part to fit into a process; find a source with the right process!



Step #5: Complexity & Volume Determine Cycle Time

Precision CNC Parts

Usually, two things determine how the part(s) should be processed: complexity and volume. Having a good idea of those at this step, an estimator — in collaboration with the engineering department and using dedicated estimating software (not just a spreadsheet) — conducts a tool-by-tool, operation-by-operation time study.

 Generating an in-depth estimated cycle time is critical. The CNC machine shop relies on cycle times to determine people power, equipment needs, and processes, as well as to help forecast the profitability of a project.

While replying to an RFQ doesn’t include the same level of detail as manufacturing the part(s), it uses the same steps as the actual process design. Strict attention to detail now creates a trusted and successful path, guiding every operation later.

How Stecker Adds Value
Stecker sees the big picture, even at the RFQ stage. Sometimes a large investment in tooling, for instance, can result in not just high quality, but a competitive price, too. Or, if that customer is sensitive to tooling costs, a different way to process the part is found.



Step #6: Submitting the Quote

CNC Machining Quote

Replying to an RFQ is a fine line. If something is misquoted, the CNC machine shop loses money; if the project is over-quoted, the work isn’t awarded to that shop. That’s why RFQs must reflect numbers that are as realistic as possible.

The buck ultimately stops with the sales manager. After all the numbers are reviewed, including some aspects not previously mentioned (packaging, scrap, logistics) it’s all turned into a price, which is submitted to the customer.

Even with all of that effort, the quote still may include clarifying statements that could affect overall costs. Perhaps tolerances need to be reviewed, or the print is incorrectly drawn. Additional questions may need to be answered after the quote is considered.


How Stecker Adds Value
Not all decisions are based on price. In fact, being able to hit lead times is vital. Stecker’s ability to do all design work and pre-work in-house helps us nail the timing required by customers, and handle any changes quickly and efficiently.



Check out our CNC machine shop guide to decide if it is the right time to begin working with a high-end CNC machine shop on your complex parts. Click the link below and enjoy!

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Brad Kurtzweil

About the Author

Brad leads Stecker Machine and the Sales and Engineering team. His hands-on attention drives new capability introductions at SMC (gear/spline cutting is his latest obsession). Brad doesn't enjoy writing about himself, preferring to work closely with customers on new projects. Upon graduating high school, Brad started at SMC and worked his way up the ranks, initially finding his niche in quality control. He grew into the Quality Manager role, moving to (Sales) Account Manager, VP of Sales and Engineering, and now Co-President.

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