The need for an extended time and resource commitment usually separates a contract manufacturing (CM) Request For Proposal (RFP) from a similar initiative with a distributor or fabricator.

With a contract manufacturer, what you're really asking for is the formation of a partnership to both review and evaluate all parts at the component level and the assembly of those parts into a fully working product. In that sense, the CM is not providing a component to be used by your manufacturing team, but a fully assembled and tested working finished device through their own supply chain, fabrication partnerships, and manufacturing processes.

During an initiative with a distributor the request centers around the review of a parts list that contains the manufacturer and manufacturer's part numbers along with a qualitative questionnaire to ascertain the distributor's financial stability and ability to consistently provide the minimum order quantities (MOQs), on time, and with the most competitive market pricing.

Similarly with a fabricator, the process centers around component level manufacturing. For example, if you're sourcing machined components the process will include the quantitative questionnaire, but is more time intensive due to the technical nature of the review of part drawings. This may include the review and identification of manufacturing processes, materials, complex geometries, key tolerances, and tolerance stacking considerations.

For machining and milling initiatives a PDF file will usually be sufficient to facilitate initial conversations with the supplier's team and a quote. For initiatives involving injection molding, STEP files with the 3D geometries are usually required to allow for mold and volume of material calculations required for the quote.

For Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) for Printed Circuit Board Assemblies (PCBAs) or cable harnesses the supplier will combine the roles of the distributor with the assembler. Thus, managing the supply chain for off the shelf components, fabricating the circuit board, and completing assembly and testing of the circuit board and components. Gerber files and fabrication specifications are also included in these initiatives.

The CM combines the roles of the distributor for off the shelf components and manages the supply chain, with the fabricator to manage production and quality of all components, and the critical role of assembly and testing. They must make sure all components are not only supplied on time and fabricated to specifications, but are also easy to assemble into the final product and function consistently, dependably, and to the designated performance criteria.

Therefore, if we consider a typical medical device, the manufacturing processes may involve supply chain management for off the shelf components, machining, plastic injection molding, PCBA manufacturing, cable harness assembly, assembly of sub-assemblies, and finished device assembly and testing. CMs will also manage certifications and registrations with regional regulatory agencies as well as return and repair services for components and assemblies for the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

In our example, the CM is required to provide a substantial time and resource commitment of 7 separate divisions within the company to provide a response to the RFP with a costed Bill Of Materials (BOM). Some CMs will provide a rough order of magnitude quote without resource commitments on their part, but this is notoriously incorrect in most cases.

The RFP with contract manufacturers is therefore focused on building a relationship with the supplier and convincing his/her team of the business opportunity in order for them to substantiate the costs associated with the time commitments in order to provide a response. This requires careful preparation of the technical bid package with the client to make sure all drawings and specifications are included and well organized for each of the CM's teams and an upfront time commitment of the sourcing and procurement team to conduct multiple introduction and review calls with the teams to ensure the opportunity is presented correctly and the CM understands the necessary requirements to provide an accurate and best in class pricing with their RFP response.


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Martin Przeworski

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