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Receiving the same RFQ from 2 customers


Dec 25, 2018

We are a jobshop and we were contacted a few months ago by a space company to machine some prototypes for a new rover, that they are currently developing.
2 of these parts were very complicated and required some minor geometry changes to be machinable. The customer accepted that, modified his 3D according to my feedback and we quoted the modified parts.
Not cheap, but a fair price. Shortly after we received the PO for all the parts and machining went smoothly and delivery was on time and the customer happy.

End of last week, I was again contacted by my customer, that they need a new set of parts with minor changes and I received the new drawings for the RFQ shortly after.
The same day, I received a request to sign an NDA from a big company(at least 10-15x our size) and I send them my signed copy.
After having everything processed at their end, they send me an RFQ for the exact same parts that I did for the space company.
So, now I have 2 RFQ for the same parts, 1x for the enduser, my customer and 1x for a middleman, but also new potential customer.

I definitely want to machine these parts only directly for the space guys, because I want no middleman in case there are some new modifications required.

How should I react and what should I answers to both?

Should I tell the new big company, that I can do these parts, but not for them? Or should I tell them nothing and simply quote anyway, because with their markup they will be more expensive than me?

Should I ask the space company if there is maybe a problem(price?), that makes them try to find another supplier for “my” parts?

The best outcome for me would be machine these parts for the space guys and gain a potential new customer for maybe some other parts in the future.

Just quote a fair price to Big Company (likely the same price as for Space Company) and drive on.
I wouldn't say boo to either.

It's possible that Big Company has been asked to produce a whole pkg, that incl your part.


Think Snow Eh!
I've been on the other end of this and in my case, the person in your shoes was up front with me and told me straight up that they had already quoted this for the end customer. Don't know if this is the right call, but I appreciated the honesty.

I agree with what Ox said.
"We would be happy to quote any other projects you may be working on or may be working on in the future." My only addition to that response.
Is either one a customer that you have an established work history with? Do you have other work to keep you busy? Or is this something you're doing as a favor to an established customer? Are you primarily a prototype and small batch shop?

My take: those parts will be far more work and hassle than they will be worth in long-term sales. A space rover will have two or three made and likely nothing else ever again.

They will beat up one rover testing on earth, keep one for display and the third will go to space. Or maybe five. There won't be many unless / until it's a big success years down the road.

If you got lucky, you'd be making something where they need more than one of each part. Maybe the wheels and they are all identical. Okay, four parts times three rovers = twelve parts. After those are done, it's all wrapped up and the company moves on to its next contract, possibly years away. A great relationship with either company won't mean much while you're waiting for the phone to ring.

So if either is an established customer, and this is more of their work, do it. If you're big enough that this can be on the side, do it. If you're scavenging for the next job and hunting for new customers, they aren't worth entertaining unless it's the only thing to come in the door.
Somebody has a dull axe, but it won't be for long!


I am Ox and I approve this post!
Personally I'd quote both. If it's based on price you'll get the PO direct from the end user. If it's based on perceived quality (possibly due to accreditations you don't hold) then the middleman will win the work and send it out to you (hopefully). Either way you win the work and they should hopefully see your quote as competitive and appreciate your quick response etc which then opens the door for future work.

I've had customers in the past who can't buy directly from me because their procedures state they can't source any parts from non 9001 accredited suppliers. They are happy to pay the markup for a procurement company to act as the middleman as it makes their life easier. Also, generally speaking customers that think like that can be a PITA when it comes to documentation (had one customer refuse to pay an invoice because the Certificate of Conformity should have been called a Declaration of Compliance). The procurement companies have never asked for anything from me - they deal with all the paperwork etc which actually makes my life a hell of a lot easier.
This happens to my company all the time. We deal with any good customer. If they happen to be direct competitors or another customer, well, that is why we sign a NDA.
I spent much of September acting as a quoting station. Most of the quotes were identical from customer A and customer B.
I used to ask my customers if they had a problem with me dealing with their competitors. Some did, but most did not care.

I don't even bother asking anymore.
Whom I sell products to is not another customer's affair/ business.
When this happens to me, I quote both, I'll change the price between the 2 at random(within $1 difference) in case there's a comparison of notes anywhere.
It gets really awkward when a company sends you a part they bought from another company and asks you to reverse engineer it, then you realize they sent you one of your own parts.

Did make the "reverse engineering" go really fast though.
that is a pretty sweet infinite loop hack, at least you know that you are the go to guy for everyone around.
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