The common practice for procurement of printed materials breaks down into two processes:
The rest of this page describes the P3Expeditor RFQ process in a step by step sequence. The job ordering and production process is described in detail on a separate Job Order page.
Most commercial printing is purchased using the RFQ and order processes. The reason for this is that printed materials are custom manufactured and each production run is generally different and unique. Because of the custom nature of the manufacturing process, there are no published price lists for most printed goods. Instead, a specific cost estimate or quote is requested prior to manufacturing so that the buyer can make an informed purchase decision.
There are numerous factors that affect the price quotes or estimates that suppliers provide: equipment, cost structures, capacity utilization, engineering creativity, etc. The result is that pricing for a particular print job can vary greatly when several bids are solicited from suppliers, even where the suppliers have similar equipment, similar raw material suppliers and similar labor costs. Because of this it is difficult for a buyer to predict which supplier will have the best price for any given set of specifications on any given day. So, it is a commonly accepted industry practice for buyers to solicit multiple competitive quotes for their print jobs.
When competitive bids are solicited, buyers typically save 15-35% on the job cost over selecting a single supplier and taking that price. This dramatic savings underscores the reason that competitive bidding is so prevalent and why it is worth the effort.
The RFQ process consists of:
The P3 system automates this process. First, by capturing the job specifications through a structured and well organized methodology. Second, by making selection of appropriate suppliers quick and easy. Third, by e-mailing the specifications to each supplier individually with a single click of the Send RFQ button. And fourth, by collecting supplier responses through a simple standardized web page. The automated collection collation and analysis of the supplier prices is perhaps the biggest time saving advantage. Where automation is not present this step is very often skipped or performed inconsistently.
In the P3 system each job contains a set of print specifications. These specifications include the Technical Details needed for a supplier to generate a price quote and a Price-Quantity-Grid. Although, very often a sample or preliminary file may be provided with the job specifications, they do not need to include the specific content that will be printed.
To create a set of job specifications, the user must first create and open up a Job Record from the Job List. The window that displays the job record is called the Job Master window. The job specifications are displayed in this window on the right hand side of the General Info tab pane. This area is called the Job Specification Panel. At the top of this panel there is a drop list control that allows selection of a job specification type. There are three job specifications types:
The Detailed Spec - This is a forms driven, fill in the blanks type of system. There are several available configurations for the detailed spec listed in the Job Spec Type selector. The different detailed spec types simply determine which elements of the detailed specs system are used in a particular job. They all share a common set of editing pop-up windows. These editing windows are accessed by double-clicking on the relevant sections in the Job Specification Display panel.
The Flexi-Spec - As its name implies, the Flexi-Spec system is more flexible and can accommodate a wider variety of specifications. The interface for the Flexi-Spec system is quite simple. There is a large general instructions area, which when clicked opens up a text editing panel where the user can type in a job specification as free-form text. Specifications can also be copied and pasted into this area. The Flexi-Spec system also has a stored template mechanism whereby users can save off specifications for use on future jobs. Or, the user can retrieve saved specifications for use on the current job. The Flexi-Spec also has a shipping and mailing specification area (shared with the Detailed Spec system), which can be used to create a structured set of shipping and/or mailing instructions to be associated with the job.
The Multi-Item Spec - This is an Advanced Pricing feature that allows the user to specify several different items with differing quantities on a single Job/RFQ record. It is on the Job Spec Type Selector and the user can select it by choosing Mulit-Item Spec. When the Multi-Item Spec is in use, a Number of Items count selection drop list appears above the specification viewing area. The Number of Items count selector is used to indicate the number of items that will be on the specification. When this is set, a corresponding number of item records will be listed in the spec viewing area. Each of these records can be edited and modified by double-clicking on it to pop up the Item Editor Window.
The Job Specification Display panel also displays the Price-Quantity grid for the job. This Price-Quantity grid provides a structure for the prices that are being requested from the supplier. The grid displays the various quantities that the buyer needs to receive pricing for. The controls for setting the number of quantities and the amounts are located in the lower left corner of the Job Master window, General Info tab pane, next to the Select Suppliers list. The controls consist of a Quantity Count Selector and a Quantity List that contains actual quantities requested. When the Quantities Count selector is adjusted, a corresponding number of quantity fields will be displayed in the Quantities list. The user can set values for individual quantities by clicking into each row of the Quantities list and editing the value.
As the quantities are adjusted, the changes will be reflected in the Price-Quantity grid displayed at the top of the Job Specification Display panel on the right-hand side of the Job Master window.
The Advanced Pricing system provides additional mechanisms for the buyer to request more sophisticated types of responses from the suppliers. RFQ Cost Breakouts and alternate RFQ Versions can be requested through the Advanced Pricing menu (Job Master screen/RFQ-Management menu/Advanced Pricing droplist).
The Price-Quantity grids for Multi-Item Specs appear in a slightly different manner. Since each item has its own quantities (and potentially its own cost breakouts), the Price-Quantity grid is displayed above each Item's name and description.
The Select Suppliers list for each job is located in the lower left corner of the Job Master window, General Info tab pane. There are several controls that open the window for modifying the Select Suppliers list. Just above the list there is a Select Suppliers button. There is also a Select Suppliers button in the Job Work-Flow button bar at the top of the Job Master window. Lastly there is a "Select Suppliers" menu item under the Actions menu. All three of these controls will launch the Suppliers List in Supplier mode. In this mode, the user can select suppliers off the Master Suppliers List and add them to the list for the job. Once this task is complete, the user can close the Suppliers List and return to the Job Master window. The selected suppliers will then be displayed on the Select Suppliers list.
Once the user has written up their job specifications and selected potential suppliers for the job, they are ready to send out the request for quote or RFQ. To do so the user can click the Send RFQ button on the Work-Flow button bar or click the "Send RFQ" menu item on the RFQ-Management menu. This will launch a small pop-up window through which the user can specify a particular supplier to send the RFQ to, or more commonly the user may select to send to "All Selected Suppliers for this job" option. After this decision is made, the Send Request for Quote window will appear, with information loaded into it for all the selected suppliers. When sent, each supplier will receive a separate E-mail message with no reference to the other suppliers in it.
The Send Request for Quote window will automatically also have a Subject line referencing the job with a standard introductory message loaded in it. Each user can customize the introductory message through the My Settings window. The Send Request for Quote window provides a mechanism for previewing the specifications just before they are sent. And, it provides a mechanism for attaching files to the outgoing quote request.
After the user modifies the introductory message and attaches any files that are desired, they can click the Send Email button to broadcast the RFQ to the selected suppliers. As noted, each of the suppliers receives a separate E-mail message. Each message contains a unique Supplier Response Link in it. This link can be used by the supplier to send prices back to the buyer through the P3 system Supplier Response Web Page.
The buyer will also receive an E-mail message confirming that the RFQ was sent out. This confirmation E-mail message looks nearly identical to the message received by the suppliers except that in this case it lists out ALL the suppliers who the RFQ was sent to. The Supplier Response Link in the confirmation E-mail also leads to the Supplier Response Web Page, but the response page is for demonstration purposes only and will not record price responses. It does, however, display the response page approximately as it will appear for the suppliers.
When the suppliers receive their RFQ's by E-mail, they should be able to generate a price quote or cost estimate based on the supplied information. After they get their numbers together they can respond to the RFQ by clicking the link in the E-mail they received. The link takes them directly to the Supplier RFQ Response Form web page for that job for that supplier. On that web page the supplier can enter the requested prices and other information. If they wish, they can attach files to their response with more detailed information. If the supplier does not wish to provide information, there is also a "No Bid" check box where a supplier can indicate they do not wish to respond with prices. There is also a Comments field that allows the supplier to make a brief comment which will be included in their response.
Once a supplier has entered their information, they can click the Submit Your Response to the Buyer button; and their information will be saved. At that time E-mail confirmation will be sent to both the supplier and the buyer. The confirmation E-mail will detail the prices and other information submitted and also include the attachments submitted. The information and attachments will also be stored on the P3 system Web Server. Later, the buyer can update their job record(s) with the information stored on the server.
Once the suppliers have posted prices, that information will be available for updating the buyer's job records. This is accomplished through one of two methods: the "Global Update Prices" function or the "Job Specific Update Prices" function.
Regardless of which method is used, the Update Prices function will save the user enormous amounts of time and reduce transcription errors in recording prices.
Once all the prices have been received for a job, the buyer can quickly and easily compare them using the Compare Bids window. This can be accessed through the Job Master window for whichever job is under consideration. The Compare Bids window provides prices from two perspectives: a sortable table format as well as a graph format. With this tool, the buyer can make a quick economic decision from which supplier they would like to order the job.
When that decision is finalized, the decision can be recorded by "Awarding" the job to the selected supplier. The Award Job function performs four tasks:
The tabular data on the Compare Bids window contains two special calculated rows at the bottom of the table. The first displays the "Average Bid" across all suppliers for the job at the quantity at the top of the column. The second special row contains a "Savings Opportunity" calculation. This calculation is made by subtracting the lowest bid price from the average price for each quantity column. That is a best estimate of what the buyer can save by competitively bidding out the job. This amount is not "saved" unless the job is actually purchased, and the lowest priced supplier is selected to manufacture the job. The Actual Savings is recorded as part of the Job Ordering and Production Process.
The RFQ (Request For Quote) Options panel contains controls in displays for several options related to the RFQ process. These controls fall into four groups with different purposes:
1.. Supplemental Information Requests - The next three check boxes turn on and off optional requests for additional information from the suppliers related to the RFQ. The buyer can request that the suppliers provide a "Supplier's Estimate Number", "Production Time Needed" and/or "Estimate Valid Until Date". Many buyers find this information to be useful in making their purchase decisions and communicating with suppliers.
Seal Bids until Due Date/Time - This control turns on and off the "Seal Bids Until Due Date/Time" option for the RFQ. When activated, the sealed bidding function causes the RFQ responses from the suppliers to be sealed until the Bids Due deadline date and time have passed. The information is recorded and stored on the P3Software server, but is unavailable for updating the buyer's job records.
Overs/Unders Settings - The specifications for the buyer's willingness to accept over-runs and under-runs on the job can be indicated and adjusted here. These percentages will be displayed on both the RFQ and the order documents. When a job is created, the initial values for the overs and unders are set based on the values stored in the user's My Settings file.
Currency Display - The currency associated with the job is also displayed on this panel. When the job is created, the currency symbol and description are set based on the users My Settings file. The currency for the job can be adjusted through the Job menu at the top of the Job Master window.
The Sealed Bidding process is widely used in government contracting. The P3 system provides tools to automate and facilitate sealed bidding where customers desire it. This option provides a greater level of process integrity and security for suppliers. Sealing the bids until the due date ensures that no supplier can be tipped off with information on earlier bids, which would allow them to adjust their prices in an anti-competitive manner.
Deadline Locking - When the RFQ is first sent out to the selected suppliers, the Bids Due deadline is locked and cannot be modified. Additional suppliers may be added to the job and may be sent the RFQ, but the initial Bids Due deadline will not be altered.
Specification Locking - The specifications are also locked at the time the RFQ is sent. This is true whether or not the sealed bidding option is used. This ensures that all suppliers quote on the same set of specifications. There is an option to unlock the specifications to correct errors or omissions in the specifications. This will invalidate all RFQs sent and/or received prior to the unlocking. After adjustments are made to the specifications, the RFQ must be resent to all suppliers in order for their responses to be valid. This ensures that the suppliers will receive the updated information and will be responding with pricing that correlates to the updated specification.
RFQ Response Confirmations - Under the sealed bidding option, when a supplier posts their RFQ response, they will receive a confirmation notice which includes the price information and links to any attached files. The buyer, however, will receive only a notification that the supplier has responded.
Pre-Deadline Response Information - Prior to the bids due deadline, the buyer can run the update prices function for the sealed job. If responses have been received, a limited amount of response information will be sent to the buyer; and the job record will be updated to show that a response has been received and when it was received. However, no pricing or attachment information will be transmitted.
The RFQ Advanced Pricing Options are commonly referred to as the Advanced Pricing features (Job Master window / RFQ-Management menu / "Advanced Pricing" menu item). The primary benefit of these features is to give the buyer a way to request more sophisticated pricing information from their suppliers. Normally the system requests a set of total cost figures for each quantity in a single job specification. The Advanced Pricing features expand the options for pricing in three ways, it enables RFQs with:
NOTE: The Advanced Pricing options are not available once an RFQ has been sent to suppliers.
Creating Versions allows users to request several versions of a job on a single job request. With it, you can find prices on several variations of particular job specifications. For example, if you are considering printing a book but do not know the final page count, you could use the Version system to get prices at several different page counts. Or, if you are considering different paper stocks for a job, you might request pricing for different papers.
The Job Version List Builder window is accessed from the Job Master window. To launch the Version Editor, click the RFQ-Management menu / Advanced Pricing menu item / "Add/Manage RFQ Versions" menu item.
The Job Version List Builder is fairly simple to use. First, you specify the number of versions you want to create using the drop list at the top of the window. When you make your selection, the table below the drop list will display a number of rows equal to the number of versions you have selected. These rows are where you will enter the names for each version. Click into each row with the mouse and type out the name. The names you select should be concise, but also specific about the unique aspects of each version.
When you are done specifying the number of versions and the names, click the Save & Close button to save your version information. Back on the Job Master window, and the specification area on the right-hand side, you will see some changes. At the top of the specification panel there will now be a separate Price-Quantity grid for each version you have specified. The name of each version will be shown just above the Price-Quantity grid. This is the way the Price-Quantity grids will appear on your RFQ E-mail and the Supplier Response Web page.
TIP: Be sure to give the versions clear and appropriate names that define all the differences between the versions. Then your suppliers can give you accurate prices without having to ask questions.
CAUTION: Be careful not to specify too many versions on your quote requests, as this may create an undue burden on your suppliers, and possibly result in less competitive pricing for you.
This section of the system is a tool for requesting cost breakouts for the RFQ responses from your suppliers. For a variety of reasons, you may want more detail than just a total cost for each quantity in your quote request. For an example, you may wish to get the paper cost separated from the printing cost, if you are considering buying the paper directly. Or you might want postage, letter shop services and printing separated, so you can make a better cost analysis on your project. The Cost Breakout system provides a mechanism for requesting the type of detail that you may require.
The Job Cost Breakout List Builder window is accessed from the Job Master window. To launch the Cost Break-Out Editor, click the Job menu / Advanced Pricing menu item / "Add/Manage RFQ Cost Breakouts".
The Job Cost Breakout List Builder window provides a mechanism for specifying what you need. The breakout specification consists of a series of labels for each cost component you want broken out from the cost total. The first step is to specify the number of cost breakouts you desire using the drop list at the top of the editor window. This will cause a corresponding number of breakout line descriptions to appear in the table below the drop list. Each of these lines can be selected and then edited. When a cost breakout line is selected, a set of 5 controls will become visible below the list table. These 5 controls can be used to edit and control the type of response you are requesting from your suppliers. They allow you to specify a name, a type and the type of data that is allowed for the supplier response.
Name - The Name field allows you to type in a basic name for the breakout line. The field also has a drop list with some convenient suggestions for cost breakout names. Generally speaking, you will want to name the first breakout line "Total"
Type - The Type field is used to indicate to the supplier what type of response you are looking for. Generally the word "Cost" is sufficient. However, there are other types of responses you may want. For example, you may be looking for an "Additional Unit Cost" type of response. Or, you may be looking for a non-cost response like "Number of Sheets" of paper. Whatever label you specify for Type will appear in parentheses to the right of the line Name.
Special Cost Types: There are three special cost types that can be specified: "Cost", "Cost per Unit", "Cost per 1000". These are probably the most common types that are used. The special property that the use types have is that they affect the display of data in the Compare Bids window. The bid comparison graphs on the Compare Bids window will only appear if one of these three data types is used. Since these graphs reflect cost and unit cost, this is a sensible provision.
Numeric/Alphanumeric - These two radio buttons are used to specify whether you want a purely numeric response or will allow non-numeric data to be entered by the supplier. Generally, you will leave this as a numeric type response.
Decimal Places - For numeric type responses, you can specify the number of decimal places minimum and maximum that are allowed for the responses. Generally, 2 decimal places minimum and maximum is used for currency. For other types of numeric responses you may wish to increase or decrease the allowed decimal places.
Currency Symbol - This checkbox indicates whether you would like to show the currency symbol next to the Type label specified in the Type field. When this box is checked, the currency symbol will appear to the right of the Type label inside the parentheses that contain it.
After you set up your cost breakout and return to the main Job Master window, you will see the resulting effect of adding the cost breakout. The quantity price grid displayed on the right-hand side of the Job Master window will now have a second dimension. In addition to the quantities, a second dimension of cost breakouts will be listed. So for each quantity there will be a set of cost breakout response cells. This is how the quantity-price grids will appear in the E-mails to your suppliers and on the supplier response web page.
Once you have gone to the trouble to set up a cost breakout, it may be desirable to save it for use on future jobs. This can be accomplished easily through the Cost-Breakout menu at the top of the window. When you select "Save Current List," you will be asked to name it; and then it will be added to a list of stored cost breakout settings. On subsequent jobs you can use "Load a Saved List" function on the same menu to retrieve your stored cost breakout settings. Lastly, there is a "Delete a Saved List" function that allows you to select and delete a set of saved cost breakout settings if that becomes desirable.
It may also be desirable to automatically have a particular cost breakout used on every new job you create. There is a function under Enterprise Settings that allows you to specify a stored cost breakout scheme to use on all your new jobs. Go to Global menu / Enterprise Settings menu item / Jobs and Projects subtab / Top left corner under New Job Default Settings Default Cost Break-Out. If you click on the Select Button it will open the Select Defualt Cost BreakOut Window, which has a dropdown menu where you can select a saved Cost BreakOut for all new jobs.
NOTE: On any given job you always have the option of picking a different cost breakout from the automatic one or eliminating the cost breakout altogether.
The Multi-Item Specification section of the system enables you to bundle several independent items into one quote request and order. This is convenient for jobs where several items may be ordered together but there are different quantities and specifications for each item. A common example would be a stationary package where the envelopes and letterhead are ordered in different quantities with different specifications.
The switch to turn on the Multi-Item Specification is located on the Job Master window / RFQ-Management menu / Advanced Pricing / "Switch to Multi-Item Spec" menu item. When switched on, the Multi-Item specification will be shown in the Job Specification Display panel on the right-hand side of the Job Master window, General Info tab pane. Normally this is where the Flexi-Spec or Detailed Spec would appear.
Each spec item on the Multi-Item Spec can be edited by means of the Item Editor window, which is accessed by double-clicking on the item description in the Job Specification Display panel.
Within the Job Specification Display panel there are four buttons for the Multi-Item specification: the "Add Item", Delete Item, Up, and Down buttons. The Item Specifications list simply displays the Name, Specifications and Price-Quantity Grid for each item on the list. The user can double-click on the listing to edit the Name, Specifications and Price-Quantity Grid for the item.
This editing window is for setting up the specifications and price request structure of a single Spec Item. Each Item has its own name, specs, quantities and (where desired) cost breakouts.
Item Name - This field should contain a simple clear top-level description of the item.
Item Description - This area is where the item specifications should be detailed. Just below this text area there are three buttons: Get Template, Save As Template and Manage Templates. These are the same templates and functions used for the Flexi-Spec. Instead of writing out specifications each time you create a new item, you can retrieve specs from the Flexi-Spec template library. You can also copy and paste from other applications into the description field.
Item Quantities and Response Fields - This control works in a similar fashion to the quantity control on the Job Master window. It allows the user to specify the number of quantities desired and then specify the actual values for each quantity. These quantities are specific to this item only. When the item specifications are rendered for display, the quantities will be shown in a Price-Quantity Grid below the name and description of the item.
Request Cost Breakouts - In some cases, the user may want to request a Cost Breakout for an item they are writing specifications for. Click the "Request Cost Breakouts" box and then click the Cost Breakouts button to open the Job Cost Breakout List Builder window. The functions of the cost breakout window are explained in detail on the RFQ Cost Breakouts help page.
The P3 system is designed to help track cost savings on the print jobs you purchase. There are several components to the savings calculation systems. First, the Compare Bids window displays a "Saving Opportunity" value as part of the bid comparison. Later, once the job is ordered, a final "Job Savings" calculation can be made. The "Job Savings" calculation is located on the Notes/History tab pane on the Job Master window. Once recorded, the Job Savings amounts can be displayed and totaled across many jobs using the reporting system. This feature is particularly valuable to users who want to illustrate how much money they have saved their firm in a given period of time.
The main reason print buyers request multiple competitive bids is to save money, or to get the best they can for their print spending. So it is important to illustrate the potential savings that this activity generates. The Compare Bids window has a feature to do just this. At the bottom of the list of suppliers, there is an "Average Bid" calculation and a "Saving Opportunity" calculation. The "Average Bid" calculation is simply the average of each supplier's bid value for a given quantity. This average represents what a buyer could expect to pay if they had randomly selected one of the vendors. The "Saving Opportunity" value is calculated by subtracting the lowest bid for a given quantity from the average. This difference represents the amount of money you have the opportunity to save because you solicited competitive pricing for the job.
A note on the number of suppliers: P3Software does not recommend that you solicit competitive prices from a specific number of suppliers. Rather, we leave that up to the judgment of our customers. Some customers sole-source or source from one or two suppliers. Other customers have a considerably longer list of suppliers they routinely solicit prices from. We have observed that, in general, customers request an average of three bids per job. P3Software does recommend that you only solicit quotes from suppliers who are qualified (in your experience) to do the work.
The "Job Savings" calculation represents the actual savings generated through your buying activities vs. the savings opportuntiy which calculates the potential savings). This calculation is based on two numbers, a "Benchmark" Amount representing what you would have paid without the procurement activities, and the "Actual" Amount, which represents what you actually did pay for the job. The difference between the "Benchmark" and "Actual" amounts represents what you have saved through your procurement activities on a particular job.
The Job Savings calculation is displayed in the lower left corner of the Notes/History tab pane on the Job Master window for each job. The Job Savings calculation panel has several components. It has a Savings Category for classifying the savings you have generated. It has a savings Notes field where you can detail any special circumstances you used to save additional money. And, it has the user controls for making the job savings calculation. The user controls consist of the following:
The Benchmark Amount - Generally speaking, the average bid price for the quantity you are purchasing is a good measure of what you would have paid had you selected one of the qualified suppliers at random. However, there are times when a different benchmark amount is desired. The basic control allows the user to switch from average bid to the highest bid for the job at the selected quantity or input another value determined by the user. This other value could be a budget, historical cost, cost before changing specifications or other value that represents what the job would have cost without your procurement activities. The basis selector has four standard selections:
Actual Amount - This amount can be based on one of three values: the Order Amount, the final Job Costing Amount, or Other. P3Expeditor, by default, displays the Order Amount and quantity when they are entered into the system. To switch to using the value from the job cost tracking system, the user can use the final cost basis selector and select the second item Job Costing Amount. Both selection options will automatically load in the relevant value. Other allows the user to specify the Actual Amount manually.
The reporting system in P3 allows you to aggregate your savings and report on it. The reporting system can show the total amount saved, benchmark value, benchmark basis description, final negotiated amount value, final negotiated amount basis description, savings category and savings note. The numeric data fields can be totaled and the savings category can be used to group and subtotal your savings. Other job related reporting data fields such as created date, delivery date, customer, job owner etc. can also be used to aggregate and subtotal your savings amounts.