Understanding metalwork manufacture — How are Purchase Quotations prepared?

I have been involved with a number of metalwork design projects lately and I’m increasingly finding myself asking for quotations for small prototype runs (often one-off jobs) to verify the validity of a design.

The kind of items I’m talking about are small items like electronic product enclosures, mounting plates for screwing PCBs onto etc. Items that would probably fit into a shoebox and are made of machined or folded plastic, aluminium, mild steel. Not heavy engineering, so no welding etc.

Question: How would a large custom metalwork manufacturing company (1000+ employees let’s say) interpret my design files and what steps would they be likely to take in order to estimate costs for a small run of prototype units?

If I give them a 3D STEP file (output from Solidworks for instance), how would they evaluate the complexity of the design and convert that to a list of costs such as tooling charges, material costs and setup-time costs etc?

What I think might happen:

  1. They load the STEP file, find the smallest stock material size that fits the design – this gives the materials cost.
  2. An engineer analyses the features in the design and does the CAM toolpath generation and other operations at this level. This becomes NRE tooling costs and production line job-change costs.
  3. Shipping costs are estimated based on the final object’s size, shape and weight.

But this sounds like it would take a long time to organise and would be expensive in terms of man-hours, which they would want to avoid since I haven’t given them any money yet. Quite often the quote comes back to me within a couple of days, which suggests that they might simply be “eyeballing” the project, guessing the price and adding a wavy-hand percentage to cover the guesswork.

How does this kind of thing work in this industry? I have asked one of our smaller manufacturers but they seemed reluctant to answer this sort of question as if it was some kind of closely guarded secret. I want to stay on their good side so I stopped asking 🙂

I’d like to hear details from those with experience in custom machining, sheet metal fabrication (stamping, folding etc) and other related activities.

What does one call someone who displays quotations on his/her office door? [on hold]

An example is: “not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”

Some people display quotations like this in the office environment, e.g. pinned to their door, as part of email signatures, on bumper stickers, etc.

Is there a word to describe such a person? I think there should be!

Is there a word to describe a person who displays quotations on his/her office door? [on hold]

For example, “not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”

Some people display quotations like this in the office environment, e.g. pinned to their door, as part of email signatures, on bumper stickers, etc.

Is there a word to describe such a person? I think there should be!

Is there a word to describe a person who displays quotations on his/her office door?

For example, “not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”

Some people display quotations like this in the office environment, e.g. pinned to their door, as part of email signatures, on bumper stickers, etc.

Is there a word to describe such a person? I think there should be!