An Insider Look Into the Custom Metal Fabrication Bid Process


Defense contractors are well aware of the extensive work that goes into developing all the drawings and each detailed line item in a request for quote (RFQ) or request for proposal (RFP). However, they may not fully understand what happens once that bid package is handed off to a vendor to develop a bid. 

An insider look into the bidding process provides insights for procurement specialists and others involved in seeking out the best partner. This article is intended to provide a behind-the-scenes look into how a custom metal fabricator determines pricing and develops a bid. It also includes some proactive tips for those who submit RFQs to help ensure a more accurate and timely quote.

RFQ Guide — Commonly Overlooked Specifications

How long does the bid process take?

When a defense contractor submits an RFQ, they typically provide a deadline to the metal fabricator to submit the bid proposal. Not including a reasonable deadline can delay the bid process, as a metal fabricator’s sales and estimating team can’t begin until all flow downs, specifications, drawings, and due date are provided.

The timeliness of submitting an estimate is based largely on the scope and complexity of work to be performed. A basic commercial product quote that is not subject to extensive regulatory or compliance requirements is typically turned around within a week or sooner. More exhaustive programs for the Department of Defense, however, are subject to FAR and DFARS clauses that may include more than 1,000 pages of complex requirements. Some larger programs may also include separate technical, cost, and management proposal requests, adding considerable time to the process. 

The bid process for such projects may take multiple weeks or more to complete based on the quantity of line items, the amount of flowdowns, and other requirements. It takes time to process the paperwork, source the materials, and weed through every detail with accuracy.

At the end of the day, a metal fabricator needs to provide a single price to a potential customer. Behind the scenes, however, the fabricator breaks it down into incremental cost factors to ensure they’re meeting the requirements and providing accurate pricing.

What delays the bid process?

Technically, any missing information has the potential to extend the timeframe for developing a bid proposal. Whether it’s due dates and flow downs or lot quantities and technical drawings, tracking down missing information is the number one cause of delays.

For example, just as important as a due date for the quote is knowing when the completed product needs to be delivered. If there are 70 complex electrical enclosures required for a ship’s onboard systems, are all of them needed at once, or do they need to be delivered in installments over a two-year period? This information allows the fabricator to determine scheduling and capacity requirements and whether they can fulfill them. 

It’s also important to note whether the company will be quoting the project with or without freight. There are many cost considerations when shipping precision metal fabrication projects with extremely tight tolerances. Is the bid for just the product itself, or does it need to include specially designed shipping materials and freight? 

Who’s involved in the bid process?

When an RFP is submitted to a precision metal fabrication company, it is typically reviewed by a sales manager who determines whether the project is a fit for their company. Just as a potential customer might need to determine whether a metal fabrication company is qualified to perform the work, so too does the fabricator examine whether the project is a fit for its specialty services

Understanding what a precision metal fabrication company specializes in can help inform whether your project is in their wheelhouse. Do they hold NAVSEA and AWS certifications? Have they performed similar work for other naval defense projects or contractors? These and other qualifying vendor questions should be considered. 

When it’s determined that the project aligns with the company’s industry focus, the sales manager confirms that all the necessary information is included in the request, such as making sure there are detailed drawings and part numbers. In the event that any details are missing, they follow up with the defense contractor who submitted the RFP to obtain the information.

After the initial high-level review, the RFP is passed along to an internal admin team that is highly detail-oriented and experienced in reviewing drawings, parts numbers, quantities, and other information. This team researches the necessary suppliers, material pricing, flowdowns, and internal deliverables, and breaks down each line item.

For more complex submissions, a manufacturing review might be performed. This review can involve project managers, sales and operations team members, shop floor quality representatives, welding managers, and others. They’ll gather to discuss the scope of the project and work together to document what needs to be quoted.

Only then is the project sent on to a metal fabrication estimator who factors in each line item along with labor to calculate the proposed bid and develop pricing that is sent to the prospective customer.

The painstaking measures a custom metal fabrication company goes through during the bid process helps to not only ensure pricing accuracy, but also ensure that they fully understand the scope of the project and can meet expectations.

To help eliminate common oversights when submitting an RFQ, download our helpful RFQ checklist below. You can be assured that Fox Valley Metal-Tech delivers attention to detail during every touchpoint of a project — from the bidding process all the way through to delivery. Contact our team of experts today to talk through your next project.

Metal Fabrication RFQ Guide