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HOW TO WRITE AN EFFECTIVE PACKAGING RFQ

Picture this: your current packaging vendor has been spotty in communicating with you…or their production schedule has backlogged…or quality control has diminished…or maybe your business is growing faster than you expected and your current supplier can’t keep up with demand… Whatever the reason (we’ve heard all of these and more), you may be considering a new packaging supplier.

Cue the search process. You reach out to other suppliers you may know already. You ask business associates for referrals. You start an online search terms like “packaging companies,” “packaging suppliers,” or “packaging procurement,” and a slew of results appear before you. You start to fill out a few contact forms, but quickly realize you’re having to explain yourself over and over to each new company. Did you forget an important detail? Did you misquote your specs on that last email? Have you reached out to that one supplier already?

This is when a proper packaging RFQ can help. In this post, we’ll break down the key fundamentals of RFQs and how to write the most effective packaging RFQ to select the right supplier for you. 

WHAT IS AN RFQ?

RFQ stands for “Request for Quote.” It’s an industry-standard best-practice used by purchasing and supply managers to invite suppliers or vendors to quote on a specified product or service. It is different from a Request for Proposal (RFP), which is typically used when looking for proposals for creative services, processes, or business solutions. RFQs are utilized when you know exactly what you want and are looking for the best partner based on price, quality, customer service, and timeline.

WHY WRITE AN RFQ?​

As a buyer, the RFQ process can be your best friend, as it standardizes the information you are seeking and helps organize the information you receive so that you can make apples-to-apples comparisons across vendors.

The Packaging RFQ Process

Step 1: OUTLINE THE DETAILS

Since the whole point of an RFQ is to standardize and organize your decision-making process, it’s best to define what you’re looking for from the beginning.

What to include in your Packaging RFQ:

  • Company Overview & Project Summary: It always helps to give vendors some context for the project they will be bidding on. This can include a brief introduction to your company and a general overview of the project requirements.
    • Example: We are a health and wellness company that sells premium athleisure goods to consumers across the US and Canada. Our primary distribution center is located in Houston, TX. We are looking for a trusted packaging supplier who can provide us with shopping bags for our retail stores. Sustainability is a core attribute for our brand, and we are looking for a partner who has sustainable best practices built into their business and production.
  • Pre-Qualification Questionnaire: Vendors often are vetted during the request for information (RFI) process, but if you waited until the RFQ to make sure you are working with qualified vendors, include a questionnaire in your RFQ. This questionnaire can include requests for a vendor’s company history, certifications, financial stability, quality control process, and references.
  • Project Details:
    • Packaging Type – Is it a box, a bag, a mailer? Be as specific as possible.
      • Example: Paper twisted handle kraft shopping bag.
    • Size(s) – Include all dimensions with unit of measurement. If you have dielines or a CAD mock-up, that always helps to clarify.
      • Example: Small bag: 8″ x 5″ x 10″ // Medium bag: 10″ x 5″ x 13” // Large bag: 16″ x 10″ x 16”
      • TIP: For most bags with side and bottom gussets, Length x Gusset x Height is the standard method of measurement. If specifying a bag with just a bottom gusset (and no side gusset), clearly label it BG, for example: 10” x 4” (BG) x 14”.
    • Material – Be sure to specify the type of material, the weight/thickness, and percentage of recycled material content (if desired).
      • For example: 65 lb. natural kraft paper with 40% post-consumer waste (PCW).
    • Handle Specs (for bags) – Do you have a handle material specified? If so, include the type of handle, height (from middle of handle to top of bag), diameter, color, and attachment style.
      • Example: Kraft paper twisted handle, 3mm diameter, dyed to match to PMS 485U, 6” high.
    • Print Specs – If you don’t already have artwork available, you should at least provide the number of print colors, estimated percentage of ink coverage, and type of ink. If art is available, include this with your quote request and the vendor can help with specifications.
      • Example: Printed 2 colors, 2 sides, 25% ink coverage with water-based inks.
    • Finishing – This should be where you add any special features that would need to be considered, such as embossing, debossing, foils, hot stamping, turn tops, glue strips, perforations, etc. The more specific you are, the better.
      • Example: Gold foil to be applied to logo.
    • Case-Pack & Labeling Instructions – If you have a specific way you’d like your finished product case packed, be sure to include that in your RFQ. This could mean specifying the type of inner packing, the case pack quantity, or container assortment you’re looking for.
      • Example: Packed in poly bags in sets of 20; 100 packs per case. Each case to be labeled with contents and specs, in accordance with US customs requirements.
    • Delivery Location(s) & Instructions – Do you have a warehouse with a loading dock, or will your deliveries require liftgate delivery? Do you have a max pallet height? Does your order need to be palletized or can it be delivered in floor loaded containers? The more details you can provide, the better to help with logistics. This will allow you to determine your actual delivered pricing to compare across vendors. If logistics isn’t a factor for you, you can specify this by asking vendors to quote “FOB Mill.”
      • Example: Please quote FOB delivered to zip code 77007. Pallet height no greater than 62” – full trucks only.
    • Payment Terms – Specifying your desired payment terms is important, as it again will make sure your bidders are being compared apples to apples.
      • Example: Payment Terms NET 30 upon delivery.

Step 2: Set up a Pricing Template

A pricing template lets you compare bids easily. This can be done in an Excel spreadsheet or any other table-like format that works best for you. The goal is to have all the information for a specific product in the same format so you can compare the quotes in an apples-to-apples format.

Step 3: Set Expectations & Manage Communication

Specify your timeline for important milestones such as:

  • Intent to Participate
  • Vendor Q&A Period
  • Follow-up Q&A Period
  • Cut-off time for RFQ responses
  • Award Date

Be sure to include all vendors in responses to questions. The more transparent you are with everyone, the better your RFQ results will be.

Keep track of your responses and acknowledge them as you receive them.

Step 4: Review Bids and Award the Contract

Once all submissions have been received within the timeline you established, it’s time to review quotes. If you’ve organized your RFQ well, it should be relatively easy to compare bids. It’s up to you to make your selection, based on price and any other factors that may be important to you (such as production timeline, quality control policies, reference checks, sustainable best practices, etc.).

Step 5: Close the Loop

Once you have selected a vendor, you may finalize the contract by making sure all details are accounted for in a Purchase Order, or another formal document. If your RFQ was detailed enough, all should be outlined as specified, but make sure to double- or triple-check for accuracy.

Once the agreement is finalized, it is customary to let the other vendors know they were not selected. If you’d like, you can include reasons why to allow them the chance to grow or be considered during your next RFQ, but that decision is up to you.

THE WRAP-UP:

While the packaging RFQ process can seem daunting, our team at Creative Retail Packaging has over 40 years of experience behind us to assist you. With our global network of factories, we have done the heavy lifting of pre-vetting factories and our award-winning account management team handles the details from start to finish. All of this ensures you are getting the best price and quality product available.

If you’d like us to help you develop an RFQ, contact us today. We’d be happy to help!