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While at SMTA Expo Dallas, I learned more about CalcuQuote’s automated quoting and purchasing software from CalcuQuote president, Chintan Sutaria. As Chintan explains, in these days of supply chain challenges, having an automated system that easily and efficiently searches for—and purchases—components can be a game-changer for EMS companies.
Andy Shaughnessy: I’m here at SMTA Expo Dallas with Chintan Sutaria of CalcuQuote. How are you, Chintan?
Chintan Sutaria: Fantastic. It’s been a busy day.
Shaughnessy: I know CalcuQuote has had some updates regarding its software. Can you tell me a little about the company and what’s new?
Sutaria: CalcuQuote started as an end-to-end RFQ management system for EMS companies—everything from RFQ intake to materials and labor estimation, getting the final price, and sending it back to your customer. We say the process ends when you’ve either won or lost that quote. Those were our origins. Since then, based on customer feedback, we’ve expanded to include purchasing automation.
We tie into the supply chain, so you get real-time inventory visibility from all the major distributors. We also have portals for you to engage with your suppliers for registered pricing or PCBs, things like that. Primarily, our tool set is around the use case of an EMS company.
Shaughnessy: Some users have said that they really like how the software allows them to look at the quote as basically another deliverable. Usually, the process doesn’t really begin until the quote, but this allows you to measure the quoting process as you would any other step in assembly.
Sutaria: Absolutely. I used to do quotes myself. I came from an EMS background. People don’t always realize that a lot of work goes into quoting the assembly before you can even begin to build it and get it in the hands of your customer.
Quoting is a process just like anything else in the business. The deliverable is not just getting the quote back to the customer, but it’s winning or losing that quote. A quote is a waste of time and energy if you don’t try to win it. From our perspective, it’s not about finishing the quote, it’s about winning it.
Shaughnessy: So, you’re taking some of the automation philosophy that is used elsewhere in the system and applying it to the quote.
Sutaria: Yes. With CalcuQuote, it’s about speed, accuracy, and efficiency. Can we get you to do your quotes faster? Can we get you to be more accurate about the price? Finally, can we get you to do it with less effort going into the process?
Shaughnessy: This would be really handy to have with supply chains in an uproar. What are you hearing from your customers and, in turn, their customers?
Sutaria: Whenever there is a supply chain disruption, people look for innovation. In 2018, when we had the MLCC (multilayer chip capacitor) shortage, CalcuQuote suddenly became very popular. In 2020, at the beginning of the supply chain disruption, we grew by 60% year over year. It’s largely because people are looking for solutions. One way to find solutions is to innovate your processes, apply the technology. We’re seeing that people are increasingly interested in finding parts.
Your traditional sources of finding a part are disappearing. A couple years ago we started tracking a metric called instock ratio. It’s a measure of how often a part that someone is searching for is available to sell.
In December 2020, it was close to 87%, which was also counting custom-made parts that are never going to be ready to ship. That percentage is not bad. In December 2021, it was down to 67%, a 20% drop in one year. It’s a linear trend downward with fewer and fewer materials available.
Shaughnessy: We keep seeing this in both design and fabrication. What data seems to be the most lacking when customers come to you? What are they looking for?
Sutaria: One of the biggest is data transparency up and down the supply chain. Within your company, data issues can be solved independently, but getting visibility in your supply chain is the key thing. Imagine if I need a part, there’s a few ways I handle it. I could contact my supplier, wait for them to respond and tell me what parts they have, then sit and think about a decision.
Then I execute a purchase order and hope for a confirmation that somebody else hasn’t bought it by now. With CalcuQuote, we aim to say there should be transparency up and down that chain. If I want a part, I can instantly and easily see what parts are available in my supply chain from who, at what price, with what mins and mults, what packaging, what lead times, and so forth. At the snap of your fingers, you should be able to say, “I found the parts, executed the order, and it’s ready to go.”
We have customers that have actually implemented CalcuQuote as an engine on their website. If I’m an EMS company, my customer goes to my website, requests a quote, they get an instant quote back with all the materials and labor, and everything built in. Then they check out. It orders all the parts, and the parts just arrive. This happens in a matter of a couple minutes.
Shaughnessy: It’s handy that it’s so configurable.
Sutaria: This kind of thing has helped fight the supply chain shortages. Part of it is about finding the parts, but also about buying them before somebody else does. It’s important to be fast because if you can’t be fast, then you’re last in this industry right now.
Shaughnessy: How do you stay in touch and updated with all these suppliers? There must be a lot going on behind the scenes here.
Sutaria: It’s a system-to-system integration. We are tied in directly to the major distributors, like Arrow, Avnet, Digi-Key, Mouser, TTI, and those types of companies. Each supplier is a little bit different, but it’s real time. In 30 seconds of a part being picked off the shelf of a distributor’s warehouse, it can disappear from the responses in CalcuQuote. You can know very quickly what parts are available.
Shaughnessy: Do you all write the software in-house?
Sutaria: Yes. We have our own developers, about 55 of them. We are very product-heavy, because we want to build a good product. As a global company we have a sales team in the U.S. and in several countries in Europe. We have customers in 26 countries with 250 companies using their software.
Shaughnessy: Is there anything else you want to mention?
Sutaria: One thing we have prioritized over the last few months is emphasizing how we solve the current supply chain shortage issues for our customers. You’ll be hearing more about this soon. We have some industry changing, paradigm shifting solutions coming out that will hopefully help alleviate some issue. We can’t make parts out of thin air, but we can help solve some of the supply chain problems still that are existing right now.
Shaughnessy: Good stuff. Well, thanks for speaking with us today.
Sutaria: Thanks, Andy.