Navigating RFQ Challenges in the Wire Harness Industry

By Caleb Townsend

Quoting for wire harnesses can be quite different from other industries. Unlike many other products, wire harnesses constantly evolve due to changes in electrical systems, plus new components, terminals, and specifications are always evolving. Let’s go over the specific challenges of quoting for wire harnesses and how to navigate them effectively.

Pricing Complexity

Wire harnesses consist of a multitude of components, making pricing complicated. A typical wire harness may contain around 50-100 different items in its bill of materials. Fortunately, about 90% of these components might already be stored in your ERP or buying system, making pricing somewhat straightforward. You can often rely on automated updates or recent purchase prices for these items.

However, the challenge arises when new components enter the picture. The ever-evolving nature of electrical systems means new terminals, covering specifications, backshells, and other components are continually introduced. These components may be entirely new to the industry or new to your contract manufacturing team. This adds complexity to the quoting process and can be time-consuming.

Balancing Act

Quoting is a juggling act for your quote team. There tends to be a lot of work involved in updating pricing with existing customers or revising specifications. This is due to the fact that a wire harness interfaces with numerous components within the vehicle or piece of equipment it is installed in.

Therefore, whenever there are changes in the dimensions of the mechanical design of a vehicle or a piece of equipment, the wire harness typically needs to be updated. These changes may include alterations in length, the need for new connectors, or new specs. Keeping wire harness prints up to date requires a significant amount of labor.

On the other hand, your team is eager to pursue new customers, and quoting is a crucial part of winning new business. However, investing substantial time in quoting a part that may not result in a contract can be counterproductive. So, it’s essential to qualify wire harness prints or prospects before allocating valuable resources to the task.

Qualifying Your Quotes

Now, let’s talk about strategy to qualify your quotes. You can’t afford to waste time quoting for parts that won’t turn into business. So, before you dedicate your precious resources to quoting, you need to qualify the opportunity.

New or Replacement Supplier?

Ask yourself, is this a new application, or is it replacing an existing supplier? If it’s new, find out who they’ve worked with before for wire harnesses. Why aren’t they working with them now? If they’ve always done it in-house, why are they looking outside now? What do they expect from an outside supplier in terms of communication and lead times? What quality are they looking for?

If it’s a replacement, dig deeper. Why the switch? What are they hoping to get from a new supplier? How do they evaluate suppliers other than just looking at the price tag? What did their previous supplier do well, and what would they change?

Emotional vs. Logical Decisions

People often make decisions based on emotions and then justify them with logic. Engineers may seek a supplier who can align with their quality standards, offer design suggestions, and form a partnership. Buyers and those in the purchasing department may prioritize price but also value other factors, such as input on components and cost-saving ideas. It’s important to recognize and address these emotional and logical aspects during conversations with prospects.

Teaching Them to Buy

Educating prospects on how to buy wire harnesses is as important as convincing them to choose your company as their supplier. If they’ve never sourced wire harnesses externally, they may apply criteria from other industries, like fabricated parts or machine parts, which can lead to misconceptions.

For instance, wire harness tolerances differ significantly from machine part tolerances. Tolerances should typically be within a half inch rather than tenths or thousandths of an inch. Educate your prospects gently on these differences.

When you’re teaching them how to buy, help them ask the right questions. What are they evaluating besides the price? What quality do they expect in the field? Do they batch-test or test every single part for accuracy? These questions will help you both get on the same page.

Be Cautious with Multiple Quotes

OEMs often ask for multiple quotes. Be careful here. If there are more than two companies quoting, it can turn into a price race, and that’s not always a good thing. Winning might mean you’ve underbid, and that’s a tough spot to be in.

Key Takeaway

Quoting wire harnesses can be a resource-intensive task, and you can’t quote everyone who comes knocking. That’s why it’s important to have a qualification and vetting process. These steps will help you save time and resources while ensuring you’re a good fit for the job.

At Factur, we understand the unique challenges that B2B manufacturers, industrial suppliers, and service providers face. Our mission is to help clients like you increase sales and grow revenue. If you’re seeking support with outsourced sales, business development, lead generation, or digital marketing strategies, visit to explore how we can work together to boost your business.