New price comparison site is dedicated to engineering materials

A price comparison website has recently launched that is specifically aimed at the buying and selling of engineering materials.

The internet has opened up many commercial opportunities and fundamentally changed the way many of us consume. The ability to easily compare the price of goods has in itself spawned an industry of price comparison websites. Yet, despite success in consumer markets, price comparison sites have not penetrated business or industry in quite the same way. This void is what gave RFQ-Metal founder, Phil Stoneham, his eureka moment.

He has set up RFQ-Metal, a price comparison website for ferrous, non-ferrous and plastic materials. It aims to allow purchasers to buy material at the best possible price in the least amount of time while making it easier for stockholders to find new business opportunities, maximise haulage capacity and be more competitive.

Stoneham, who works as a production manager for KDM Precision in Essex, found that when purchasing materials prices could vary significantly. That cost would have a significant effect on the work Stoneham was himself quoting, potentially winning or losing business, and affect the profit margin.

"I found that if I'd got a better price on some materials, we could have won jobs that we lost," he says. "Cost of materials can make us more competitive or it can lose us work."

This was personified a few years ago on a quiet Friday afternoon when Stoneham was looking for a better price of Inconel. "Everyone quoted £4k," he says. "So I got on the phone to see if I could get it cheaper. By the third page of Google we found a supplier that quoted £2500. We saved £1500 in a matter of hours and on the back of that won a big order. It gave us a competitive edge and allowed us to add margin before we'd even started."

Effectively RFQ-Metal allows people to post requests for materials, and stockholders to respond with a price. It is aimed primarily at small to medium sized businesses that might typically purchase materials valued between £100 and £10,000. The system has the capability for specialist and aerospace grade materials, but its core audience is more generalist engineering firms.

Both buyers and stockholders are checked to make sure they are bona fide, and activities are closely monitored and policed to make sure the site is not abused. Building up trust in the use of the site is essential in making it a success.

"If you're a stockholder, an element of your outlay is marketing and trying to win new business," says Stoneham. "Now all you have to do is look on the website at people posting live enquiries.

"Additionally, if you have a lorry going to Sheffield, for example, on Wednesday and it only has one drop to do, it is inefficient. If you look at all the live enquiries in that area you can reduce your delivery costs, offer a more competitive price, win some business, and the truck is suddenly much more cost effective. And the buyer also gets materials at a better price."

The next stage is getting the website operating at a critical mass so people have to get on aboard to stay competitive.

If the domestic market is anything to go by, business needs to get online to keep competitive, and this site could be the start of something big.

Justin Cunningham

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