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Contracting the ideal logistics services you want starts with clearly defined RFP and RFQ communications beforehand. What do these terms mean and how do they differ?

Understanding the Logistics of RFP and RFQ: What They Mean And Why They’re Important

During the process of procuring logistics services, RFPs and RFQs are initial documents used for different purposes. Knowing their differences, when and how to use them is essential if you want your operations to run as intended without wasting resources. In this article, we’ll help you to better understand the key differences between an RFP and RFQ and why they’re so important in laying a solid logistics partnership.

What are the Key Differences Between an RFP and RFQ?

The key differences between an RFP (Request for Proposal) and RFQ (Request for Quote) lie in how and when they come into use. As a purchaser begins to investigate solutions to the problems of procuring logistics products and services, there are a series of steps that satisfy specific purposes along the way. These steps come in the form of official communications between the purchaser and the contractor or vendor.

In terms of sequence, RFPs and RFQs occupy the middle to end portions of the procurement process. In the early stages, an RFI (Request for Information) is often the starting point for gathering information on various suppliers or vendors and their capabilities. As the solutions to the project’s needs become more clearly defined, so do the type requests.

Depending on the breadth and scope of the project, there can often be intermediate requests designed to get a clearer picture of a vendor’s capabilities. For example, the purpose of an RFT (Request for Tender), which typically falls between an RFP and RFQ, is to do exactly that; put a finer point on a supplier’s price points and qualitative attributes.

In short, the main difference between RFP and RFQ is that during the procurement process an RFP precedes the RFQ in sequence. In other words, an RFP is sent when a business needs more detailed information about the supplier whereas an RFQ is sent when a business has a clear idea what they want and only needs specific information on pricing.

Definition of a Request for Proposal (RFP)

A Request for Proposal (RFP), also referred to as a Request for Offer (RFO), is an official document a business uses to request bids from potential suppliers or vendors. Frequently used in the logistics and transportation industry, purchasers use it to obtain information on services provided by third-party vendors for freight and delivery needs.

A typical RFP in logistics allows the opportunity for potential vendors to provide details in bid form outlining their services, timelines, pricing structure, and other relevant information that helps a company determine who best fulfills their needs.

Definition of a Request for Quotation (RFQ)

A Request for Quotation (RFQ) is a request made by customers to suppliers asking for formal quotations on certain services or products. Specifically, the request for quote in logistics details the project’s scope, quality requirements, delivery deadlines, payment terms, and other qualitative information. Ultimately, the winning supplier is the one that satisfies all requirements and offers the best price.

In the logistics industry, an RFQ also plays an important role as it allows vendors and suppliers to better judge the demand for their products or services in the current supply chain environment. This feedback can be used to help suppliers set prices accordingly.

RFP vs RFQ and How They Work in Logistics

RFP and RFQ negotiations in terms of logistics cover multiple aspects of a supply chain. For example, creating typical logistics RFP and RFQ requirements can be broken down into logical series of questions:

What’s being shipped?

Where is it being shipped?

  • Points of origin and destinations
  • Transportation lanes and region details
  • Commodity

How much is being shipped?

  • Lane level volumes
  • Shipment frequency

Are there special considerations?

  • Drop trailer requirements
  • Dock hours
  • Fuel surcharges

What’s your preferred tendering process?

  • Term duration
  • Response deadline
  • Preferred tariff
  • Average lead time

Depending on your type of business, the process of making RFP and RFQ formal requests for logistics services may place more emphasis on certain qualifiers. For instance, in the fresh produce industry, shipping and delivery times are critical points of interest.

Advantages of Using RFPs and RFQs in Logistics

The use of RFPs and RFQs in logistics provides a greater scope of solutions, their specific details and insight to the companies that provide them. While both request types involve a competitive vendor selection process, the main difference is in the level of evaluation criteria used to choose the best bidder for a given job. This bidding process allows the purchaser to evaluate potential supplier abilities to see if they meet a project’s specific needs.

Realizing the advantages of using RFPs and RFQs in logistics can help streamline trucking and supply chain operations by making the most of their resources. Listed here are a few advantages:

  • The opportunity to reach out to multiple suppliers
  • Effective price comparison
  • Cost control
  • Market assessment without additional cost
  • Supplier and vendor insights
  • Competitive bidding
  • Quotes for specific solutions
  • Potential for future partnerships

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the purpose of the RFQ process?

The purpose of an RFQ (request for quote), alternatively known as an IFB (invitation for bid), is a formal process whereby a company solicits select suppliers, vendors or contractors to submit price quotes and bids to fulfill requirements for certain tasks or projects.

In the table below, we’ve laid out the basic sequential flow of requests from gathering initial information to obtaining a final quote:

MeaningRequest For InformationRequest For ProposalRequest For Quote
PurposeGather general informationOutline specific requirementsNegotiate price and terms
Commitment LevelExploratoryRefinementFinalization

What is the purpose of an RFP?

The purpose on an RFP (request for proposal) is to offer competing suppliers, contractors or vendors the opportunity to to bid on completing a new project issued by a company or organization.

Who writes the RFQ?

The procuring company or purchaser writes the RFQ which is then sent to potential suppliers or vendors the company is interested in working with.

What are the disadvantages of RFQ?

The main disadvantage of an RFQ is that being one of the last steps in the procurement process, it does not encourage suppliers to offer alternative solutions or assessment of qualitative aspects of suppliers such as functional capabilities, experience and references.

Final Thoughts

When negotiating through the RFP and RFQ stages of a procurement strategy, it’s important to keep an overall view of the process in mind:

RFI – Stage 1 of procurement: Gathering general information about a pool of companies, contractors or vendors.

RFP – Stage 2 of procurement: Purchaser requires solutions, has reasonable outline of project scope, requirements, objectives, criteria, and is negotiating, comparing, evaluating vendors.

RFQ – Stage 3 of procurement: Purchaser is committed to buy, specifics are known, has questions on costs and payments, the focus on price, financial factors and finalizing explicit vendor terms.

The above are all individually important processes within logistics which helps businesses identify the best possible supply chain partners to meet their specific needs.