2005 Supply & Demand Chain 100 Case Study  Johnson Space Center / MfgQuote Inc.

Profiles in Supply Chain Enablement: Space facility launches into a new age in streamlined sourcing

Profiles in Supply Chain Enablement: Space facility launches into a new age in streamlined sourcing

Company: Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX)
Company Size: Large
Company Sector: Public Sector
Area(s) of Enablement: Sourcing, Supply Chain Integration & Infrastructure
Enabler: MfgQuote Inc. (Atlanta, GA)

SDCE 100 2005Case Study: For more than 40 years, Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, has been home to the U.S. human space flight program from the final Mercury flight to today's space shuttle and International Space Station missions. The space center has long been at the forefront of applying technology to solve the engineering challenges of space flight, and now JSC also is taking advantage of the latest innovations in online technologies to streamline its sourcing processes as well.

NASA engineers, including those at JSC, continuously roll out new hardware, software and methodologies to support the United States' unfolding space exploration initiatives. As this large organization churns away on multiple projects, engineers are constantly designing new or reengineered components and assemblies.

Johnson Space Center's in-house machine shop handles precision machining and other types of jobs for the company. But like any manufacturing facility, it is feast or famine when it comes to workflow. When the machine shop is inundated with work, engineers needing made-to-order parts can queue up for the work or have the option of looking for another source. But for every job sent outside the in-house shop, the JSC engineer is required to put out the bid for work to a minimum of three suppliers.

In the past, the process to find three suppliers who could do the work and meet the part production schedule was a long process; on average, it could take nearly a month to secure three quotes. However, the engineers at JSC now have adopted an online tool that has significantly streamlined their sourcing process.

Today, NASA-JSC uses MfgQuote.com for high tech sourcing. MfgQuote provides a production-level sourcing system complete with request for quote (RFQ) wizards and management tools. But even more important, buyers can tap into a public marketplace of over 1,700 contract manufacturers ready for work.

Migration to the online sourcing service was seamless, simple and very efficient. There were no costs involved as buyers can post RFQs at MfgQuote.com free of charge. The online service is available 24 x7, and there was no special software to buy or load on the computer. Because JSC's design work is primarily CAD-based and engineering documentation resides in an electronic PDF format, the first JSC engineers to test-drive the system moved immediately into a streamlined, digital operation.

MfgQuote.com's fast-track RFQ process automatically matches a buyer's RFQ specifications with a supplier's capabilities, capacity, and qualifications. This "intelligent matching" functionality is the heart of high tech sourcing. For research and development work, JSC engineers must find suppliers located in the United States with ISO 9000 certification. They can choose all of those "qualifiers" and more during the RFQ creation process. At the click of a mouse, an RFQ can be sent to a pool of high caliber contract manufacturers who match the job's requirements.

To date, JSC has found many qualified suppliers across the country to produce their parts. Finding the "right" supplier and awarding the job is a task driven by company requirements, variables of the job at hand and the buyer's own systematic process. A buyer may examine jobs completed in the past by suppliers or research the MfgQuote.com Supplier Profiles. Other buyers find the MfgQuote.com rating system to be a helpful tool.

JSC engineers have discovered major advantages of using online sourcing, from time-savings to price to ease-of-use. Once a PDF file containing part specifications is ready to upload, an engineer can request quotes and begin receiving them in as little as five minutes. The RFQ can go to as many, or as few suppliers as the particular job requires. The entire sourcing procedure can be completed in one day instead of a month at JSC, resulting in a reduction in the sourcing process by 95 percent.

For more stories of successful supply chain implementations, read the "2005 Supply & Demand Chain Executive 100" article in the June/July 2005 issue of the magazine. Also watch the Today's Headlines section of SDCExec.com every Tuesday and Thursday for more in depth best practices drawn from this year's Supply & Demand Chain Executive 100.