Paperless Parts Issues 2022 Custom Part Buyer Survey

The report found that industrial buyers are under increased pressure compared to two years ago.

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BOSTON — Paperless Parts, the leading estimating and quoting software for job shops and contract manufacturers, on Monday announced the findings of its “2022 Custom Part Buyer Survey.”

The Custom Part Buyer Report, conducted in partnership with Researchscape, reveals that industrial buyers are under greater pressure today than they were when surveyed in 2020, indicating a need for job shops and contract manufacturers to modernize in order to keep up with heightened demands for speed and transparency.

The survey of more than 600 manufacturing professionals in the U.S., consisting of part buyers and engineers working with procurement, highlighted the challenges many manufacturers faced over the last two years. In addition to supply chain issues (84% of survey respondents report experiencing a supply chain issue in the last two years), skyrocketing material costs, and an uncertain economic climate, manufacturers have been struggling with a labor shortage: the workforce shrunk significantly in 2021 as the manufacturing industry saw quit rates increase by over 50%.

These recent headwinds, combined with a generational shift as baby boomers are retiring at a rapid pace, has led the current class of more digitally savvy buyers to lean heavily on technology to streamline their buying process and fill the skills gap.

Industrial part buyers are now quick to go to market when their suppliers come up short: in 2020, only 54% of survey respondents noted that they turned to new vendors when their current ones failed to deliver. This year, it was 85%.

With the knowledge that buyers are getting younger, relying more on technology, and going to market more often, contract manufacturers can better cater to their customers’ needs. Building stronger customer relationships will be more important than ever, as buyers’ reliance on referrals as a way to seek out new business jumped 17% in the past two years — the bump may indicate that in uncertain times, buyers want vetted, reliable suppliers that come highly recommended.

Additional key findings include:

  • The top three ways part buyers find new vendors are: Google/internet search (64%), referrals (63%), and trade publications (31%).
  • Survey respondents look to a shop’s capabilities (69%) and quality certifications (54%) as signs that the shop will be able to complete their projects successfully.
  • 53% report that a shop’s technology often or always impacts their experience.
  • 94% of part buyers report that they’ve tried out at least one new vendor in the last 12 months, indicating that job shops that can respond quickly and fulfill orders on time have an opportunity to get a foot in the door with brand new customers.
  • 47% of respondents said that the speed of response directly impacts their decision to work with a shop.

In order to meet buyers’ need for speed and nurture strong customer relationships, the report suggests some key takeaways for job shops:

  • Shops that incorporate modern technology can set themselves up to expand their customer base and increase profitability, now and for years to come.
  • Shops also need to be visible, communicative, and efficient, and implementing digital tools such as quoting systems, ERP platforms, and more can help provide a modern, secure, and seamless purchasing experience.
  • Buyers are willing to consider new suppliers more often than in the past, so the new RFQs that come in are likely not just exploratory, they are actually worth quoting and quoting in a timely fashion.

“Manufacturing has been and will always be a relationship-driven industry. Technology can enhance business—making it easier to quote or faster to design—but it will never replace the hands-on approach that job shops need,” said Jason Ray, co-founder and CEO of Paperless Parts. “These survey findings confirm that.”

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