The title of this column may lead many to believe this rant is all about politicians but it is not. You may have encountered it on occasion when you’ve asked someone to quote you a price for a special gage or instrument and received this brief but terminal response. It often appears beside one or two items in a list of many where the purchasing department asks the vendor to fill in the blanks on their form, which leaves little or no room for any explanations or questions.

Reasons for such responses will vary from someone having a bad hair day to your supplier being so loaded up with work he or she can’t handle any more. Or perhaps you have specified something that normally takes four weeks to deliver but you must have this one in one week.

Among the commercial reasons for declining to quote is the most potent one: your company takes too long to pay the bills.

Often the ‘no quote’ response is used to save your supplier time explaining why the laws of physics can’t be bent out of shape to meet your requirements.

Some of the ‘standard’ terms and conditions your company puts on all purchases could be the reason a ‘no quote’ comes back for everything. For example, they may insist on freight being included in the price for items worth a couple of hundred dollars and they want everything flown to your location.

Often the ‘no quote’ response is due to technical reasons and is used to save your supplier time explaining some metrology basics or why the laws of physics can’t be bent out of shape to meet your requirements.

A common example of this is a simple plain ring gage you intend to use as a master to set a bore measuring instrument. Other than the specific size required, everything is an off-the-shelf consideration so what could go wrong, you ask? It will likely be the tolerance you have requested such as Class XX (20µ”) or less. The gage maker knows that tolerances at this level of precision are an ongoing source of arguments between calibration facilities and gage makers around the world. It could be that your supplier is confident he can do the job without any problems but he knows your in-house calibration facility or the outside source you use is not precise enough and that arguments will prevail so he decides to retain his sanity and not get involved.

Perhaps you only want a simple go/no go adjustable plain snap gage set to a specified dimension within .000l”. It’s adjustable so you can keep trying until you get it right so no problems here. But there can be since the anvils may be out-of-parallel by double that amount as new.

You have an adjustable plain caliper gage with a mechanical indicator reading to .0001” and you decide you want better resolution a digital indicator can provide. There’s no doubt you’ll get your wish, but not an improved level of precision you may also be hoping for due to the mechanics involved in the caliper design. You will get a lot of dancing digits in the bargain.

A request for a special adjustable thread ring gage is often no-quoted because customers don’t want to buy the truncated setting plug required for its manufacture and subsequent verification.

Special size gage blocks are often ‘no quoted’ because customers want them to be made to the same specifications as regular gage blocks which means their cost goes through the roof since they are a ‘one off’ and few companies are willing to pay for this level of precision. In a similar vein, I’ve received requests for our shop to produce a special size gage block by grinding down a standard one so the final result is the same tolerance as the original. This is a ‘no quote’ because the final size has to be obtained by manually lapping the ground surface. When you’re fooling around with millionths of an inch, it doesn’t take much to miss the target or worse if it’s a long block that is only heat treated at its ends and you grind too close to the boundary.

The simplest way to avoid ‘no quote’ situations like these is to talk with your supplier of choice before you write up your requisition and send it to purchasing to follow up on. If you explain what you want to do and your possible solution your supplier will tell you whether what you want is doable at a reasonable price and, even better, may be able to suggest lower cost alternatives.