A Good Estimation Tool Can Be a Game ChangerBy Santosh Mulay, InSoft Automation
Running a business is rewarding but comes with a fair number of challenges, which can be daunting. These challenges could involve navigating financial hurdles, facing fierce market competition, and dealing with uncertain economic conditions, all of which require resilience and adaptability.
In the face of fierce market competition, higher sales and revenue do not necessarily reflect real profit. Every sale contributes to net profit. The crux of the sales process, however, is to send a price quotation that not only wins an order but delights the customer.
While a lower price is likely to win an order, it can be counterproductive if not calculated meticulously. Every price quotation needs to be tailored, keeping in mind numerous factors. Finding a print-specific estimation tool that generates accurate quotes for a wide range of print jobs, for printing on an array of analog / digital printing and finishing devices, is very challenging.
The key attributes of a good estimation tool
- Simple User Interface and Quick Estimates—The complete process of keying in job specifications, estimating and quoting should take less than a minute. Even for a customized job, the quotation should be sent in real-time.
- Navigating to multiple screens to select the customer, enter job specifications, select the process, and ensure the calculations are applied against different requirements is time consuming for an estimator.
- Print Layout Optimization / Production Ready Layouts—True automation should be intelligent. It should let you just provide the job specifications, get an output of best fit sheet, reel, or reel-to-sheet, and automatically suggest the best printing press in your operation, as well as optimized nesting patterns.
- The intricacies of layout planning should not be spread over different UI for different print technology or print jobs. Ideally, just the job specification should be provided to get production ready layouts. This will simplify user experience and boost the calculations for an accurate estimate.
- The heart of print production is to lay out jobs. It is important that the estimation tool be able to do automated layout calculation. While many tools are available in this sector, if they require selecting a sheet size, or deciding whether to go on digital or offset, or instructing the number of ups, that is not true automation.
- Job Routing Accounts for Every Penny—A visual job routing matrix—with costs calculated, time taken in each production process, wastage incurred, etc.—provides more clarity on how the cost numbers are spread out. A clear visualization of costs and their breakup is very important.
- Also, the estimation tool should allow the job routing to be communicated to the production floor to avoid unforeseen difficulties.
- Adapting to Market Price—The estimation tool should have the intelligence to adapt to the target price without compromising on profits. When one sends out a quotation to a customer, it is likely that one needs to quote for a target price to face price dumping and market distortion. The tool should let one know the profit accrued when sticking to a predetermined price.
- Dynamic Quotation—Based on the customer, region, job type, etc., the quotation should have different content. A customer can ask for the price of a label job in pieces, or in weight or rolls. The price quotation can be in weight, while the delivery may be required in rolls.
- Avoiding Repetitions—Often, it’s likely that the same job specification will come from a new customer and the estimator would like to refer to or pull the data from a previous estimate. When the same customer comes for a repeat order of the same job, the estimator needs to redo the estimate with current prices. In general, estimation of repeat jobs should be handsfree without human intervention, allowing the estimator to focus on complex jobs.