Print Estimating Software.

Everybody that is involved in the selling or buying of printed products knows what estimating is - an educated guess of the time it takes to do various labour functions, at the hourly rate for each of the required functions, plus materials and services to arrive at a total cost to produce an end printed product.

All responsible Graphic Arts executives know that with knowledge based costing and appropriate Print Estimate Software guess work in the pricing of printed products can be vastly reduced.

We often lose sight of the unique purpose of an individual printing estimate. An estimate and subsequent quotation can be for any one of a number of reasons. Only one of which is to establish the selling (or purchase) price of a project.

A supplier company can see the purpose of a printing estimate as:      
A determination of the purpose of the project.
Learn about the customer's understanding of the process of
obtaining printing estimates and actually ordering printing.
An outline of the job specifications.
Establish the conditions of the order and the quality expected.
Set the pricing level of the project.
If possible tweak the job specification to favour the company's
equipment or delivery schedule.
Impress the customer with the speed, accuracy and clarity of the
Give a sales person another legitimate reason for direct customer

A buyer can see the purpose of a printing estimate as:
Budget price: Preparing budgets for future expenditures is a regular task.
It may be a feasibility study, or an accounting budget exercise.
Pre-qualify suppliers: Often a number of printers with similar
capabilities serve the same market, so price may be used as a
determining factor in awarding jobs.
Tender: Many government organizations and corporations issue
formal tenders to qualified print shops and in these cases the
lowest price usually wins!
Check price: It might be that the print buyer has an established
relationship with another printer, but may want to check the other
shop's price or use you to negotiate a lower price.
Fine tune price: There may be minor changes from a previous
estimate, and now only minor adjustments are required to
generate an accurate price.

The reason a customer requires a print estimate and/or quote may help determine how the printer prepares their print quotes. Often once the quotation request is made by the customer the printing companies asked have the freedom to make minor variations in specification if it is to the customer's advantage. The company that can best do this has a competitive edge in influencing the buyer in the ultimate placing of the order.

In the modern world of printing the company that has the Print Estimate Software that best suits their own particular market place has this edge.

Deciding on Print Estimate Software and a Computer Assisted Estimating system.

Customers expect consistent pricing from their printers, otherwise they lose confidence and feel they aren't being treated fairly. The technical knowledge of print buyers varies drastically. Some customers can provide very detailed specific requests, while others may ask you to quote using "you know the shiny paper like last time."

Some customers require greater customer service and others are price sensitive or may buy frequently. Print Estimate Software must be able to ensure that once a pricing level has been determined for each individual customer or potential customer the same discount or surcharge can be consistently charged. Not all Computer Assisted Estimating systems can do this.

Sales reps on the front lines justifying your pricing to the customers also need to feel confident that the prices they present are accurate, fair and consistent. With manual estimating and spreadsheet style software before a price is submitted it takes time to compare it to previous prices and rationalize any differences. With a good Computer Assisted Estimating relational database system that can track all possible variables properly, estimates are consistent and informed pricing decisions (including markups for sales commission and profit) can be made.

Generally speaking Print Estimate Software falls into three broad categories.

  1. Completely stand alone with no integration with other software.
     Suitable for one or two person shop with not too many customers.

  2. Relational stand alone database estimator with the ability to make
     automatic quotations, open dockets and provide invoices. A stand
     alone should have Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) to make
     integration into an existing or proposed Management Information
     System (MIS). Suitable for any size operation.

  3. One of many modules in a large proprietary MIS. Suitable for
     companies with the "staff personnel" or non productive
     "line personnel" that have time to read and study numerous reports
     that may or may not have relevance to direct operations.

The Category 1 or spreadsheet style systems usually lack permanent data retention.

The Category 3 or proprietary MIS tend to be of the one size fits all paradigm. Template based, as most are, makes them quite inflexible and time consuming to set up. Entry of all the information needed to satisfy every module of the full system must be made at the time of the estimate to even actuate the estimate module. This is usually much more than the specific information required for an individual estimate.

Most printers actually write orders on only one out of ten new quotations. The most skilled will win possibly three or four out of ten. End result - up to 90% of an estimator's time may be considered as wasted. Since estimates are not specifically charged for makes estimating a staff function. People costs in staff functions are non recoverable and directly affect end profits.

An intelligent Category 2 stand alone but integrable Print Estimate Software system like EstimatorTM addresses these issues.