AWI Manufacturing Inc., Winsted, Minn., manufactures a full line of stainless steel products for the food and dairy industry, including floor drains, trench drains, enclosures, components, hex hangers, tanks, and other custom products. It offers custom fabrication services—laser cutting, laser tube cutting, forming/rolling, welding, engineering, assembly, and finishing (grinding and polishing)—to other industries as well.

While shop floor capabilities were cutting edge, AWI’s process for generating quotes was stuck in the past. It relied on Microsoft Excel as its quoting platform, according to Stacey Hertzog, AWI’s vice president of technical operations and quality.

“It was taking a minimum of several hours to get a quote out,” Hertzog said. “What’s more, entering the numbers manually always presented an opportunity for human error—never a good thing when it comes to putting out bids.”

In a business where margins are tight, accuracy and speed go hand-in-hand. The only thing worse then losing a job is winning one that costs the company money.

AWI found the answer to its quoting shortcomings in a dedicated web-based quoting software tool, which had the added benefit of not requiring estimators to have to manually input multiple sets of information.

“A process that took half a day or more is slashed to 30 minutes or less,” Hertzog said.

AWI is in the process of integrating its new quoting software with its ERP system. Hertzog said the company is anticipating even bigger savings when the systems are fully integrated.

Metal fabricators need to realize that quoting speed and accuracy are only a part of the equation. Getting more quotes out can pay huge dividends. Even factoring in a conservative success rate can increase sales significantly.

For example, if a shop typically puts out five quotes a day using a spreadsheet, with the average quote being $800, that’s $4,000 per day or $20,000 a week in potential work. At a 25 percent success rate, that’s $260,000 in business over a year’s time. Now, if a shop is able to put out twice as many quotes with web-based quoting, that shop has the potential to double its success rate.

Shops are always trying to increase throughput but are usually doing so downstream and missing the true bottleneck. Most organizations pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to add operations to attract new customers. However, they are missing out on a huge growth opportunity within their front-line estimating department.

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