If you’re still quoting manually, with Excel or even via a traditional MRP system the short answer is “Yes”. Quoting processes, based largely on experience and best-guesses, are mired with manual, calculation-intensive steps, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies. Part drawings are manually inspected and measured to estimate material usage and machine run time. This is followed by an estimation of costs based on last known raw material prices. Next estimated secondary operations such as grinding, bending, welding, painting, etc. are added to the quote. Quantity-based discounts are provided to incentivize customers to purchase more. Finally, shipping costs are estimated and added to the quotation. Basing quotes on “gut feel” rather than on known variables and standard rules creates a number of problems as the quoting process (and final bid itself) often varies greatly from salesperson to salesperson. Worst yet, one could never be certain that a winning quote would be profitable.
What’s the Answer?
Some have turned to MRP systems for the answer; but the truth is that most MRP /Quoting Systems rely upon the user to provide very basic information such as perimeter length, surface area, number of holes, and so forth. The estimator is expected to load part geometry into a CAD/CAM system, generate potential cutting paths and nesting strategies, and plug the results back into the quoting software - time that could use in more productive/profitable ways.
Conversely, employing quoting software created especially for the fabrication industry provides access to up-to-the-minute material costs, labor rates, machine run-time, finishing operations and other real-time information. An automated and standardized web-based quoting system allows sales to generate accurate and consistent quotes, based on variables that can be monitored and adjusted by management.
Geometry-based quoting allows you to upload files and extract multiple parts from one CAD file. If you do not have a file, smart shapes can be used to approximate the geometry. Such systems should employ built-in nesting engines to nest parts on different sheet sizes. This helps determine actual material requirements and cutting time. In a world where the fastest quote often wins estimation time is slashed dramatically. Using native CAD, neutral files, or smart shapes accurate quotes can be created for lasers, plasma cutters, waterjet, oxyfuel or other profile cutting equipment. Additionally cutting plans for long parts such as bars, structural beams, pipes and tubes can be generated for more accurate quoting.
At the same time the integrated process examines inventory to determine if enough stock is available to complete the job. Up-to-the-minute material pricing is accessed to calculate costs for any additional material that might be needed. Furthermore, the process boosts efficiency/profitability by allowing work orders to be combined to fully utilize material and production run-time and costs.
Get your Head in the Cloud
Advantages of Web/Cloud-based quoting:
Accessible: From laptops to tablets and cellphones, quotes can be generated on any device.
Simplified: Dashboards may contain fields that launch behind the scene calculations (rates, material costs, machine run-time, secondary operations needed and associated costs, etc.).
Fast & Accurate: Eliminating the need to transfer values between systems eliminates errors while simplifying and speeding the process.
Consistency: Customized forms provide a common template ensuring that all quotes are consistent and profitable.
Affordability: Updates are performed at a single location rather than multiple sources. Cloud-based quoting is often available as an affordable subscription service.
Leveraging CAD from Start to Finish
Web-based quoting systems can interface with CRM systems allowing the import and linking of contacts and organizations from your CRM or ERP system without reentering the data. Payment terms can be defined along with credit limits and discounts per organization. To speed quoting and ordering processes, customer information can be completed automatically.
If CAD geometry is to be leveraged completely it must be supported by a platform that conforms to all areas of the business; yet is easy to use. From quoting through production, shipping and invoicing - one system synchronizing the shop floor with the front office providing automatic updates, reporting, and invoking next steps.