Give Excel the Boot and Democratize Quoting

Many metal service centers are offering value-added services including parts nesting, cutting, bending, polishing, and more. For these companies timely and accurate quoting is vital to winning jobs and ensuring profitability.  Unfortunately for too many the process remains more of an art than a science with quotes varying wildly from one salesperson to the next.

Excel, Spreadsheets and Tribal Knowledge

In the past, quoting often relied on the wisdom and best guesses of the most experienced salesperson. Part drawings or sometimes actual physical parts themselves were manually inspected and measured to determine weight and calculate the type and amount of material needed to run the job.  Steel prices were usually estimated and after some quick calculations that part of the quote was done. Next secondary or finishing operations such as grinding, bending, welding, shipping, and so on were estimated and rolled into the quote.  With a little luck, the job would be accepted – and with a lot of luck it would achieve maximum profitability.

For a surprisingly large number of fabricators the quoting process remains a black box known to a select few.  Quotes are seemingly concocted using a dash of intuition, a little “gut feel” and a bit of tribal knowledge handed down over the years.  As a result there are a small number of seasoned veterans entrusted to create quotes.  To compound the situation this knowledge isn’t easily transferred to the next crop of quoting specialists. Fortunately, today’s quoting software standardizes the process by capturing this knowledge allowing even the newest estimator to accurately quote jobs. 

The biggest obstacle your company faces is generating fast, accurate quotes.  Why is this? Until recently, the answer was a lack of automation. Just as some service centers are leveraging automation to expand offerings and attract new customers, some are leveraging automated quoting software to increase sales.  The software utilizes intelligent machine calculators to understand what is required by the machine to develop a part.  For example, if a part is too heavy, a crane may be needed to move a part also increasing the cost.  Best of all, this intelligence is ingrained into the software meaning that you don’t have to be an expert to generate expert, profitable quotes.

Tapping into Data

Intelligent CAD models allowed quoting to become more accurate. Quoting software tapped into embedded data associated with the part and rolled that information into the quoting process.  This allowed fabricators to know exactly how the job should be nested to maximize material use. This in turn helped determine exactly how much of a given material was needed to complete the job. 

Today we’ve taken things a leap farther. Leveraging up-to-the-minute material costs, labor rates, machine run-time, post-cutting operations, and other information instantly plugs known variables into the equation.  As a result winning quotes can be generated in just minutes. At the same time the integrated process examines inventory to determine is ample stock is available to complete the job. Accurate material pricing can be accessed to calculate costs for any additional material that will need to be purchased.  Furthermore, sophisticated quoting software even allows work orders to be combined to fully utilize material and production run-time and costs.

Cloud-Based Quoting

In a relatively short time the Internet has evolved into a viable production tool.  Tapping into today’s web-based tools allows fabricators to make business and manufacturing transactions part of a daily routine.  So why not leverage this technology?

Internet or cloud-based quoting offers a number of advantages. 

Simplified:  The dashboard contains fields that, once populated, launch behind the scene calculations (rates, material costs, machine run-time, secondary operations needed and associated costs, etc.).  This eliminates the need to be a seasoned veteran in order to create a quote.

Accessible: Web-based quoting is accessible by virtually anyone at any place.  From laptops to tablets and cellphones, quotes can be generated on any device. 

Fast & Accurate:  By eliminating multiple manual touch points a paperless web-based quoting greatly simplifies and speeds the process.  In a world where the fastest quote often wins, bids that have traditionally taken an hour or more to produce can be generated in minutes. 

Consistency: Your custom dashboard provides a common template for all who create quotes.  Tapping into actual costs uniformly ensures that all quotes, regardless of the experience of the salesman, are consistent and profitable.

Affordability:  Maintainability is a key advantage as updates are performed at a single location rather than multiple sources.  Cloud-based quoting is available as an affordable subscription service.

Democratize Quoting

Intelligent quoting software turns information into winning bids and maximum profits. Such software automates and standardizes the process to allowing anyone to generate fast and accurate quotes; and the best thing is that these easy-to-use quoting tools are available at a price point that is within reach of any steel service center or fabricator.