Congratulations, that quote you started a few days ago for that big job is finally finished. You collected all of the information, plugged the numbers in to Excel, looked it over one last time and fired off what was sure to be a winning bid. Now you can kick back and relax knowing that your shop will be busy for weeks and your company’s bottom line is about to get a much needed boost. Unfortunately you’re about to get hit with cold a dose of reality. Your bid was too late; another fabricator has already been awarded the job.
On the other hand some fabricators crank out numerous quotes a day. For them speed obviously isn’t the culprit. When your sales force is free to generate quotes at their own discretion, and do not follow a common template, quotes can vary wildly from one salesperson to the next. The results can be an unnecessarily high bid, money left on the table; or worse yet, a money-losing proposition. In these instances standardization is the problem.
No matter if you’re a very small job shop or a larger metal service center it’s time take a closer look at your quoting tool. Electronic spread sheets have been around since the late 1970s and were once the standard for quoting and other business applications. But their time has passed. Times have changed - comparing Excel to advanced quoting programs is like pitting a land line telephone up against a smartphone. There’s simply no comparison. Maybe it’s time to give Excel the boot and begin using something more automated and advanced.
The Way We Were
In the past there seemed to be an inherent knowledge needed to create quotes. See if this rings a bell. Responding to a RFQ your senior salesperson grabs a part and takes some quick measurements, looks up the last known material rates, estimates how long cutting may take and factors in cleaning, painting and other secondary operations. Using years of experience that person instinctively knows what the market will bear and slaps together a hopeful quote (“hopeful” being the operative word).
For fabricators leveraging advanced quoting tools this certainly sounds like an archaic and ineffective approach; and it is. But for too many fabricators and job shops this guestimate-driven approach remains the status quo. In today’s fast-paced, quick-turnaround world, the fastest quote often wins the job. Consequently it’s little wonder that fabricators who are not embracing more efficient and automated quoting tools are feeling the effects.
So what’s the answer? What can job shops and fab shops on limited budgets do to improve quoting success? “Many have turned to MRP systems in an attempt to automate the process,” explained SecturaSoft COO, Brad Stropes. “However, most of today’s commercial MRP/Quoting systems remain heavily dependent on users to provide very basic information such as perimeter length, surface area, number of holes, and so on. To get that information, the estimator is expected to load part geometry into a CAD/CAM system and wait for potential cutting paths and nesting strategies to be generated. Those results are then manually entered back into the quoting software. Such a process is slow, hardly automated, and not a very efficient.”
What if there was a way to capture the expertise of your lead estimator in an electronic template format and leverage that experience with the most up-to-date production, material, and resource information? This would not only speed the quoting process measurably, but would create the most accurate quotes while providing a standardized process throughout the company. No more late or wildly inaccurate quotes.
Today’s quoting process is undergoing a radical change; and fabrication software companies like SecturaSoft are leading the charge. Founded by Pierre Slabber – a twenty-five year veteran of the fabrication software industry – SecturaSoft developed SecturaFab a quoting and production software created especially for the fabrication industry. While leading development at a commercial nesting software company for more than two decades, Slabber was struck by a real need to automate, standardize and most importantly simplify the quoting process.
“Integrated web-based quoting is a smart-quoting process that uses the information contained in today’s intelligent CAD models,” explained Slabber. “This model-driven approach allows fabricators and metal service centers to know exactly how the job can be nested to maximize material use. This in turn determines exactly how much of a given material is needed to complete the job. At the same time the integrated process examines inventory to determine is ample stock is available to complete the job. Up-to-the minute 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.
In our digital world everything is accelerated – including expectations. From receiving competitive bids to finished part delivers, customers demand fast turn-around; and they’re getting it. Fabricators are literally shaving hours – even days - off of the quoting process through the use of intelligent web-based quoting.