Part 3: Democratizing the Quoting Process

Make no mistake – it’s a war out there.  And the biggest obstacle your company faces is generating fast, accurate quotes.  Why is this? Until recently, the answer was automation – or more precisely, a lack thereof.  Take a look at virtually any shop floor and you’ll see automated pallet changing, storage and retrieval systems, even unattended lights-out production.  While the production side of the business has steadily evolved, sales and estimation tools have clearly not kept pace.  Instead most use antiquated sales tools such as spreadsheets, production ERP systems, or even good old fashion pen and paper.

New Paradigm Laser (Cambridge, Ontario) relies strictly on inside sales to keep machines cutting.  The company has a policy to provide quotes to prospective customers in 24 hours or less.  What’s most impressive perhaps is that Paradigm relies on inexperienced or even non-sales skilled laborers to generate the quotes. “In this business timing is everything,” said New Paradigm’s Plant Superintendent, Marlon Almanza. “The first quote in says a lot about your company’s responsiveness and commitment; and we find that it often leads to winning the job.”

Just as some fabricators are taking advantage of the full capabilities of machinery to attract business; New Paradigm is doing the same with its most valuable asset – people. In the past, the company filled sales positions with workers with10 to 15 years of shop floor experience under their belt.  Today, thanks to automated quoting, they are able to generate winning quotes with less experienced non-sales workers.  “Filling sales positions isn’t a problem,” explained Almanza.  “We’re more concerned with finding operators and other skilled laborers than sales people. Our quoting software makes sales quick and simple. We now have the flexibility to reallocate resources from the shop floor or front office to help sell when needed.” Automating the quoting process allows even inexperienced estimators to create winning bids; not just a select few experts.

Automated Estimation & Quoting Software

Today New Paradigm and many other fabricators are leveraging automated quoting software to increase sales.  A leading player in this industry is SecturaSoft. The company has teamed up with ERP/MRP solutions to develop the first true sales solution for the fabrication industry; and is the first truly mobile platform which can tie into your other software solutions.  “Today there is a clamoring from estimators for better, more robust, and more automated tools.  Most current tools rely on a lot of tribal knowledge, require a lot of manual input and duplication of work, and had no real intelligence,” explained   fabrication industry veteran and SecturaSoft Chief Operating Officer, Brad Stropes.  “SecturaSoft is an intelligent platform not only to enhance your ERP solution, but to replace that old, slow, tough to use spreadsheet.”

Through the development process, SecturaSoft has focused on making a powerful solution that can easily be used by any individual within an organization.  This was accomplished by focusing on the users’ experience and their interaction with the machines processes.  The program utilizes machine intelligence behind a streamlined interface to show the user only what they need to see to quote as efficient as possible.  This is much different than other platforms which require a highly trained fabricator to input all of the machine information one process at a time. 

The software utilizes intelligent machine calculators to understand what is required by the machine to develop a part.  One example of this is a simple press break operation which can actually become extremely complex.  A built-in intelligence understands the requirements of a bend.  If a part is a certain length, an additional individual may be needed to hold the part increasing the cost to bend.  In addition, if a part is too heavy, a crane may be needed to move a part also increasing the cost.  Because this intelligence is ingrained into the software, an estimator only needs to input a number of bends, while SecturaSoft automatically develops the cost per-bend. 

Now, Let’s go Sell!

It’s easy for shop owners to get caught up in the latest production tools. That’s understandable, these machines are important to expanding the shop’s capabilities and throughput. But the sales and estimating process is the fuel that keeps those machines running. So what does it take to win new sales in today’s competitive fabrication market? Boosting sales is a combination of relationships, people, machinery maximized to enable a wide variety of processing options, and equipping your staff with the best tools.