It is almost impossible to imagine that anyone is still estimating prices manually, but they certainly are. And not just small shops, either. While researching this article, I heard about a printing company that runs multiple 40" presses and the owner still does all the price estimating by hand. Just try to imagine the lost productivity that company must suffer. Then imagine how much its sales might increase if the owner installed estimating software and started using his time more effectively. It’s just staggering.
Mark Meyers, president of Estimator Corp., points out that the core reason behind this type of behavior is that some owners are simply control freaks. They can’t bear the idea of relinquishing the process of pricing jobs to a computer—or a CSR. Meyers says that when he tries to sell those owners on the idea of computerized price estimating, he points out to them that they are not immortal.
“What happens if you get sick or want to go play golf? How can you take a vacation?” he asks. “If something happens to you and no one else knows how to price a job, what happens to your business?” The key, he says, is to demonstrate to them that even after the program is set up and others in the company can do estimates, the owner is still in control of the system.
John Fleming, president of printLEADER, sees the same situations. “My experience with some of these owners is that they cannot let go of the control factor,” he says. “So I will candidly ask them how many hours they work per week, and it’s always 60 to 80. When I explain that we can do a ‘brain transplant’ of the owner’s calculation methods into our pricing module, and save that person dozens of hours per week as well as teaching other staff members to access those same rates via our estimating system, they then begin to see the light.”
Of course, there is a long list of other reasons to automate price estimating. It offers better production control, provides a consistent pricing method, and improves the overall efficiency and productivity of the shop. “A lot of potential for human error is simply avoided, and the whole process is a lot smoother,” observes Tony Tarpey, marketing director at Datatech SmartSoft, which developed PressWise.
“There’s no way a company can grow and remain profitable without a good Print MIS solution,” asserts Gerald Walsh, director of market development for EFI Advanced Professional Print Software. “As the number of jobs increase, the cost to manage those jobs grows and consumes more and more of your profit dollars. Likewise, as you add new product lines and new market niches, your business must be able to respond to client requests and demands with the ‘speed of digital,’ and you just can’t do that with a manual infrastructure.”
Most print owners have already recognized the necessity for estimating software and use it regularly. However, that doesn’t mean that they are getting the full benefit of their system.
Over the years, most estimating software has evolved into something that much more closely resembles management information system (MIS) software. Programs now provide users with reports that track everything from sales trends to costing information. Some send customers real time email updates on job status or automatic reminders when it’s time to reorder forms or marketing materials. Depending on how complicated you need your program to be, and how much you’re willing to pay, there is a solution for just about everything.
With all those added features, it’s no wonder that few printers are using their estimating software packages to their full potential. As you search for tools to help you maximize your company’s performance, you may not have to look any further than your own desktop. “Midsize printers are so overwhelmed, they rarely have the time to get past the core basics of the print shop management systems,” notes Morrie Brown, president of PrintPoint.