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May 1, 1995 12:00 AM
A previous column listed three valuable contributions made by estimators--they accurately predict the cost of printing jobs, fully understand job specifications and offer alternative solutions for print projects.
However, estimators also are valuable assets for companies for the following reasons:
* They guard against making assumptions. When specifications are incomplete, professional estimators do not assume. When told film will be supplied, they ask the necessary questions. Will it be negative or positive? Fully composed or many pieces of working film? Stripped for platemaking or individual pages?
Sometimes sales representatives cannot supply answers because even customers don't know the answers. Only then is it proper for estimators to assume, but all conclusions must be stated clearly as tentative. If there is no clear statement of the provisions of the plant's contract, serious confusion can occur at production time.
It is wise for estimators to offer inexpensive tentative assumptions because customers may be frightened by needlessly high quotes. In this case, estimators say the price is based on being supplied one-piece film stripped up and ready for making one-burn plates. The letter of quotation should state that a new price will be submitted if the job produced is different from the estimate.
* Estimators create and legibly record production plans. These include a press layout sketch; press sheet size or roll width; number of sheets or pounds, including necessary waste; the amount of each kind of ink in pounds; suitable outside vendors and how they quoted; and availability of materials. The plan should be expressed clearly so estimating or production employees can under stand it easily.
* These professionals stay in touch with the paper inventory. Every printing firm has odd lots of paper in danger of going to waste or being sold as scrap. Estimators should find ways to incorporate leftover paper into current bids.
If a customer specifies brand A, estimators calculate the paper's cost and the cost of an equivalent brand B, which is currently available at the plant. A savings almost always occurs if paper B was purchased before recent price increases and in a lower price bracket. By showing cost savings and submitting samples of inventoried paper, both blank and with attractive printing, estimators create an opportunity to submit a particularly competitive bid.
* Estimators help generate a well-done written quotation. The letter of quotation should state all job specifications clearly and in detail to prevent misunderstandings. Letters should state how many working days it will take to produce jobs under normal conditions to alert customers when copy is needed. Also, letters of quotation should state that buyers can request orders to be completed in less time.
* When jobs come in, estimators compare actual jobs to jobs as described on the estimating day. If specifications do not match, they report the cost difference before jobs go into production. Customers need to be informed of the change in price immediately to prevent arguments and hard feelings on billing day. Also, the time it takes to perform each operation must be corrected or scheduling will be thrown off.
* Estimators help analyze reasons for lost jobs. Much can be learned from examining quotations that do not lead to orders. Was the desired markup too high? Do we lack the proper equipment for this type of work? Are our hourly rates out of line because our costs are too high? Are our production speeds slower than other printers? Do we request too much turnaround time? Is there an unethical or special relationship between the buyer and another vendor that means our lowest quotes never can win orders?
* Estimators compare final cost to estimated cost. If total estimated cost was $10,000 and the final cost comes close to that, don't assume everything is fine--a line-by-line comparison is required. If the estimate was three hours to output film, how long did it actually take? Did it take two hours for press makeready as originally stated? Unless these types of comparisons are made, job by job, there is no way to know whether estimating reflects shop floor reality.