The manufacturing industry goes through ebbs and flows of business. Small manufacturers know that to break even, they need the ability to not only estimate how much work to bring in to the shop but also to quote competitively and accurately, enabling them to turn a profit while appealing to their customers’ budgets.
The reality is quoting is evolving with the industry. Big companies require quotes faster as they go through their own seasonal swings and they need to know if they can deliver to their customers or if they’ll have to turn to another shop for help fulfilling the order.
Let’s face it: we all would like to do things more quickly (while maintaining accuracy). However, it’s especially important when it comes to quoting. In fact, one of the biggest problems that small manufacturers face in the quoting process is being able to quote quickly. Information from similar jobs, including materials costs and labor hours, has to be gathered from a variety of places and pulled together – a time-consuming, complex process to say the least. Moreover, it takes time away from actually manufacturing, and it gets pushed to the side as the floor manager and accountant are pulled toward their respective everyday duties.
If that isn’t bad enough, the other problem is that, even when the historical information is gathered, it’s not complete. Employees haven’t logged their hours working on a particular order (hey, we’ve all been there), or parts and materials used to complete the job were charged under another order. Not having accurate numbers throws the quote off, leading to a number that is less than what the business needs to remain profitable.
So, we get it. Quoting is crucial. How can you get better at it? Admittedly it’s difficult to keep track of all the moving parts when fulfilling orders, but as we keep reiterating, it’s also very necessary. We work with small business manufacturers and wholesale distributors on a daily basis and what we’ve seen is that savvy small businesses in these industries are turning to technology to make sure they capture the numbers necessary to provide accurate quotes. For example, new technology allows workers to easily log hours on an order and keep track and record materials used. What results is a wealth of information and data that can benefit these businesses immediately, but also well into the future. The bottom line is that if historical information is accurate, then future quotes will also be more accurate and turned around more quickly to customers.
Being a master “quoter” isn’t easy, but there are tips and tricks and technology available that can help you provide better, more accurate quotes. Do you struggle with providing accurate quotes for jobs and orders? Even if you don’t (or don’t want to admit it), do you view quoting as a crucial part of your small business? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Jill Lippert, Senior Support Consultant at Exact Online