Automation of quoting has many advantages – it returns quotes to customers faster, provides more consistent pricing from part to part, removes the rote tasks of quoting which frees up time for more value-add tasks and reduces the cost of quoting. As a bonus, you can add expedited delivery and price options for specific part geometries and quantities. Ready to learn about how to bring automation to your shop? Perfect, let’s do it!
In my experience, it is easy to automate the quoting of sheet metal parts but much harder for machining. Machining has the bulk of its time dedicated to one operation: the actual milling operation. Knowledgeable setup and run-times make or break the price. And these are incredibly hard to calculate in an automated way due to the many, many variables. RAPID launched a fully automated estimating and ordering tool for sheet metal parts as a plug-in for SolidWorks (eRAPID) in 2013. At the time of RAPID’s sale in December 2017, we had not launched a machining equivalent tool.
On the other hand, making sheet metal parts consist of many operations. No one operation contributes more than 30% of the cost/time. Almost every part has the following operations on its router: Engineering, Blanking (Laser or Punch), Deburr, Forming / Bending, Inspection, and Ship. Many parts also will have Welding / Grinding / Polishing, Hardware, Finishing (plating, powder coating, silk screening). If one operation is estimated incorrectly, the impact is not as large compared to messing up the machining time. And the over/under of an incorrect time is generally much less than that of a machined part.
Sheet Metal operations are also easier to calculate with accurate, absolute numbers. For example, a laser cuts “X” number of inches per minute and takes “Y” seconds to pierce a hole. Interrogating the 3D model can generate the inches cut and number of piercings. The run time becomes a formula with no “best guess” variables. For forming, setup times are standard for each type of bend and the number of bends per hour is typically fixed.
A sheet metal shop leveraging an automated quoting engine can save so much time. Even when a final review is needed, a skilled estimator has to only review the price. There is no manual work or data entry required. If needed, the estimator can drill down to specific operations and make adjustments before sending out the quote.
If you are a sheet metal shop, I encourage you to explore automating your quoting and is a simple way to modernize your shop. Paperless Parts stands ready to assist you.
– Jay Jacobs
Example of viewing a sheet metal part in Paperless Parts
Jay Jacobs is a co-founder of Paperless Parts. Formerly, he was the founder and CEO of RAPID, a CNC machining and sheet metal shop that grew to $50M in sales and was sold to Proto Labs, Inc. (PRLB) in 2017 for $120M. Today, Jay is a champion for American manufacturing and is working through Paperless Parts to enable job shop owners to compete in today’s increasingly digital and web-based business world.