Estimating is a crucial but often thankless job in the manufacturing industry.
Being a job shop estimator requires a deep understanding of the machines and processes used on the shop floor, but it also requires a wide range of soft skills: estimators are often the face of the shop and need to have a positive attitude, strong people skills, and consistent customer touch points.
On any given day, there are so many reasons to show appreciation for your estimator(s), but just to name a few:
Estimators play a vital role in keeping a business alive.
They filter work into the shop and ensure that it is profitable. A bad estimator can quickly lead to financial losses, which can reverberate through the business and impact its long-term viability. This is particularly true for lean and capital-intensive businesses like job shops.
Estimators work hard without being told that they’re doing a good job.
Mistakes often fall on the estimator, but they rarely receive much praise when things are running smoothly. In fact, we find that the best estimating teams are measured by profitability, as this reflects the most optimal work being funneled to the shop floor. Most estimators never really know if a job was profitable until the parts get shipped (and by then, everyone’s moved on to the next thing). The estimator may have just squeezed 5% more out of a job. Instead of getting credit for the $50K they just added to the shop’s revenue, what ends up being recognized is the money that’s lost on the next order.
While it can assist with certain tasks, technology can’t fully replace the judgment and experience of a skilled estimator.
Job shop estimators need to be able to identify when a part doesn’t fit neatly into the assumptions and parameters used by costing and pricing models, fill in the gaps for formulas by interpreting technical drawings and models, and making sure price values pass the smell test.
Because of all the challenges that inherently come with the job, estimating is a talent that every job shop needs to cultivate.
Here are 3 simple ways to start cultivating estimating talent at your shop:
1. Level Up Your Estimating Resources
Provide quoting software that your estimators can use to go do the heroic work they’re really cut out for instead of wasting their time doing admin work and clicking into dozens of different platforms to find the information they need. Finding the right software for job shop estimators is all about finding software that adds consistency to their processes while also remaining flexible.
2. Let Junior Estimators Ride Shotgun
Never waste a teaching moment. You might have one rockstar estimator who knows everything, but make sure they have an understudy. Maybe every week you take two hours to review all the work. Have the junior estimator ride shotgun and continually invest your experienced people’s time into your less experienced people’s time.
3. Continually Sharpen Your Sword
As stated in the iconic Toyota Way, strong manufacturing leaders should “create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface” and “develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.” Be as ruthless with making your estimator better as you are with making your shop floor better. Any time you see a chance to involve your estimator in another area of the business, do it. The more of the business your estimator can see, the more accurate their quotes will be.
At Paperless Parts, we work with estimators every day. We’re their biggest fans—every estimator we know is a smart and hardworking individual, and we have the utmost respect for the crucial role they play in the success of a manufacturing business. They not only deserve more recognition and appreciation, but they deserve the tools and resources they need to alleviate their pain points.
Do me a favor and find a way to say thanks to your estimator today. Whether it’s baking them a cake, finding them an awesome software tool to make their lives easier, or just giving them a pat on the back, it will go a long way.
Want to really thank your estimator? Explore Paperless Parts’ streamlined, centralized & collaborative quoting platform today.
Product Manager Dana Wensberg has been with Paperless Parts for over 5 years. In that time, he’s worked across the software engineering, computational geometry, and product teams to take our platform to new heights. Dana came to Paperless after graduating from Trinity College, where he served as Class President and double-majored in Mechanical Engineering and Physics.
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