Accurate quotes mean customers’ expectations are set early on and the manufacturer has a clear goal in terms of deliverables. How can this be achieved?
If the success of an engineering product development project can be tracked back to a single point in time, it’s the moment where the quote is prepared for the customer and accepted. That inflection point represents many things for the product’s lifecycle – the scope of the design, the engineering, manufacturing, production, delivery, installation and commissioning. It also represents the point where the financial success of the project is determined.
Quotes are often based on prior projects, which provide a baseline cost that can be adjusted for special tasks that require in-house expertise. Alongside this, with customers now demanding more for less, engineering organizations are under increasing pressure to strip back margins as far as possible in order to gain the work. It’s a careful balancing act.
If quotes are accurate, the product can be delivered on time, on budget and everything is rosy but, all too often, the unforeseen arises. Material costs fluctuate, suppliers change pricing structures and engineering challenges bring delays. All of which means that already narrow margins are squeezed more tightly than ever before and occasionally profit is cut to a minimum.
A Focus for Leaders
In its recent Best Practices for Developing Industrial Equipment white paper, industry analyst Tech-Clarity reported that the leaders in industrial machinery consider both accuracy of quotes and timeliness of their delivery to be critical to their business success.
The survey found that the top performing companies consider quote accuracy the most important metric “to drive success and profitability.” This elite was found to have a 7% accuracy in their quotation process, compared to nearly double that in the wider group. This indicates that they’re doing something differently within their process, “gaining a 6% margin difference to confidently offer lower quotes to win business and drive growth.”
Things to Consider
It’s easy to say that quotes need to delivered more quickly and accurately. But how can an engineering organisation meet these challenges?
The answer is complex, but when broken down there is a clear route to find a better way. Let’s look at three key areas that are worthy of further consideration.
Knowledge visibility & reducing engineering burden
When a sales team prepares a quote it often looks at a customer’s requirements and bases the quote on similar work. However, to increase accuracy it is important to have access to the latest information, which is often stored in data silos within the engineering department.
Investing in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and integrating with other systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) can help unlock this information. Those outside of engineering can then prepare quotes more accurately. Technical staff only need to be engaged when absolutely necessary, freeing up resources for new product development, which is just as critical to long-term growth.
Automatic for the people
Automation is about much more than using knowledge capture and rules-based design within engineering. It can also be a powerful tool for those outside the engineering department.
Firstly, it can be used to define standard yet configurable products. By establishing a rules-based design approach other team members outside of engineering (sales etc) can carry out routine design tasks, safe that the company’s knowledge is guiding it. That again saves time and reduces the burden on engineering.
Secondly, for those responsible for procurement or production scheduling, links into ERP or other business systems can reduce time waiting on others to provide necessary information for quotes.
Standardize, centralize, & democratize
If every sales rep uses an individual system or process for generating quotes, changes to products, services, pricing, or even the template must be made manually. Clearly this is both error prone and wastes time.
Standardizing the quotation process promotes best practice. And through centralization, changes can be made once and everybody is brought up-to-date. A centralized system also means more people can actively participate in the process rather than just a small team.