Quoting countertops is as complex a problem as you'll find in any business, and an advanced skill. If you can produce an accurate, competitive estimate for a modern set of countertops with today's vast array of materials, surface treatments, edges, splashes, features and accessories, you can probably bid an entire construction project. For a viable fabrication shop this task must be repeated from five to perhaps 50 times a day or more.
It Is Rocket Science
Computers can absorb a lot of the advanced staff skill requirements involved, but despite a certain amount of hype, surface fabrication has been a neglected backwater in the software industry. Most systems in this trade, software or not, can't produce an accurate countertop estimate in a reasonable time. Saddled with obsolete methods and inherited compromises, the resulting price will contain padding and inadvertent giveaways that make it too high or too low, too slow and cumbersome, and too full of inconsistencies to be seriously competitive.
Raising The BAR
Turnaround time is multiplied by the number of bids that do not become jobs, and added to the time spent on those that do. Few shop owners know this crucial number: the bid acceptance ratio (a good acronym: BAR).
A New Definition
The stakes were not all that high before solid surfaces arrived. This was the best anybody could do without drowning in arithmetic. Nowadays, because errors are so costly, and because computers allow us to do better, we must. An outdated bid process is a silent business killer.
Merriam-Webster: "Estimate: to judge tentatively or approximately the value, worth, or significance of." Despite what Webster says, there should be nothing approximate about modern estimating. "Estimate" just means the price.
Microchips Have Made Precision Cheap
A generation ago, precision cost more than time. Even an estimate as accurate as modern spreadsheets can produce would have taken days. Trading accuracy for speed was the only choice. Today time costs more than precision. The speed of computers provides an opportunity to take back all those trade-offs.
Precision Tuning For The Bidding Process
We need a new way of thinking about pricing our market offerings. Instead of control, let's talk about tuning. Just using the right tools saves more time without affecting precision. For tuning, however, we need both the right software and the right pricing structures.
An All-terrain Vehicle
No matter where your business operates, you must have a responsive and adaptable pricing system that allows you to adjust to conditions. There are times when you need knobby tires and a lot of gears, and times when you need cruise control. The modern discipline of estimating requires that we feel the road.
Hidden Problems, Unobtrusive Solutions
In normal use the person operating the pricing system should never have to deal with any of these calculations to get a correct price, any more than you have to think about your fuel mixture when you step on the gas pedal. They should be able to click something for substrate quality, for example, without having to bother with quantities.