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        Estimating - A Management Aspect  


  A prospective buyer wishes to know the price of the job that he wants to print. He may have a specimen or not. An estimator must study the specimen of the job to be printed at his press; or in the absence of any specimen or layout, he may ask the buyer specifications of the job and accordingly visualise it. He calculates the cost of the job in advance and adds it, a certain percentage or amount as profit and arrives at a figure. This is called an estimate. The estimate should neither be too high, as it will drive off the job, nor too low, as it will incur loss to the firm. Hence it is desirable that the estimate should be accurate. The task of the estimator, therefore, is to visualise the job and quote the price accurately. 


Estimating includes :- 
  Calculation of raw materials-paper, straw board, ink etc., required for the job and their cost;  

  1. Copy-fitting, to determine the size and type face (including leading, if any) in a given area. Mostly, this work is done by the designer;
  2. Casting-off copy, to determine the number of pages;
  3. calculation of operational times in composition, printing and binding and extension of appropriate hourly cost rates;
  4. Adding cost of out work, if any; material expenses on the basis of value if paper, ink etc. (This is expressed as a percentage to value if the material consumed) and on the basis of Kilograms weight, to cover the expenses of buying, storing, and handling.
  5. Over-head cost-as a percentage to production cost: and profit .

  The essence of estimating is accurate pricing, planning of the job and delivery of printed goods at the appropriate date. 

  The estimator should have good knowledge of the printing process or processes used in the press. He should know the sequence of operations of the job. He should be good at figures, be accurate and must have speed in estimating. He should be conscious of cost and therefore, must have basic knowledge in costing.

  The estimator prepares an estimate according to the specifications of the job. He may if necessary, suggest slight changes or modifications in the job so as to give the buyer the same job at the lowest possible price. He sends the quotation to the buyer. It is safe to insert, in quotation, the clause, "Quotation is based upon job specifications given by you, any alteration in it will be charged extra". On receiving the order of the estimated job, the estimator, under the order from the proprietor sales manager instructs the work order clerk it prepare work instruction ticket according to the job specifications on the estimate form. He sees that the jobs are progressed according to the schedule. He co-ordinates work in the press departments with the help of foreman or superintendents. He sends message to the customer on completion if the job to take delivery of the goods from the factory premises and also to pay the entire bill.   He is a link between the buyer and the seller on the one hand and between the sales and production departments on the other. Estimator is a salesman. He can convince the buyer butter than a sales representative. He can deal directly with the customer and decide upon the price if job.   He plans the job schedule, persuades it to give the printed copies at the appointed time. He controls the quality of the product, takes measures for minimising the waste and ensures cost control of the product. His aim is to give satisfaction if the product to the buyer at the lowest possible cost and still earn profit to the press. He is aware that profit is the blood of the business and if any business is to exist, there must be profit.    


  No Business, however flourishing, can last indefinitely if does not make a profit. The cost of the product is always to be watched in relation to its price. The raw materials must pass through several departments before a final product is obtained and it is essential that each of the departments is efficient by itself. Certain non-productive departments engaged in specialised functions, however, are exceptions-planning, research and development departments of instance-for they are tuned to a different goal, and should be viewed as long term investments. Although their efforts are not quite as apparent as those if the productive departments, they make a substantial contribution to the profit, often setting a new trend in the industry.  
  While proper inter-departmental understanding would enable each section to appreciate the role played by the other, it is necessary that each department looks within-towards itself-to maintain its standard of efficiency. One must do it continuously and not take a complacent attitude or bask in the pride of some past achievements. Many a well-established press has had an occasion to adopt some original ideas implemented by smaller, younger presses. Intelligence and efficiency are not the monopoly of a chosen few and no one has a universal formula for profitability.


  Profitability should not be an end by itself but an attitude of mind. Before starting a new job-say plate making-break it up into smaller sub-operations-in the case, plate grinding, sensitising, printing down and so on. Apply your mind and strive to achieve better results than in the past. Perhaps you can cut down on time, think up using a better material or utilise a more suitable machine. 


  Ask yourself if the particular operation or any portion of it, can be dropped altogether or substituted by a quicker, cheaper or a better one. If you trace the progress in the industry, you will come across several instances where we had been indulging in unnecessary operations. Robust, analytical approach can help eliminate uneconomical practices. We used to preserve composed type matter for repeat print orders until someone thought of stereo plates. Later, mono spools rendered the storage obsolete. Then came art pulls for reprints by offset process. We do not know what comes next. Only with an analytical examination, can you determine the reason for every operation, and if you are convinced of its essentiality, your personal involvement in the task would be much deeper. A scientific mind refuses to follow a beaten path because ‘it is always being done that way’.  


  If the task must be performed, see if you are getting it done by the right man. If a semiskilled man is entrusted with it, his incompetence would reflect on the performance. The quality would suffer, and so would you. On the other hand, a senior man required to carry out an inferior job would feel demoralised. In both the cases, the operation works out to be uneconomical.  


  Go over he whole set of tasks mentally. Think of various possible ways of accomplishing them. Some new ideas would appear to be wild. Do not discard them. The methods now in practice, must also have appeared ridiculous when first conceived. On being tried out, they were found to be practicable and superior. Your idea could well prove to be a revolutionary one. In a large press, the sheets were loaded on the printing machine straight from the reams. The uneven paper sizes as they come in a pack, caused tremendous problems in the subsequent operations. Until a junior folding machine operator suggested that the paper edges be trimmed square prior to printing. The acceptance of this simple idea resulted in faster production and considerable reduction in wastage.  


  List out the operations in their usual sequence, then try to rationalise the order. You would find that certain operations can be carried out simultaneously, thus saving precious time, or the whole sequence can be altered completely. It was a common practice to cut the sewn books after gluing the spine and allowing them to dry. It was, however, found that the results were much better when the sewn books were cut immediately after taking them out if the standing press. Here, it was just a small reversal of the sequence that resulted in faster, neater books.


  The place of operation is important too. Transporting the in-process job back and forth can be cumbersome and wasteful. The departments should be located so the job involves the least possible movement. In one press, the paper store was located on the first floor, the printing and punching operations were done on the ground floor whereas the binding operations were carried out on the first and second floors. This arrangement caused considerable hardship transporting the material from floor to floor. The layout had to be changed completely to re-locate the plant and machinery to minimise the transportation. Careful thinking at the initial stages could have avoided the shifting of heavy machinery.


  We often tend to look at the spoilage of paper, boards and inks as wastage but lose sight of idle machine hours (waiting for forme, corrections, colour mixing, machine break down due to neglected maintenance or running about for storable machine spares) dismissing them as unavoidable. This speaks for inefficient management and can result in lower morale and reduced enthusiasm for achievement.  


  Higher prices are often defended by quoting a famous author: ‘There is nothing that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper’. But we can proudly say, "There is nothing that we cannot make a little better and sell a little cheaper.’ When this is accomplished, you are on the road to success  

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