Unfortunately this isn’t an article on The Beatles classic song; instead it’s an insight into a day in the life of a Print Estimator… almost as compelling, no doubt! From personal experience, when I tell people my job title I pretty much always get a blank face staring back at me, which results in an attempt to explain the role to a polite audience! Obviously the general print population (which would also include print buyers, designers, and marketers, to name but a few) know what we do, but for the readers who may not be aware, here’s a look into the role which may be of interest to you.
At its most basic level, an Estimator is someone who prepares an estimate based on a customer enquiry. This involves taking into consideration all the materials involved (such as paper and printing plates), machine time (generally pre-press, press, and post-press), labour (in many cases, numerous staff members involved in a single job), and out-sourcing when applicable. This will result in the costings of a print job, which can be the straight-forward part of the process. The difficult part can be the selling price, especially as printing has always been a competitive market, and will continue to be so as printing companies evolve into an increasingly multi-media buying culture.
Traditionally, estimates were generated manually without the aid of computer software, and the Estimator would work in quiet (peaceful) rooms without too many distractions. Then there was a shift within printing companies, and Estimators found themselves working in the production office in order to learn from them, and from these findings they discovered cost-saving methods which would make the company more competitive within the marketplace. At this point, computers began to become a necessity in the workplace and Management Information Systems helped estimators to generate estimates with greater efficiency.
Estimators today, though, can generally be found in the sales office. The reason for this is that an Estimator needs to be familiar with the clients for which the estimates are being generated as each client may have their own specific requirements. Plus the volume of requests is increasing all the time and the turnaround for estimates are a lot quicker than in the past. Furthermore, working in such an environment helps the Estimators and Sales staff learn from each other. This can also help when dealing with customer queries, as another element of an Estimators role is to sometimes turn unusual requests into reality. To their credit, designers and marketers tend to push the boundaries, and it is down to the Estimator, and production staff of course, to say whether their concept can work or not. Printing and print-finishing companies can be a bit conservative with regard to the unknown, and sometimes a project just won’t work to the way in which the client had hoped; however, other times the project is a success, much to the delight (and relief) to all involved.
Another aspect which has changed in the print market is that traditionally printing companies would be specialists in a certain area, such as book printing or magazine printing or stationery printing (to name but a few examples), and they didn’t tend to offer other forms of print as a service. However, the way in which printing has changed in recent years, companies do not have that luxury anymore and instead have to offer a complete print service. This, though, is not straight-forward as it involves a lot of processes under the one roof and systems put in place to keep everything running smoothly.
Here at The Printed Image, we are one of the few companies to offer screen, large- and small-format digital, and lithographic printing as in-house processes which means we can print almost any product and have full control of the process. From an estimating point of view it gives the Estimator a lot of choices when pricing jobs, as there are a number of ways in which job specifications can be quoted. If a company only offers lithographic printing they wouldn’t be too competitive with production runs of a small quantity, whereas a digital printing house would have the opposite issue when dealing with larger quantity work. However, what a lot of companies have tried to do is sell everything and out-source what they cannot produce in-house, but that can create problems when producing campaigns involving numerous elements that need to be printed using the various printing processes.
This is why the Sales and Estimating team at The Printed Image work so closely together, as we specialise in such campaigns and ultimately aim to utilise all the printing processes we possess in order to maximise quality as we have total control of production, and minimise the cost to our clients as we can produce everything required for the campaign under one roof. As mentioned before, the print market has changed a lot and the industry has had to become more competitive and efficient to survive and grow; The Printed Image being a case in point in successfully implementing such changes that have been made throughout its history in order to remain a leader in promotional material, whatever the specification.