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Every day shops face deadlines. While each item due varies in where it falls on the priority list, all must eventually get done. One deadline that's up there on the list is estimating. It's in the nature of contract manufacturing to rush production of a quotation to satisfy a deadline. That rush can lead to an inaccurate quote that may come back to haunt.
To help shops solve this problem of fast and accurate quotation, comes a rapid cost estimating software package from Manufacturers Technologies, Inc. (West Springfield, Massachusetts). Called Costimator RapidCost, it's designed to simplify the job and help estimators produce accurate quotes quickly enough to satisfy deadline pressures.
"Competitive cost estimating is a complex and fast paced business that often forces engineers to rush quotes and risk losing money by underbidding a job," says MTI president Tom Charkiewicz. MTI's cost estimating system uses a versatile expert knowledge database and parametric estimating programs that can help users produce accurate cost estimates in 60 seconds or less.
RapidCost offers a choice of two different programs for formulating parametric estimates. One uses a linear list of times and costs and one uses regression analysis. MTI says either program can estimate within ¤5 percent or better of actual manufacturing times and costs. They also produce shop travelers.
To get started, the operator stores information on the shop's manufacturing times and costs related to its workcenters, processes, part features and so on, for either program in the database. The choice between programs is determined by the type of part and shop preference.
To estimate a part, an operator keys in data on the part, material and features, and "points and clicks" with a mouse at on-screen menus and lists to select the elements of a specific quote (workcenters, features, products, and so on). A menu presents users with estimating method options that determine the level of detail within a quote-more detail requires more menu choices and, more time.
When using the list program to estimate, the software draws information directly from tables of manufacturing times and costs built into the database. It then performs a linear calculation to arrive at a manufacturing time and cost.
The regression analysis program option charts a variety of curves (including linear, exponential, logarithmic, and hyperbolic) that compare estimated part features to data on three or more similar parts entered in the database. Within a millisecond, the program chooses the best curve and calculates the estimate.
The system's ability to perform "what if" analysis has potential for a significant cost-saving benefit for shops. When an estimate is complete, operators may search for a less expensive method of manufacture by making on-screen changes in part material, tool material, manufacturing operations or part quantity. The software instantly computes the new manufacturing time and cost, per-part. Comparing the new and original estimates, it's easy to determine which is quickest and costs least.
The system comes with the IQ Builder database consisting of 10,000 predetermined manufacturing times. The database may be customized to the shop's preferences. Historical data on part manufacture is transferable electronically to the database from existing computer files. Or, it may be quickly typed in.
Other options are available including an extensive Labor Standards Database, a Costimator4CAD module which enables the software to estimate from on-screen CAD drawings. An available digitizer module accurately measures tool travel as the operator traces a part drawing.
The system's speed, accuracy and reports provide supplemental benefits. Streamlining estimating and routing processes increases efficiency and ups a shop's potential for successful bids. The system also produces and stores traceable documentation needed to meet MS-1567A and ISO-9000 requirements and improve shop floor communication.
"Traditionally, engineers have viewed accurate estimates and fast estimates as mutually exclusive," says Mr. Charkiewicz. "This system is flexible enough to support virtually every manufacturing field, including automotive, aerospace, medical, communications, and electronics." If lowering the time needed to create an estimate, while still producing accurate quotes, can help shops win more jobs, this software is worth a look.