E is for estimate

I’m not sure how many people outside the Graphic Arts Industry realize the options we have for print specifications.

I’ve never added up the number of paper options that are available; however, I’ve been known to compare the books of printing paper to books of wallpaper. Have you ever sat down in a retail outlet with a couple of hundred wallpaper books full of patterns, colors and texture? Well, there you go. Then, take a look at the paint options that now include metallic, flourescent and specialty colors. One day when I don’t have anything to do, I’ll add up all the ink options Pantone has to offer. That will never happen. Maybe somebody can Google it and let me know…

With all of these options it’s a wonder that the field of estimating is fraught with inconsistencies. Not only are we dealing with paper and ink options, you must add in a myriad of other specs to even begin the process of developing an estimate. What is the flat size, what is the folded size, how many pages, cover weight or book weight, scores, folding, 3-hole drilling, die cutting, perforating, the list is daunting. Miss one specification and you’ve lost your profit and/or commission. You might not be aware of how a missing specification could alter an estimate, not only the missing pieces of information but the structure of the estimate itself might need reworking from paper strategy to press imposition. (how the piece might fit on a press sheet)

Most estimating costs are a combination of  industry standards, individual shop overhead and job experience. The estimate is just that…an estimate of materials and time we think should be involved in producing your print project.  Hourly rates are adjusted regularly based on experience with similar jobs and the hourly rates built into  estimating systems are usually in-line with industry standards, their presses and their experience.

So why might you get three estimates and they’re all over the board? There are a couple of reasons. One might be simply that the shop doesn’t have the appropriate press for the work involved. This happens often when a shop has only large equipment and is estimating a job that could be successfully printed on a smaller press. Another reason might be misinformation or just an error made by estimating. As a buyer will you take advantage of the mistake? We’ll talk about that some other time.

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