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Estimating Sets the Tone for What’s to Come
By: Greg Ortmann, President, Feiereisen, Inc.

Most finishing jobs start with an estimate for one reason: value. When estimators do their jobs right, the value extends far beyond merely crunching numbers to arrive at a price. Knowledgeable finishing estimators routinely help customers in two important ways:

  • Save money. Minor spec tweaks here and there can result in large savings.
  • Save time. Often there are several ways to run jobs through a plant. Some are more efficient than others. Also, if you have specific schedule requirements, some companies allow estimators to assist with limited customer service.

Good estimators are flexible and intuitively know how to balance heavy work loads. The best estimators are people-oriented as well as numbers-oriented experts who know how to clarify conflicting or unclear instructions and get missing information when necessary. They know that every estimate is important and do their best to deliver accurate and timely quotes to customers.

Reengineering Specifications Can Help Printers Sell More Print
As team leader of a finishing company, I love it when I hear one of our estimator’s say, “Here’s your estimate as requested. However, have you thought of printing this project two-up? It will save you and your customer about 40%.” Or, “If we changed the fold sequence this way, we’d be able to run our folder 20% faster.” Even if our customer says no, they’ll appreciate the suggestion and realize they’ve got a knowledgeable partner for the future.

Upon request, professional finishing estimators may be able to reengineer a quote a little to save a lot. If the job is printed and ready to send to a finisher, there’s no point in reengineering because it’s too late. The time to put on the thinking cap is early in the design process. If you suggest a better way of accomplishing a graphic arts project to your customer, you will stand a better chance of winning the print job in the first place.

Estimators Need Complete Information
Help your finishing estimator help you. Send in complete information. In addition to needing the basics such as stock, sheet size and quantity, it greatly helps if you convey what the project looks like and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you have artwork, let us have a look. Previous artwork or samples work too. Even a faxed hand-drawn thumbnail sketch is better than nothing. If you have any scheduling information or special packing and shipping requirements, let us know.

Assumptions are bad in the world of estimating. If in doubt, include the information. Sometimes people disagree on what’s “standard.”

The Need for Speed
Rush charges are something most printers don’t want to pay and finishers don’t want to charge. If your job requires eight days of machine run time, it’s better to know that up front so you can set realistic expectations for your customer. What doesn’t work is being expected to do a job in fewer hours than a machine is capable of running.

All finishing companies routinely receive late afternoon calls from customers that need estimates right away for projects such as 10,000 pocket folders, 5,000 laminated sheets or three quantities or more of die cutting in three different configurations. For simple jobs such as standard pocket folder conversions, estimators often refer to a predetermined set of guidelines or even a pricelist for instant quotes.

However, for the vast majority of quotes, estimators have to gather, compile and calculate run time and cost data. If non-standard materials such as foil, tinted UV or multi-level embossing dies are required it will take slightly longer. We know how important it is to give printers their quotes as rapidly as possible. Bottom line: as soon as you can give us a heads up about your quoting needs, the better.

When most binderies are told that a quote is “hot,” they’ll put it at the top of the pile if possible. If we all work together, we’ll help you get back to your customers with a timely estimate so you can win more business.


Print buyers have long memories when printers deliver on their promise to return quotes quickly and accurately. You elevate yourself to being a trusted resource from a mere printer. We want to be viewed the same way.

Estimating sets the tone for the service about to come. Give us the information we need because it’s in our mutual interest. This is the way that we can help you better, which for us is certainly our goal.

Greg Ortmann is president of Feiereisen, Inc., a leading provider of post press and finishing services including die cutting, scoring and perforation, book binding and restoration, folding, gluing, board and litho mounting, film lamination and UV coating, foil stamping, embossing and more. Founded in 1933, Feiereisen has locations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Kansas.