The guys who taught me to estimate all had great memories for part shapes, features — even part numbers. It takes years to develop that kind of talent, but for them it was just a fallback skill in case their recordkeeping system had a gap in it. Their filing systems occasionally baffled the less experienced, yet when needed they could pull out a file of something similar to most “new” requirements in less time than it took to outline a process plan.
Besides actual part quotes, these professionals tracked important “inputs” like steel prices, shipping costs, heat treat lead times, and other special process expenses like sports fanatics track their fantasy teams. If a foundry or forge shop couldn’t come up with a tooling price in a timely manner, they weren’t shy about “helping” our purchasing department educate them on what they had charged us for similar work over the past five, ten, or even twenty years.
Their interest wasn’t just in external costs, either. Having come up through the ranks, these guys were instrumental in developing the part processing techniques the company depended on. They insisted upon good records for hobs, cutters, and other commonly used tooling. If questioned, they would go out to the shop and verify that a part could fit in a particular machine.
This dedication made the company better at more than just quoting jobs, of course; it also helped with the most critical part of an estimator’s task: selling the projects and the pricing to upper management. No one wants to back a losing proposition; and knowing that a talented, loyal, and honest team member had reviewed a potential project helped even the most nervous sales executive reach a decision. And, if favored with the order, it helped the team get “invested” in the project.