In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s a new type of estimating solution emerged in the printing sector that soon became known as ‘route-based’ estimating. The term itself – route-based – provides a clue that estimating products using this type of algorithm are capable of calculating the best production route for any print-based specification being processed.
How does it work?
A route-based algorithm fundamentally plans a job on different sheet sizes in order to cost-test them. It does this by pushing a sequence of variously planned sheets through any machine capable of printing and finishing them. By a process of brute elimination, the most economical way of manufacturing a printed job will eventually emerge at the end of what is commonly a very sophisticated computational process.
Although a lot of systems are typically described by the vendors as being route-based, few solutions actually are. Many rely on price lists or matrices in one shape or form for the bulk of the processing. That is not to say they do not calculate a fast result – they do – but the results may not technically be the best, in terms of cost-effective, actual production.
In 2006 a new desktop product emerged in the route-based estimating arena – ‘PDQ’. With its obvious connotation to ‘pretty damn quick’ the acronym actually stands for ‘predictive dynamic quoting’ – and is a true route-based estimating solution.
In its first five years, PDQ evolved rapidly, serving printers directly in the heart of their businesses as an ultra-quick estimating add-on to its main MIS. Because it was being used by the printers themselves, PDQ ‘learned’ how to accommodate the peculiarities of the printing industry quickly. It knew when to ‘print to waste’. It knew when to ‘stonehenge’. It knew when to use a ‘making’ sheet size and when to plan and run a job ‘2-up’. It knew how to plan multiple different sorts on one, or several, sheets. In short, it acquired the knowledge of a time-served human estimator, but with two big differences: it was consistent; and it was fast.
Consistency and speed are facets that are keenly sought by printers. Give the estimator sitting next to you a quote to process and they will come up with a different answer than the estimator sitting down the corridor. Give a human estimator a job to do that a piece of software can do all on its own and it will inevitably take the human longer; no matter how fast and experienced they might be. In essence, PDQ had removed estimating uncertainty and replaced it with levels of reliability, accuracy and speed that human estimators simply could not compete with.
That is not to say that PDQ did not ‘learn’ a lot from its users – it did. In the early years, the small but dedicated group of printers who used the product provided constant feedback as to how the system might be improved; and, fortunately, there were equally industrious humans – Haybrooke software developers – who were able to take this feedback and turn it into functioning new features.
Today, PDQ desktop is used by around 50 printers in the UK and North America. In the main, it tends to be those printers with a need for very quick response times to a high volume of requests for quotes from its client base. Those servicing the interests of print managers are therefore common among the PDQ user group.
A little over five years ago, in early 2011, PDQ made a dramatic evolutionary leap; from the desktop environment, to online. It now became possible for buyers of print – not just printers – to take advantage of our market-leading route-based algorithm and get instant print prices directly from its supply chain.
Whilst not the first to enter this market, it soon became clear that the algorithm embedded within PDQ was the most sophisticated in its class; its flexibility and printing intelligence directly attributable to its formative years spent servicing the interests of printers in the hearts of their own estimating departments. It was a baptism of fire for our fledgling product; but one that would see it evolve into a system of extraordinary depth and power.
As such, today it is perfectly feasible for a professional buyer of print to obtain an instant price from its entire supply chain in less than a second, for a wide range of general commercial printed products.
Further, they do this by simply clicking on a product image, then entering some basic information, such as size, colours and quantity. With one further click of a mouse, the PDQ algorithm springs into life and performs literally millions of calculations in order to provide the buyer with the best possible price based on the printers’ actual manufacturing processes.
What was once thought to be impossible, we have made possible.
We call it onQ.