Star product: Tharstern Estimate PRO

By Jenny Roper, Friday 08 February 2013

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Tool that claims to "take the science out" of print estimating

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What does the software do?

Estimate PRO is Tharstern’s new-generation intelligent print estimating tool. It will be used as a platform for Tharstern’s new Estimating and CRM mobile app, planned for early this year.

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?
Launched in November, the software is initially being targetted at printers with litho, digital and large format kit, as well as printers who offer fulfilment and other non-traditional services. But Tharstern has plans to extend it to other users. "The back-end is set up in a way that lends itself to flatsheet, commercial litho and digital people, and wide-format printers at this stage, and then we’ve got plans to roll it out to the roll-label and multi-web boys," confirms Tharstern new project manager Paul Cook.

How does it work?
Using the software’s ‘Product Configurator’, estimators run through a user-defined check list of options for a chosen product, typically inputting information such as materials, pages, quantities and sizes. The system then works out the most efficient equipment and imposition for that product. It provides cost, sales margin and sell price comparisons for every possible imposition on each suitable press. It warns the user if the entered details are actually outside of the print shop’s capabilities, to avoid surprises downstream in production.

What is its USP?
Estimate PRO is intended to simplify the estimating process and take the guesswork out of producing the best quote, says Cook. "With this software, there’s no need to remember to manually include activities and materials, or tweak run speeds and passes for non-standard work," he says. "We have taken the science out of it."

"Being much more self-aware of JDF processes and printshop capabilities," continues Cook, "PRO intelligently creates what we call the ‘method of manufacture’ and for example will automatically use a cheaper stock to make the press ready on. It also allows you to use a step-and-repeat method to rotate the product on the sheet to give the most efficient number up."

How does it differ from previous versions?
Estimate PRO is an enhanced version of Tharstern’s predecessor Estimate Classic, says Cook. "We have removed the margin of error and significantly reduced the skills required to put an estimate together," says Cook. "But PRO doesn’t supersede Classic. We will continue to develop Classic as that offers support for gravure and roll label printers. We’ll need to maintain that until we can build the functionality into PRO."

How easy is it to use?
"The simple answer is, ‘very,’" says Cook. "We’ve found that your modern print business is not just a team of estimators and salespeople anymore. Early on in the design process, we knew we wanted to aim it at people working in customer service rather than traditional print estimators."

"We’ve hidden a lot of the noise away on the screen – the sorts of things you only amend as a real exception, like job trim and bleed," continues Cook. "We wanted to create something that anybody could use, but that would also make quoting quicker."

What training/service support is on offer?
Depending on the size of the site, Tharstern supply a minimum of two days training including installation, reports Cook. "Every customer is assigned a consultant who will be their original trainer and then their go-to man," says Cook. "But then we have a hotline support team who can generally help with service support calls in the first instance."

How much does it cost?
Pricing starts at £250 per concurrent user (so the software can be installed on many computers at a company, but only five staff members will be able to use the program at any one time if the company has only purchased five licences, for instance).

How many installations have there been and what are the sales targets?
PRO has been beta-tested by five customers so far, with Tharstern initially planning to roll out the number of installs steadily.


SPECIFICATIONS

Server SQL Server 2005 or above
Database
SQL Server
Client
Windows 7 or above
Price
From £250 per concurrent user
Contact
Tharstern 01282 860660 www.tharstern.com


ALTERNATIVES

Shuttleworth MIS

The Shuttleworth system has an estimating wizard as part of the overall product. Non-estimating experts can enter the parameters of a piece of printed material and the wizard will determine the most cost-effective method of production depending on the printer’s equipment. For example, it chooses between assigning the job to a digital or litho machine. There is no extra charge for this estimating software. Rather, the tool comes as part of any Shuttleworth MIS package.
Client
Windows XP or above
Price
Full MIS system costs from £1,000 per user, with the estimating module coming as standard with every package
Contact
Shuttleworth 01536 316316 www.shuttleworth-uk.co.uk/

Optimus Estimating Pro Plus and Optimus Dash Enquiry & Quote Manager

Estimating Pro Plus uses a rules-based estimating approach that, says Optimus, ensures powerful templates and logic can create estimates and full production jobs in seconds. This is an engine used primarily in the offset litho environment. Meanwhile, Dash Enquiry & Quote Manager is favoured by mixed houses of litho, digital and specialist print environments as it caters for all types of equipment. The level of simplicity or complexity to estimate either products or processes can be determined by the user, says Optimus. This means estimates can be made by those not well-versed in estimating in super-fast time.
Server
Windows Server 2003 sp2, 2008R2 sp2, Linux Redhat Enterprise 5
Database
MySQL 5.1
Price
From £250 per concurrent user
Contact
Optimus 01483 740233 www.optimus2020.com

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