First, thanks to all who participated in our Cost Estimation Survey–we appreciate the help!
If you didn’t get a chance to comment, it’s not too late. We’ll be using the feedback to help guide the ongoing development of our new CADCAM Estimator product. Currently the product is in Alpha Test and is part of G-Wizard Calculator. When it is completed, it will be sold as an add-on module for GW Calculator. Of course those who are helping us to test and develop it will get a special deal to show our appreciation for your help.
Now, on to the results:
- We had about 40 people take the survey. That’s a good number, but somewhat smaller than our usual survey sample size. I speculate that’s because only a few people in any shop are actually involved with Manufacturing and Machining Cost Estimation.
- 90% of you use a manual or spreadsheet process to do Cost Estimation–only about 10% are using Cost Estimation Software.
- Software people mentioned using was:
G-Code Simulator, such as our G-Wizard Editor. This is a powerfully accurate approach, but takes a lot of work to create representative g-code for a quote. Mastercam Verification was also mentioned in this category.
A couple were using custom applications they’d had written. Very powerful, very flexible since they’re custom at handling the special needs a particular shop has.
One was using Kipware, which is an app in the same category as CADCAM Estimator.
One was using ME Consultant Pro, which is an app like G-Wizard Calculator.
- Most liked features of their current cost estimation software included:
Complete control of the invoices and shippers
Speeds and Feeds based on material and tooling
Can override and change defaults.
(Those are all features CADCAM Estimator has since you can feed the data from it into a spreadsheet or other software to format it any way you want. I can’t imagine estimation software that wouldn’t use Speeds and Feeds, but it’s out there. Of course ours uses the Speeds and Feeds engine of G-Wizard, which is the most sophisticated one available. We believe it’s important to use the same engine for estimation you plan to use for the actual machining.)
- Features Most Disliked about Current Software:
Incompatible with other software
Not good at estimating certain types of machines or processes
Unable to work off drawings
Minimal ability to handle tools and the data related to them
Won’t account for facing and plunge cutting on a lathe
Have to calculate whole tool path instead of just entering key dimensions
Mastercam’s time estimate does not include tool changes or peck moves
(Interesting feedback. CADCAM Estimator, when finished, will cover all of these objections with the possible exception of the ability to work of drawings. Here, I believe they’re looking for feature recognition. I say possible exception because there are interesting plans in the works that I can’t talk about yet.)
- Features Used to Keep Quotes Conservative
Adjustable hourly rates
Can add minutes per part or minutes per job
Can slow tools down
Economic order qty formulas, qty discount on materials
Links to shipping sites so we can quote freight
Ties into our shop/machinist scheduling software, creates order tags, and invoices.
(All good stuff. CADCAM Estimator will do most of it, though we’re not trying to be shop scheduling software)
- Features that Help Deal with Tolerances
Separate Setup and Inspection Entries
My Software has no features for tolerances
We add more time per part based on experience
We use a sliding scale of factors to boost the prices on features that require higher tolerances
(Tolerances are an important cost driver as any machinist will tell you. CADCAM Estimator will have a sophisticated algorithm for handling tolerance-based costing that I think will be surprising in its power and simplicity.)
- What percentage of time does Cost Estimation start with a CAD model of a part?
The average here was about 60%, but the distribution was bipolar. Most respondents either quoted very low (25%) or very high (90%) with few in the middle.
(Clearly it is important to be able to do estimation without a CAD model, and CADCAM Estimator does this very well)
- What Should We Add or Change About CADCAM Wizards?
Enter cu in removal and get time estimates back
Nothing comes to mind
More clarity about HSM
(Clearly we hit the nail on the head with the UI design of CADCAM Wizards–not much to change. We will be adding the ability to change the MRR and get the estimates to update and we already have the ability to specify a volume of material to remove and update the estimates. I believe clarity about HSM comes from more familiarity with the product. You can double click and drill down into the Feeds and Speeds app to see all the gory details.)
- What do you like most about CADCAM Wizards?
The overwhelming response to this question was that it was easy to use. Some details:
– I agree with all your advertising about how calculations are superior to tables. Especially the deflection calculation.
– Recommendations are in the ballpark for our shop!
– I sometimes program a job in order to estimate machining time. Fantastic when I was awarded the job–huge waste of time when I was not. CADCAM wizard stream lined this approach and saves me time!
(That last was music to my ears. CADCAM Estimator and Wizards are all about getting great results quickly and with a minimum of effort.)
- What additional operations would you like to see us add to CADCAM Estimator?
– Separate Freight or Deliver Charge tab
– Add Op buttons have most things covered
– Freight and User Defineable Outside Process
( We’ll be adding a number of additional operations to CADCAM Estimator and will be sure to cover these. )
- What Overhead and Markup Options would you like to see in CADCAM Estimator?
Hourly cost of machine.
Hourly cost of special tooling or fixtures
Each operation needs a non-recurring column or 2
( Hourly cost of machine will be carried via the Machine Profile for each machine. I’ll take a look at costs for special tooling or fixtures. Every operation current has an “Addl Hours” and an “Addl Cost” column that can be used as the user needs.)
- What “Fudge Factors” would you like to see added to CADCAM Estimator?
Factor required tolerances into costs
( All 3 will be handled. I mentioned tolerances above. Deburring will be an “Add Op” choice. And scrap allowance will be added soon.)
- What other features should we add to CADCAM Estimator?
Ability to specify a quantity for each feature, for example for holes
( Great idea and easy to do)
Overall, I was pleased that the survey results were very positive in showing us the way to go with the software. Feedback was very upbeat and encouraging with no major issues discovered. Feel free to continue to respond to the survey as a way to provide ongoing feedback. We’ll be getting started implementing all this feedback.
While it’s in beta test, you can use CADCAM Estimator to your heart’s content simply by having a working copy of G-Wizard Calculator. If you haven’t tried Calculator yet, head over and sign up for the 30-day trial.
Thanks again to our survey participants–you’re making a difference at the best possible time for CADCAM Estimator.
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Bob is responsible for the development and implementation of the popular G-Wizard CNC Software. Bob is also the founder of CNCCookbook, the largest CNC-related blog on the Internet.