Microkerf’s Managing Director is interviewed six months after their July launch of their Instant Online Quoting System using ipLaser. Navigate to www.microkerf.co.uk and visit “Online Services” to see it in action.
Does it work and, if so, how long did it take to become viable?
Yes, it works! It took about 3 months to become commercially viable.
Is it your software that runs the system?
No, the software was written by our Application Service Provider (ASP) ipLaser.
Do you do all your business online or just some of it?
The Online service is complementary to our existing service of 20 years, so only part of our business is online.
As it is complementary, how well has it fitted into your existing business?
Like any new process it needs a bit of thought and encouragement but when employees see it being an aid to sales, it makes it quite easy. Seeing the excitement when staff pick up orders on a Monday morning ready to be processed from quotes produced online is very refreshing after years of having an estimator producing the quotes Monday to Friday 9.00 to 5.00.
What do you think is the biggest advantage of online quoting?
That’s easy; its scalability is almost limitless. It also has yet to ask for a holiday and never phoned in sick!
How important do you think online quoting is to the laser cutting industry?
I buy my flights and groceries online, and I have seen those industries grow at a great rate. But in the laser cutting industry I think it is a similar milestone to that of sending DXFs as attachments on emails over a decade ago, and the industry took quite a while to make that the norm.
Have you made any other changes at Microkerf’s operation to enable online quoting?
Yes, we have purchased a delivery van that currently delivers in Leicestershire for a minimal fee similar to the supermarket Tesco’s home delivery service. This is popular for our local clients; we will also be offering laser cut shims in the not so distant future.
What is happening within the job shop industry at the moment that could be relevant to the take up of online quoting?
There is a capacity over-supply due to the recession and use of more productive laser cutting machines. This reduces the margins we can get so we have to reduce our costs in other areas. The cost of producing a quote is rarely looked at in our industry but the online system not only produces them more quickly but also more cheaply.
Does the online system have limitations?
The internet service is limited by our selection of metals and does not include second operations, for example bending. It also requires the customer to convert splines into polylines (lines and arcs), although this is on the list of improvements for the future.
Is there a demographic of the type of customer that uses the online quoting portal?
If you can buy a flight or your groceries online, then you should be able to use the online quoting portal easily after your first couple of orders. There is a wizard for the beginners and we have a support engineer to help users make the most of the system.
Are there any developments around the corner?
Well, I have already mentioned shims and splines, but I can say in addition with regards to payment and invoicing, we are working on making card payments easier and on generating invoices directly from the online quoting portal’s information.