Creating Web Based Pricing Tools with SpreadsheetWEB
Total Printing Systems is a digital book manufacturer, working mostly with small to mid-sized publishers, but also self-publishers and some of the largest publishing companies in the market. A family-owned business, TPS has been in the forefront of the book manufacturing industry since 1973 and has a proud history and a dedicated workforce. TPS had a spreadsheet-based pricing tool, exclusive to the quick printing franchise.
“With book manufacturing, every project is unique and requires custom manufacturing, at least to some degree. Even titles with similar specifications, have different content. As such, each project needs to be estimated and quoted to include its uniqueness.”
“We estimate tens of thousands of titles a year of which we ultimately produce a smaller percentage (<40%). Also, it's very common for a publisher/author to want to look at various specifications and options to try to get the best combination of style and economics. Processing estimates for all printing features can be a painstaking process for an Estimator to go through performing each option in our MIS system only to have the customer eventually only choose one to go into production. In order to give our customers more prompt service, as well as eliminate many mundane keystrokes, Total Printing developed an Excel pricing tool, which essentially replicated the functions of our MIS system, but with 'if-then' and other logic built in to make the machine selections and adjustments which an Estimator would typically be required to make when entering an estimate into the MIS system.”
TPS created this brilliant tool in Excel, but distributing this calculator as a desktop application presents several challenges. Making sure that all users have the same version of the model is difficult to track and every customer needs to be contacted every time the calculation model is modified. Furthermore, all end users also need to have Microsoft Excel installed on their machines.
“TPS distributed this Excel sheet to several key customers, customizing each a little for each customer. Over time, it became quite difficult to maintain this tool, as raw material costs and options might change over time, TPS was required to update multiple Excel sheets and redistribute them to many customers. In addition, TPS needed to engage with each customer individually in order to bring them this pricing tool.”
With SpreadsheetWEB, TPS was able to tap into Microsoft Excel expertise and push their tool to the web with very little effort. This way, their clients and estimators could utilize the familiar tool without the restrictions of requiring Excel on every client machine and manually deploying each update with no centralized version control.
“TPS wanted and needed a way to enable customers and prospects alike to access this tool via the web. After engaging in several discussions over years with many developers, we still hadn't found a suitable solution. Nearly every possible web solution was going to be a complete rebuild of our current tool from the ground up and would require countless hours of programming and TPS engagement to explain how and when and why each book needed to be quoted in a certain way.”
“SpreadsheetWeb allowed TPS to essentially take the spreadsheets we had developed, standardize them into a single system, which changed options based on the user and post it directly onto our website.”
TPS published their Excel pricing tool as a web application through SpreadsheetWEB. The cloud-basedsolution helped them avoid server setup and maintenance tasks while providing a scalable platform for future deployment. Thanks to the user-friendly add-in interface, all future updates to the tool can be done in-house, without requiring any developer resources.
“Customers love using the pricing tool to play with all of the available options and come up with the specifications to give them the best bang for their buck. Once they've decided on a set of specifications, they can save them for future reference or to place an order.”
Through SpreadsheetWEB integration, TPS can now track the needs of their users live from a web interface.