In 1847, inventor Werner von Siemens developed the pointer telegraph and followed up in 1866 with a prototype for the dynamo. Today, the company he founded is a household name and Europe’s largest electronics and engineering company. Siemens is also the world’s leading supplier of energy technology.
While renewable energy resources are becoming increasingly important. With pioneering technology, Siemens gas and steam turbines make sure that we can produce this energy in the cleanest, most efficient way possible. But while Siemens leads the way in sustainable energy production, producing customer quotes for its gas turbine units wasn’t such a smooth process.
A complex problem required an innovative solution
The turbines are extremely complex pieces of equipment. Each sits within a wider power plant solution which is tailored to each customer’s unique specifications and site conditions. The air intake assembly alone, for example, has 120 variants. Factor in all the configurations and combinations that come along with that; and things get complicated very quickly.
This complexity posed a challenge for Siemens. Because the turbines are highly customized – and the combination of variables almost endless – producing customer quotes was a lengthy and complicated process. A full customer proposal was often 500 pages long, took eight weeks to produce, and required specialist engineering help on almost every sales case. Siemens wanted to simplify this process. They realized that streamlining product configuration and quote production would save both time and money, and give the company a competitive edge. What they didn’t realize, was just how dramatic the results would be.
With the Tacton CPQ, Siemens quickly saw that they could streamline by creating pre-made assemblies, including standardizing much of the core turbine engine. Simplifying the product architecture in this way has reduced demands on engineering. As Åsa Johansson, who is responsible for global coordination of the Tacton project at Siemens explains, “In our previous system, we had thousands of business rules. Using Tacton’s system, we now have just a few hundred and this has made system maintenance so much easier”.
Sales reps can produce accurate quotes on the fly
The technology also means that the sales team can now configure turbines during customer meetings. Sales reps only need to address the parameters that the customer wants to customize – the configurator automatically optimizes the rest of the assembly. The results Siemens have seen are dramatic. Where it previously took eight weeks to produce a customer quotation, sales reps can now produce accurate, high-quality quotes, with pricing, in a matter of minutes. And product specialists are now only required on the most complex cases.
Jan Nilsson, Senior Engineer CRM Process & IT Development at Siemens explains, “The beauty of the Tacton is that it will guide the sales rep through the sale and get the configuration of the product and quotation correct each time. “It now takes us only five minutes to generate a complete budget offer including pricing. This saves us tremendous amounts of time and money.”
The sales team can now focus on customer relationships and finding new business opportunities, instead of spending weeks chasing product specialists and putting together proposals. While engineers can concentrate on R&D and on supporting the really complex sales cases. Shorter sales cycles mean Siemens has the capacity to engage in more sales cases. And the company is producing accurate quotes in a fraction of the time it generally takes the competition.
And the benefits don’t end there
Regular maintenance and upgrading of parts are essential to helping the turbines run as efficiently as possible. These aftersales services are a critical revenue stream for Siemens. They are also an important cost control factor for the customer – as the more efficiently the turbines operate, the cheaper they are to run. With the Tacton system, the sales team now has insight into where and how they should offer maintenance contracts – while they are specifying the turbine with the customer. The system only prompts service options that are relevant to the particular configuration the customer is ordering. As a result, Siemens has been more successful in selling after-market services.
Who uses CPQ? This is a question that gets asked a lot more and more these days as Configure, Price, Quote solutions become the norm for many manufacturers
Many manufacturers have started their digital transformation journeys and defining their CPQ users has become an integral part of their success. Many companies begin their engineering and sales team as the initial CPQ users, but did you know that it’s possible to extend the solution to different departments of your business? Let’s take a look at some unexpected beneficiaries of CPQ.
CPQ Users 1: Sales
The rapid shift to online buying and selling has been a bumpy ride for some manufacturers. Without CPQ your sales team has to use manual processes to create the custom, complex products your customer wants. This manual process leads to long response times, inaccurate quotes, and an unhappy customer. This doesn’t even account for the high costs of training new sales reps on an increasingly complex product catalog. Often times customers are looking for a more visual experience, that isn’t offered in many sales pitches by manufacturers.
All of those challenges for the sales organization can be solved with CPQ. It’s possible to connect every process together for a streamlined buying experience ensuring that sales always delivers the right quotes and sells a deliverable product. Even your newest sales rep with the help of guided selling can quickly become an expert on the product because CPQ creates only accurate products and even CAD drawings to show customers. Enhancing the customer experience is possible with visualization that shows the final product in the real-world environment where it will be placed.
Understanding the manufacturing brand and connecting customers to create a profitable pipeline for sales isn’t always an easy task for the marketing team at manufacturing companies. With an online and high-touch buying journey for customers. Meeting these customers with a personalized experience for a great experience is the goal. This turns into high-quality leads for the sales team. But how can manufacturing go from B2B to a B2C experience?
That’s right, CPQ with visualization extends the custom product configuration to customers directly from a manufacturers’ website. Just like Nike does with their custom shoes, manufacturers are beginning to do with their products. Now that customers have the stunning, and accurate visual of their product it’s critical to capitalize on their interest. Self-service is another important aspect of marketing. With self-service customers will be able to start the process of buying a product, that is actually configurable, before even talking with the sales team. This may sound not so great for your sales team, but capturing interest via self-service will help sell to an existing or new customer while allowing more time to deal with bigger accounts.
With so much back and forth between engineering and sales on product specs, technical requirements, and more it’s important to try and streamline this process to enable engineers to work on creating innovative products instead of time-consuming administrative tasks. This doesn’t even account for the management of seemingly infinite product variations that need multiple systems to manage the data.
Streamlining and digitalizing these commercial, engineering, and factory processes with CPQ gives the users one source of data truth. That’s because CAD automation enables engineering and sales to deliver product specifications that can actually be produced. Being able to quickly and effectively solve technical product variance challenges using accurate product data and analytics can be another added bonus of CPQ.
Check out how CAD automation is helping sales and engineering streamline the sales process
CPQ User 4: The project lead
Identifying the challenges of a digital transformation journey with CPQ requires your digital team to understand the current business challenges, define a clear problem, desired outcome and the time to value. This means managing stakeholders such as marketing, sales, and engineering while navigating the project.
This means reinventing and future-proofing the operation from customer experience to the back office operations for deliverable solutions. Being able to gain a complete understanding of the challenges and articulate them across the organization will enable a fully cross-functional team that utilized CPQ in an optimized way
CPQ User 5: The information and technology teams
Understanding the relationship between operational, informational, IoT, cloud, marketing, sales, and analytic technologies and the importance of strong integrations is critical to a successful CPQ project. Setting the proper strategy and ensuring the right tech is used and adopted throughout the business is a challenge that the IT and tech teams face.
With powerful integration capabilities, CPQ is able to work with any CRM, ERP, PIM, PLM, CAD and eCommerce solutions on the market. These integrations streamline the process for every part of the organization ensuring everyone from sales to factory is working with reliable software.
The more CPQ users the better
To sum it up, the more CPQ is used across the organization the more complete and exciting the journey will be for your customer. Tacton CPQ extends past the typical use of CPQ for just sales or engineering. This value to marketing, project management, IT, and tech will help create full buy-in from the team. Ready to learn more about our holistic digital transformation efforts? Book your custom demo with us today!
Industrial companies with a highly variable product portfolio know the dilemma: The tailor-made product tailored to the customer’s wishes is configured and the offer could be shipped – if it were not for the CAD data. Without CAD drawings and CAD models, the customer will not accept the offer. Now it is not only good advice that is expensive. This is because the internal processes between sales and engineering to create the required CAD documents cost time, nerves, resources – and, in the worst case, the customer order.
Offering individualized custom solutions is the successful business model of many industrial companies. But success has its price: Because data is individual, it becomes elaborate. How elaborate, illustrated in simple calculation example: 100 screws with 100 matching nuts as well as 100 matching discs result in 1 million ways to combine these. A data scientist isn’t needed to realize that with just a few changeable parameters the number of possible product models scales into nearly infinite possibilities.
Many companies, therefore, rely on structured product kits and product configurators to cope with the increasing demand for individual products and the associated challenges. This duo has proven itself in everyday business and their use is an indispensable success factor with increasing importance. If it weren’t for the CAD documents required for the sales and sales processes, it would simply not be practical to keep and provide full CAD documents for all technically possible product configurations.
Use CAD know-how to create quotations
In order to free the engineering team from time-consuming and error-prone routine activities, tools for design automation are often used. With their help, designers can accelerate manual design processes, optimize and merge v-granted knowledge into the CAD system used and deploy it for sharing. But this knowledge is reserved for engineering. Sales are not available because sales representatives usually do not have the CAD expertise or CAD license to use this knowledge to create quotations.
The result: manual, time-consuming sales and quotation processes, as well as the lack of design know-how, lead to the fact that offers from various areas, such as product development and commercial management, must first be examined. Only after their release can the sales department send them. In an ongoing sales process to gather information from different departments work out technical intricacies to reconcile customer wishes and feasibility, costs time, and the market.
The remedy is provided by a solution that combines the design and configuration. This means a way to create the CAD documents required for quotation creation directly from the configuration solution – based on the product configuration made, error-free, and at the touch of a button. Such a solution is an overarching application that provides all the information relevant to sales and sales, such as .B. the offered product configuration, which prepares the offer documents including history and corresponding CAD documents, prices, and delivery dates, centrally available.
A solution that combines the possibilities and benefits of application-based product configuration and automated CAD data generation offers real added value. Let’s imagine: A machine builder receives the request for a product. The decisive selection criterion is its sustainability (low pollutant, low resource consumption). How does the internal sales and sales process work, with and without support from an application-based product configurator with integrated automatic generation of CAD documents?
CAD documents for each configured product at the touch of a button
Without support, engineering must first clarify to sales staff how the non-technical requirement “sustainability” can be put into effect constructively. If the product development gives the “green light” in the form of the appropriate product variant, the commercial is clarified in a further (time-consuming) step: At what price can the product be offered? If the price is too high, not competitive or the proposed product variant is not profitable from a vendor’s point of view, it goes back to engineering. The goal: to find a better solution. And while internally the various areas involved in the sales process are trying to find a satisfactory solution, the sales representative hopes that the customer’s requirements and wishes will not change. Because then it goes back to the start.
In comparison, the sales process in a company that uses a configuration solution that allows sales to create the CAD documents of the configured product at the touch of a button is fully optimized. The solution used is based on so-called constraints. Dependencies and properties, such as. B dependency of the depth of the sink on the screw head height in a hole or the dependence of the sinkhole on the maximum screw head diameter, define the possible solution space for technical valid products. The special feature of constraints is that they can not only represent technical specifications, but also non-technical characteristics such as market or business requirements.
This ability allows the salesperson to compile a product by describing the expected final result. The configurator searches the entire solution space and finds the optimal solution. Another great benefit from a configurator is working with constraints: such a solution creates a solution, even from incomplete specifications, such as .B”lowest pollutant emissions”, a technically valid solution.
With such a solution, sales can try out many different product variants in a short time. Because the product models are linked to the configuration logic, the associated CAD data can be generated at any time. Since the constraints-based solution ensures that each configuration made is technically valid, the corresponding CAD documents are also error-free. In order to generate the CAD documents, including common exchange formats such as PDF, STEP, or JPG, sales representatives do not need specific CAD expertise or a CAD license.
For industrial companies with a highly variable product portfolio that require error-free CAD documents for every offering, a CAD automation solution is a real win. They speed up the processes because they can create the CAD documents 100% corresponding to the configured product at the touch of a button. They also reduce their distribution costs and give sales and design teams more time for value-adding activities. And they increase quality by automating manual, error-prone processes.
Not familiar with CPQ tools? A starting point for digital transformation:
Configure Price Quote (CPQ) tools help manufacturers sell highly configurable products faster and more efficiently. Whether it be direct, partner, or extended online as a customer self-service sales tool, guided (and remote) selling enable anyone to accurately configure complex products and services for prospective customers. CPQ tools help manufacturers ensure correct pricing, deliver personalized and highly customized quotes, and massively reduce the time it takes a salesperson to create a proposal using spreadsheets or other homegrown tools. So Where does CPQ fit into your system architecture?
Manufacturers who choose to implement CPQ tools as part of their digital transformation strategy often find themselves asking how they can fit a new solution in an already existing framework of Customer Relation Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and even eCommerce solutions. A system landscape is a bit like a puzzle that without a clear framework can seem difficult to solve, but once every piece is put correctly into place can be something organizations can see results from quickly. With the massive shift due to COVID-19 manufacturers have learned just how critical it is to find products that can transform operations and work seamlessly within existing business-critical systems.
Fit the pieces together
Creating a harmonious landscape is easier said than done. Without proper thought about how the pieces fit together adopting CPQ tools can become a fools’ errand. That’s why defining how each piece of the landscape puzzle will fit together can give answers to use which product and when. When implemented in your tech stack, CPQ provides the single source of data truth for the entire organization to operate on, regardless of the system they use. While CPQ is the foundational component for manufacturers to sell configurable products, it’s the integrations into the front and back-office systems that truly enable operational efficiency and a seamless customer experience.
The shift from B2B to B2C requires eCommerce for manufacturers
Manufacturers have long created a B2B experience for their customers, focusing on product logic and its features. While this has worked in the past with the analytical buyer focusing on the core competencies of the product. This leads to a long, slow buying journey that would take time to complete a purchase. The rise of companies like Amazon has made customers less likely to wait for satisfaction, they want to know the benefits of your products in seconds, not days or weeks. B2B customers are behaving like B2C customers meaning they want products fast, accurately, visually, and across channels. They refuse to wait for your long sales pitch. Even after the purchase, to keep customers coming back manufacturers must give an excellent omnichannel eCommerce experience.
CPQ is a simple way to execute your eCommerce journey. Embedding a product configurator with visualization right on your website will show how simple and easy it is to get their manufacturing product, no matter the complexity. This is a chance to win on two fronts in the battle for customer engagement. First, customers can configure their product down to the smallest detail without the help of your sales team then request a quote or add to the shopping cart using self-service integrations to buy from anywhere. Self-service creates a shortcut for your customers. Giving both customer and seller a head start on configuration makes the negotiation process easier. This information will be quickly relayed to your CRM systems. Using a CPQ system integrated into an eCommerce platform puts the power of product configuration in the hands of customers, it’s only the beginning of a seamless connected journey.
Driving leads with CRM
From Salesforce to Microsoft Dynamics, CRM systems are the first step in creating a centralized customer experience in manufacturing. Your sales team and marketing team is always hard at work driving leads that can be used to build segmented target audiences. The audiences become relationships that are nurtured and analyzed by creating a robust tracking system.
Once these prospects become interested in your product, they usually always ask for an RFP (request for proposal) based on their product portfolio and provided data.
Often enterprise manufacturers can be slow to adopt digital tools or even know where to start. A CRM is necessary for managing leads, opportunities, and customer contact, but it does not have the functionality required for managing the complex, customized products and services manufacturers sell.
While CRM transforms the way a company sells, a CPQ tool integrated with CRM is required for efficiently selling configurable products. In fact, the recommendation for companies selling industrial products is to implement both at the same time if possible. This avoids the challenges of changing the selling process multiple times within a digital transformation.
Sub-workflow solutioning with CPQ
Now that you’ve passed the first test of getting a customer excited about your product and they give you data to create products it’s important to utilize a CPQ tool to get a quote quickly back to the customer.
Before CPQ it would take days and weeks of back and forth between your sales and engineering teams to create a first quote, let alone an accurate one. CPQ is easy enough to use that anyone can create an accurate foundation for a customer quote. The solutioning is done in a way inside the CPQ tool to create the optimal product based on the needs of the customer. Optimizing a quote for a customer can seem difficult, but it’s easier than ever to do this using guided selling that reviews every answer given and gives them only products that are fully optimized to their needs. Guided selling enables anyone to generate a quote based only on needs and requires no technical knowledge.
Once you and your customer have agreed to a configuration with a customer, it’s even possible to create dynamic proposals with CPQ. This proposal can be uploaded prior to reflect your branding or even a configuration that’s been proposed and accepted before.
Creating these quotes opens a dialogue with customers that have been difficult in the past. Manufacturing customers have had to go through incorrect quotes, spreadsheets, and text-based descriptions to get a final product. CPQ can go beyond an initial configuration and quote. Showing them how the product will look with realistic visual configuration ensures your customer, sales, and engineering teams are all aligned based on the expectations of products while reducing costly miscommunications.
These quotes can include custom CAD drawings directly from Design Automation. This can be done even without involvement from your CAD engineers with a connection directly from CPQ. Ensure detailed 2D and 3D designs of configured products straight from your CAD system. Reducing order errors, automatically generating configuration-specific drawings will keep the front of the house and back of the house happy.
More on CAD
CPQ and CAD automation work together by providing knowledge from your engineering team to your sales without having to go through constant meetings and emails. This happens by codeveloping product logic between your engineers and CPQ. Codifying product logic and validating it with info from CPQ.
This enables your sales rep to sell what your engineers can create because it was co-developed with your engineering team. Eliminating guesswork. Needs-based guided selling meets engineering to dynamically generate 3D CAD models based on customer configuration requirements This empowers sales reps to generate CAD drawings without help from engineering.
A quick stop back into your CRM systems
With the solutioning complete in the CPQ tool your sales team can quickly export the result, including a proposal document, into your CRM software. Using built-in functionality such as Salesforce and Dynamics (or any CRM) with the information from the CPQ can make it easier to report while creating follow-ups options as well as forecasting future opportunities.
The final piece: Order fulfillment
Your sales rep is excited as ever to have just closed a deal faster with CPQ and CRM connected but one more important connection remains, order fulfillment. The customer and your sales rep know what they want, now it’s time to deliver. Creating the optimal solution requires an equal data and pricing structure that uses the segmented data from your CRM to create market-based pricing. This is where your ERP system is fed critical information from Tacton CPQ. The ERP system then will plan the production, ensure the delivery and send an invoice to the customer.
Manage product variance
A great example of managing product variance is with our integration to SAP Variant Configurator (VC). Tacton can leverage the product data and configuration rules from SAP ERP and SAP VC to deliver accurate, up-to-date pricing, bundling, and product configuration information to sales teams, partners and end customers.
IT administrators can spend their working hours transferring data on materials, BOMs, pricing, and more from SAP to CPQ. Resource-inefficient implementations require custom code developed by programmers to convert extracted data into formats that can be imported to the CPQ tool.
As a result, any changes an SAP administrator makes will probably require additional maintenance (at a high cost, of course). But with Tacton the sales configuration data is extracted and translated from SAP VC models on a frequent, scheduled basis, eliminating these problems.
Allowing Tacton CPQ to configure the modules and SAP VC to cater to the modules on a manufacturing level for production. Let SAP VC handle the production and Tacton CPQ to be responsible how modules are selected.
Here’s how it works from your customers point of view. Product inventory, capacity, and available-to-promise from SAP ERP are made available to the quoting screens in your CPQ tool. After this is done, your opportunities and quotes are created in CPQ and pushed to SAP sales order management. Finally, to complete the order to fulfillment process, you process and ship your orders, invoice them and collect payments within SAP. The entire process is completed when inventory is updated and made available to the CPQ tool for the next quoting cycle.
A connected loop
You know the acronyms, CRM, CPQ, and ERP very well and now understand the importance of an eCommerce integration. When working separately can be very useful for helping your manufacturing customer succeed. Once they are combined, they can be the basis of a digital transformation for your company. Connecting everyone in your operation from the first person to contact prospects to the person who sees it roll off the assembly line can create a place for centralized operations. CPQ is the mortar that binds your CRM and ERP systems together.
Connecting all these processes will also enable your business to go fully online with eCommerce as well. Embedding an online configurator with self-service can help manufacturers reach go even further. The customer can start the solutioning journey online even before involving any sales rep. With a needs-based selling approach, the customer can express their needs and get a solution accordingly. Your customer gets involved and can fill their shopping cart with products that fit their needs. Once all these items are combined your business will be the envy of the industry.
Leverage your digitalization investments with CPQ
Sales and Marketing use their investments to engage customers, manage relationships, and ensure they are acquiring relevant data. Engineering investments ensure they have proper product data, technical drawings with CAD, and have the proper information to manage the product life cycle.
The factory makes investments to support supply chain, execution, and efficiently building products. The wealth of data across these investments is absolutely critical to internal efficiency and external customer experience. Placing a smart CPQ system at the center of your digital transformation is the most efficient strategy to build a technical stack that connects your end-to-end processes.
Learn more about the current state of digital manufacturing with survey results
CPQ is the future proof solution you’ve been looking for
COVID-19 has illuminated a lot of issues in manufacturing, one of which is disconnected systems that slow down how manufacturers sell. Your customers aren’t coming back into the showroom anytime soon. Finding ways to still work seamlessly, and accurately with customers can make the difference between winning and losing deals. Right now, is the perfect time to focus on reinventing the buying journey for your customers while improving internal operations from sales to the factory floor.
Product customization is a critical selling point for many manufacturers to attract new prospects and increase the final deal size. Offering custom products is important, but is it possible that customization can take too many resources and in the end cost manufacturers money? That being said many manufacturers have started looking into CAD automation and CPQ to solve these challenges and create new opportunities.
What is CAD automation and CPQ?
Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ Software) is a sales tool that helps companies produce 100% accurate pricing and quotes for highly configurable products. CPQ helps drive revenue growth by making it simpler, and faster to sell complex products. Improve efficiency with CPQ by automating processes and eliminating errors.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Automation is the use of tools and technology to automate manual, administrative tasks. This adds value by promoting innovation for your engineers while helping your sales team provide accurate product drawings.
What are common challenges for customization without CAD automation and CPQ?
Generating and providing CAD files early in the sales process for highly customizable eliminates costly errors, ensuring reliability to the customer and promoting trust. But generating CAD files for every product requires costly engineering hours, stalling your sales process, and increasing your cost.
Addressing these challenges
Extending Tacton CPQ capabilities with CAD automation will streamline your sales process. Empower customers, partners, and sales reps to generate accurate 2D and 3D CAD files instantly for product variants – even during the early phases of the buying journey.
Check out how other manufacturers are dealing with automation goals in 2021 in our latest survey
What are some key use cases?
Maximize your CAD investment, by connecting it to configure-to-order work processes
Create customer confidence early in the sales process while translating customer requirements into a technically viable product
Share a wide range of commonly used CAD file formats, both 2D and 3D, with your customer, sales partner, or other parties that need to verify your configured product’s compatibility
A quick history of manufacturing customization
In the not-so-distant past manufacturing products were limited offered in a catalog that had a few options that could be mass-produced quickly. If someone wanted to purchase something custom their hopes were usually dashed quickly and replaced with a base model of the product. Without custom demands, manufacturers were able to balance costs quickly and easily.
Those demands have quickly changed, customers want every product to be custom and they want it fast. Amazon, Nike, and other retailers have made it necessary to create a custom order for almost any product. Manufacturers must find strategies for mass customization while maintaining costs but also creating some control of the customization. With CPQ and CAD Automation it’s possible to do that. Let’s look at how.
Engineer to Order Manufacturing
Engineer to Order (ETO) manufacturing is the process of creating a product, or part of a product, that is completely custom with input from customers. ETO has helped breed innovation and collaboration but is also a daunting task that requires a lot of work for your sales and engineering teams.
ETO requires significant lead time to acquire parts that may not be provided by the manufacturer or the partner selling the product. How companies use their machine configurations can even impact the bottom line when creating custom products. This one-of-a-kind process can become truly cumbersome without some help. Utilizing CPQ and CAD automation can help simplify this process.
Simply put, what is custom? It’s a feeling your customers get when they put the product together right in front of their eyes, one feature may be custom to you, but not to them. Your sales team is the first to interact with a prospect, creating a custom experience is important. But overpromising can lead to misconfigurations or products that can’tbe made by your engineering team.
With CPQ it’s easier than ever to provide that feeling without leading to misconfigurations. With the flexibility to customize the product within a givenspectrum, can let the customer get a custom, a tailored solution without jeopardizing the functionality. This can be done without adding every possible variation of the product as part of the configuration.
With CPQ to gather the requirements and CAD automation to generating the CAD model, the customer will get the feeling of a custom product while it’s controlled by the configuration. The customer feels their needs are met, and you know that you can promise a solution that is possible to manufacture.
Where to next?
With customization at an all-time high, it’s important to find solutions that enable you to create customized products, while also not dedicating all your employees’ hours to it. CAD automation and CPQ are two ways to let manufacturers create custom products but with a level of control. Read more on our CAD automation product page or schedule your personalized demo today!
How are fully integrated visualization solutions with CPQ changing manufacturing?
Visualization (also known as Visual Configuration, or 3D product configuration) is the combined use of digital technologies (Augmented Reality, 2D and 3D visualization software) to be able to configure products directly in the three-dimensional visual representation. A Visual Configuration software enables your sales team and customers to configure their 3D products quickly and accurately from anywhere. Enabling an integrated visualization solution with CPQ is a step many manufacturers are taking this year.
What are some visualization benefits?
Buyers see with their own eyes how a product they will receive looks like.
Customers can understand howproduct customization decisions (choosing a specific product variant or product option) impact the final product.
Companies can highlight unique selling points and special product functions.
Further simplifyinga complex configuration task by visualizing the different product options and functionalities instead of describing them with text-based descriptions.
Companies create trust in their solutions because they use AR (Augmented Reality) to show the configured product in the actual usage environment and customers can immediately check spatial specifications.
Visualization has been on the minds of manufacturers for the last few years as an addition to their eCommerce initiatives. Many have transformed their selling process by adding real-time visualization, in real environments for their prospects and customers. Visualization has been a major selling point to customers who now grapple with at-home demos and product configurations.
Different approaches to visualization
Creating a great customer experience that fits seamlessly in your existing technical architecture sounds great doesn’t it? To me it does, but with so many options on the market, it’s important to find a visualization solution that is built to be agile, and maintainablewith no surprises in the back end.
With a push for more visualizations across the manufacturing industry, it can be a lot to learn about the industry. Many manufacturers have a lot of questions about the different options available to them. That’s why we’re here to help discuss two different approaches for adding visualization to your CPQ application, using a3rd party game or renderingenginesand their maintenance workflows or using visualization as an integrated part of the CPQ solution.
What are game or rendering engines?
A Game Engine is a software development environment/frameworkfor creating video games or interactive applications. They provide multiple functionalities including a rendering engine (2D/3D), a physics engine, collision detection, an audio engine, a scripting/logic engine, animation, artificial intelligence, user input handling, user interface generation, and networkingcapabilities. Additionally, they typically provide an editor, tools,and content pipelines to drive and support the game creation process.
Different Game Engines like Unity or Unreal are focusing on different audiences and target platforms. Not everyoneisbest suited to create web-based experiences in a browser, while others are not providing the possibility to create native mobile experiences.
The central part of a Game Engine is the Rendering Engine or Renderer which is responsible for generating the graphical output, turning 3D models, textures, and material descriptions in a visual image on the screen.Instead of using a Renderer as part of a Game Engine, it is possible to use a stand-alone Rendering Engine. Widely used WebGL-Renderer are for example ThreeJS or BabylonJS.
What are the benefits of using a widespread game or rendering engine?
If it is a commercial one or driven by an active community, the development speed for new and improved functionality at a high quality will most likely be superior compared to building and maintaining your own engine with only a few resources.
If it is used by many developers and users, good documentation, training, knowledge, and experience will be available in various ways.
Tacton’sfully integrated visualization solution with CPQ
At Tacton we offer our visualization solution as part of our Configure, Price, Quote solution for a fully integrated creation and maintenance process. We see several benefits of using and maintainingthe visualization as an integrated part of the CPQ system compared to aseparate 3rd party game or renderingengine.
A common strategy and aligned roadmap
When it comes to the two different solutions, they serve the same end purpose, showing your product in a visually appealing, exciting way to sell to customers. The product roadmap is an important aspect of buying any solution, and visualization is no exception. After the purchase of any 3rd party software, like a game engine, buyers are at the mercy of the vendors strategy and roadmap. A game engine is mainly built with a focus on creating games. Bigger Games Engines are opening their target audience but creating and integrating dynamic visuals in a dedicated CPQ system is not among those target use cases.
So potential needs of a small customer base looking to use the visualization for their highly complex product configurators are typically not the highest-ranked priorities on the roadmap. With Tacton visualization we make sure to consider our customers unique needs when it comes to changes, improvements, or new functionality to support their workflows and use cases the best way.
Even if you only want to use a small part of a Game Engine, as the 3D Engine, you must use the complete tool pipeline and process designed by the vendor. Once you are in the solution, there is no way out. For example, it is not possible to only use the included 3D Engine but build your own tooling around it.Tacton’s visualization is already tailored to the needs and requirements around extending the configuration process with visualization.
A complimentary maintenanceexperience
Mapping a configuration to visualization is not as straightforward with an external maintenance workflow compared to an integrated one.For example, the wordingis withno relation to the configuration at all, making you learn and map every domain and requirement.And only using the rendering functionalities of a game engine leads to excessive parts that users can’t get rid of, so they must navigate their way around it.
Especially for the major Game Engines, learning the necessary essentials and mastering all the tools and processes is quite a challenge if 3D Game development is not your main occupation. Creating tailored solutions specifically in the area of visualization can reduce ramp-up time and speed up the learning curve since the use case and the users are much narrower compared to a general Game Engine with multi-purposes.
And if one of the goals and values of your solutions is that customers/manufacturers should be able to maintain and extend the visualizationpart on their own, it is not very convenient if thecustomers/manufacturers must buy and learn those 3rd party tools and processes as a mandatory component. This makes it much harder and complex to transfer the responsibility after the initial setup.
Tacton’s integrated visualization solution is designed to perfectly align and match with the bigger goal of enhancing a configurator with visualization with the least necessary friction in the process.The visualization builds on top of existing knowledge and workflows in CPQ, minimizing ramp-up time, making it one integrated experience.
When using a 3rd party visualization for a CPQ + visualization project, it is not one standard product that is offered. It will always be two products (from two vendors) + an integration between what is offered.This integration needs to be maintained and adjusted as well over time since interfaces are likely going to change.
With Tactonit’s one platform, everything out-of-the-box and everything developed and improved together ensuring a working solution all the time with no additional efforts.
One approach for all use cases
Depending on the use cases and related platforms you like to support with your Visualizationsolution, it is quite hard to find only one engine to support all of them in the best way. Web-focused engines have a hard time utilizing the full power of native platforms and engines with a native-first approach struggle more when used in web-based scenarios.
Supporting native mobile apps as best as possibleon top makes it even more complex to find a proper engine. Most Game Engines and Rendering Engines with a focus on the web need supporting technologies to run natively on desktop or mobile devices, reducing the benefits of running natively. If you are not able to solve all use cases with one engine, the complexity of the tech stack and all workflows and tools around it is increasing quite drastically.
With Tacton’s own visualization, we are able to support all our customers use cases out-of-the-box with the same approach and workflows. You do not need to add additional tools or processes to support web and mobile.
An integrated visualization solution with CPQ can be your next big win
Visualization is a complex topic, with so many different options for success it can be difficult to pick one that is right for your business. If you’re in the manufacturing industry, it’s important to work with providers who have experience in the field. At Tactonwe’ve got over 20 years of visualization experience, specifically for manufacturing. Learn more by scheduling your personalized visualization demo or get your complete guide to all things Visualization!
Virtual reality vs augmented reality are two terms that get compared a lot in modern manufacturing. But what are they? What’s the difference between the two? These are just a few questions that many ask aboutthe current state of visualization, luckily for you,we’ve got the answers you need!
Immersive experiences are becoming more and more common in modern visualization. It is possible to cluster the different technologies and approaches depending on the amount of virtual/digital content that is used for the visualization.
(Image of all Extended Reality technologies)
Extended Reality (XR) refers to all real and virtual world combinations and is used as an umbrella term for AR, MR, and VR.
Virtual Reality for Manufacturers
Virtual reality has quite a long history and describes a type of visualization that is completely digital and does not include anything directly captured from the real world anymore. On top of the content, the other important characteristic of this approach is that it is experienced by using special head-mounted devices (HMD or Headset) to look at the visualization.
These headsets provide the true impressiveness of this approach. By completely changing reality and fully diving into 360° virtual reality. Users experience the digital world as “real”. It is possible to navigate and move in that digital world and experience everything as if it would real.
(Image of a Virtual Reality installation)
Virtual Reality itself is a spectrum of different variants
From simple WebVR providing simple VR experiences in a web browser to fully immersive experiences including more senses than just vision, for example, audio.
Several vendors and technologies are available and in development making the VR landscape a bit unclear. A wide range of stationary and mobile systems in different price segments are available.
Stationary systems provide higher performance and more sensors to increase immersion but need cables to connect the headset with a computer and for power. Mobile devices are handier since the computer and the power source are integrated but are not suited for every purpose.
The focus for Virtual Reality is the consumer market and especially the gaming industry. Besides this main area of focus, VR is mainly used in designing and engineering phases in manufacturing, for training and education, planning, and simulation purposes.
VR is also highlighted at tradeshows, and as digital showrooms for experiencing architectures and interiors where this technology enables users to experience their designed spaces. Especially in a sales discussion, VR can be a problem because of its occlusion of the user from everyone else it is likely to “lose” the customer in the actual experience, making the actual sales process minor matter.
Virtual Reality is not an ad-hoc visualization. Special and relatively expensive hardware (VR headsets) are necessary, the environment in which the experience is used needs to be prepared and users need experience with the technology itself to use it properly and to enjoy it. Especially the isolation factor when using VR glasses is something to get used to and to consider when using virtual reality. In many situations it is crucial to directly communicate with others not part of the experience, have eye contact, and interpret reactions and emotions.
Augmented Reality for Manufacturers
In contrast to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality is not completely digital, it is extending the real world with virtual content. By overlaying virtual objects on top of the image captured with a camera, the real world becomes extended.
Every modern smartphone or tablet can execute augmented reality applications which make the technology much more accessible than virtual reality which always requires additional and specific hardware and training.
(Image of a principal tablet setup)
On the other side, since the augmented reality visualization only takes place on the smartphone or tablet screen, the immersive effect is much less compared to wearing a full occluding VR headset.
AR can be differentiated into Marker-based and Markerless.
Using a marker to define the spot where the virtual object will be placed has been the first AR variant and is therefore supported by older mobile devices. If the marker is captured by the camera, the virtual object is located at this position.
Markerless AR is possible with modern mobile devices and automatically detect surfaces like the floor or tables and positions the virtual objects on these surfaces. It does not require any prior preparations (like providing and placing markers) and the virtual objects stay in their position even if the camera is not looking at this spot.
Besides the impressive marketing aspects, operations and services like repair guidance are very common use cases for Augmented Reality. Additionally, due to is easy and fast accessibility, Augmented Reality is best to use for simple and straightforward product presentations and experiences for a broad audience.
Another important benefit of Augmented Reality is the fact that the virtual object can be visualized in its desired destination. Design and aesthetic questions can be answered directly, and it is also possible to verify real-life dimensions. General spacing and layout questions can be answered immediately without providing any physical and costly product examples.
(Images of different AR visualizations via Tructon)
Now, AR is only reliably possible via dedicated mobile Apps. Another alternative is currently in development, enabling AR right from the Browser, called WebXR, without any specific app. This will make AR content standard, very similar to regular 3D content which is getting more popular lately by Google integrating and including 3D real-time visualization right in their search results and displaying it directly in the browser.
Mixed Reality for Manufacturers
Mixed Reality is the latest technology and extends Augmented Reality so that virtual content can recognize real-world objects allowing physical objects to interact with virtual ones. Changing or adjusting objects in the real world will have an influence on virtual objects as well. For example, moving an object will automatically move attached virtual objects as well or real-world objects are able to overly and occlude virtual ones to increase impressiveness and plausibility.
MR is enabled by using a transparent headset that overlays the virtual objects over the real world. The most prominent representative for Mixed Reality is Microsoft’s HoloLens technology. Using a headset has the advantage compared to AR that the hands are free which makes MR especially attractive for use cases like training and service. Since it is a quite new technology, available hardware (like Microsoft HoloLens or MagicLeap) is still expensive and lacks expectations regarding performance. Nevertheless, this technology has great potential, especially for service when performance, power, and Field-of-view problems are solved, and the standard has been established.
Now that you’ve got a quick lesson on Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality with a bonus of Mixed Reality, it’s time to learn more about how visualizations can change how you sell your manufacturing products. Check out our ultimate visualization guide for a deeper look, click for your direct download:
CPQ Success Story: Husky’s Solution Time Reduced 75% with Tacton CPQ
Husky Injection Molding Systems is a global leader in supplying injection molding equipment and services. With over 4,000 employees worldwide Husky supports customers in over 100 countries.
Industry leader Husky faced a quoting accuracy challenge
Husky was facing a challenging quoting process for their hot runner business when they realized they needed to consider 60-70 variables for each solution. These variables may seem small, but behind each variable was a set of guidelines for what to select into a configuration and there were thousands of guidelines. This meant the sales engineers managing the quote would have to do manual work across multiple systems in Excel and look-up charts.
This led to inconsistent and incorrect quotes for their customers. But most importantly – the process took too long, resulting in missed sales opportunities to the competition. In a business with short sales cycles and high volume, speed is key to stay competitive. Husky also faced challenges with their internal collaboration. Sales and engineering teams would use different tools for different parts of the quoting process, resulting in inefficiencies and disconnected data flows.
The search for the optimal solution
When Husky began looking for a solution to their issues they wanted to work with a vendor that had a track record of manufacturing expertise. Their previous CPQ supplier struggled with Husky’s product complexity, a common occurrence for manufacturers. Husky’s IT had to maintain the tool, resulting in a change request backlog.
Looking towards Industry 4.0
A digital transformation required a solution that would span across different business operations. From sales to engineering, they searched for a solution that would work for anyone who needed to configure products. Husky’s search led them to Tacton’s Configure Price Quote (CPQ) solutions.
With Tacton, Husky finally found a tool that can handle their product complexity while cutting the time spent on their tens of thousands of quotes per year by 75%. Working with Tacton also helps Husky prepare more than 95% of the engineering bill of materials, which allows engineers to focus on innovation. Tacton also enables a seamless flow of information from Husky’s CRM through to order fulfillment for a fully supported sales process.
Steffen Bönecke, Director of Global Engineering and Operation Transformation at Husky, describes how Tacton has helped revolutionize Husky’s digital strategy: “We want to use every solution in their key area of expertise – and for us, Tacton’s main area of expertise is product configuration and supporting our solutioning processes globally.”
Consistently branded documentation for each quote – provides a consistent, reliable customer experience.
Lower warranty cost – an incorrect configuration of a solution can cost thousands of euros/dollars. When other tools were used, incorrect configurations were common. With Tacton, there has never been an incorrect configuration made.
Ease of use for new salespeople, guiding them to find the optimal product configuration that matches their customer’s needs.
Adoption of new products – it typically took a very long time to get new products out in the market.
Husky is a global leader in injection molding manufacturing systems
Husky designs, manufactures and integrates the industry’s most comprehensive range of injection molding equipment, including hot runners and controllers. Husky has one of the broadest product lines in the industry.
“For Husky’s digital transformation it’s key to use “best of breed solutions” that span across all businesses. Tacton is a key element in Husky’s sales process.” – Steffen Bönecke, Director of Global Engineering and Operation Transformation, Husky
Creating your own CPQ Success story start with a quick click
Learn more about how Tacton is helping manufacturers work smarter and more efficiently with CPQ, Design Automation and visual configuration today by scheduling your personalized demo today!
This week we’re excited to have Patrik Skjelfoss Principal Business Consultant at CPQ.se
Before co-founding cpq.se Patrik worked with Tacton CPQ for 13 years focusing on Heavy Vehicles and Manufacturing Equipment.
A little about CPQ.se
CPQ provides a true competitive advantage for manufacturers. A smooth implementation of CPQ requires the right combination of experience and expertise. cpq.se has successfully carried out CPQ-implementation projects since 2001. This has led them to become experts in the field of CPQ. Today, many large organizations seek their consulting services for updating and expanding CPQ to new divisions and business areas. Their pragmatic approach to CPQ implementation invites their customers to identify their priorities in order to quickly deliver tangible results.
CPQ.se is headquartered in Uppsala (near Stockholm), and provide their services to the entire northern European region.
New products, new opportunities but also new challenges
CPQ purchases can be an exciting time for manufacturers. Akin to turning over a new leaf from the old way products were sold to a new faster, more efficient way to work. Not only will your team be able to ensure accuracy but also enable your customers to get their products fast as their accustomed to. So, why do CPQ projects fail?
CPQ projects fail without backing from senior management
The CPQ process is spread all over the enterprise and touches many groups including sales, IT, engineering, marketing, and order management. The planning and development of a CPQ solution must involve all of these organizations and must address the requirements of each group. CPQ is a knowledge-based tool, and it’s never better than the actual knowledge and data in the tool. Usually, the product expert or senior sales rep who is too busy working with deals is the person most needed for this type of project. Backing from senior management is essential, to allow for prioritization of the implementation of the CPQ over the day-to-day business tasks for all these organizations, including the busy experts.
Scope creep is an uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope after the project has begun. This is very common in CPQ projects as you learn about and define processes that quite often were never documented before. This is why it’s important to define project objectives early in the project, and refer to them as much as possible when deciding on changes to the project. It’s also important to have a defined change control process, with a steering group that has backing from senior management. There’s no easy solution to scope creep, but being aware of the problem is essential.
Aiming at 100% of sales done with CPQ
If you ask an engineer working for an elevator company how many floors the elevators can have the most, he might answer 100. However, maybe 95% of the sales have fewer than 10 floors, and all elevators above 20 floors require some engineer-to-order? So, does it really make sense to allow for 100 floors in the configurator?
We recommend aiming at 80-95% of the configurations done automatically by the CPQ software, and allowing for some manual work for the rest. The reason is that there is typically an 80-20 rule in regards to implementation, where the last 20% of the configuration complexity will take 80% of the implementation time of the tool. It is much better to focus on 80% of the sales initially in the project and to make sure there is a ready process for the other 20% of the sales.
If the project is a success, why not aim higher in the next phase of the project?
Bad data quality
A good sales configurator will use your product data existing in current systems. But how good is the quality of that data today? Do you have an organization in which all knowledge is stored in people’s heads and documentation is missing? As stated above, the output from the configurator will never be better than the input, which means you need to make an inventory of your product data and documentation. You might need to structure and systemize your product data before selecting or implementing sales configuration software. If you don’t, the implementation will probably take much longer than expected, and changes in the tool will be done multiple times back and forth before being able to release.
Too few or too many integrations
Implementing integrations take time, whatever the IT-guy will tell you. Even a standard integration may require some adaptation because the software you are already using and want to integrate to is customized. Adding integrations to all your surrounding tools will add up to a hefty budget, and with some delays added, your project might get stopped before it is released.
Hence it is important to prioritize integrations and to allow for manual integration in the early phases of the project.
Do your prices reside in ERP? Are they only changed every 6 months? Can you export them to Excel initially, to get the project going? If you can get a manual integration to work, try to push the implementation work to the future.
However, from a similar perspective pushing integrations to the future which require a large amount of manual work is also a bad idea. The manual work will cost money and may cause update errors. When selecting a vendor, make sure they have standard integrations to the essential systems you need to integrate to. Focus only on crucial integrations in the early phases to allow for a quick return on investment. Add the additional integrations in later phases, and do separate ROI calculations for the specific integrations.
The configurator cannot solve the configuration problem
The configuration is a complex subject. To put things into perspective; the number of atoms in the universe is estimated to be 10^80. A configurable product with 100 choices and 10 alternatives for each choice has 10^100 combinations. It is important to select a configurator that can solve complex configuration problems, an incorrect selection of sales configurator may lead to being forced to simplify the configuration problem too much and hence giving incorrect configurations or prices to the salesperson.
Too much focus on tangible products
A typical product does not only consist of hardware, but also other intangible products. It’s not uncommon for companies to have higher margins on services, spares, and extended warranties. These products should not be forgotten when implementing the configurator – because without these the configurator is not complete. And if the configurator is not complete, the deals will either be missing these high margin products, or the sales will simply not use the CPQ due to the missing products.
The CPQ isn’t easy to use
If the solution is difficult to use or just slow – it will fail because no one will use it. Your solution should simplify a complex process, not replace one complex process with another. There are often tradeoffs in functionality when simplicity is the primary goal. Make sure your CPQ is achieving a good balance between these two elements. Checking reviews before you select a CPQ vendor can help you learn more from real CPQ users.
The CPQ doesn’t focus on the key users
CPQ projects tend to be initiated by all other departments at companies except sales because sales are too busy working on quotes for customers. Hence the key tasks of the tool often misunderstood and not implemented properly. The most important task of a CPQ is to help the salesperson create a correct, competitive, and valid quote quickly – and what that means exactly is different for different companies. Makes sure key people from the sales department are involved in the selection and development process to ensure that their requirements are covered.
No focus on data maintenance
In most configurable products, the master data changes continuously. New options are added and old ones disappear, new suppliers emerge, prices change, etc. Often, these changes are made on a daily or weekly basis. Typically, these changes are managed in ERP or PLM systems by people not involved in the CPQ maintenance. It’s vital that master data maintenance requires a minimal amount of changes in the CPQ software. It is also equally important that an organization is set up to be responsible for the maintenance of the software because with even a minimal amount of maintenance it still needs to be tested and validated.
A partnership for manufacturing success
It’s easy to see why CPQ projects fail from time to time. The mammoth amount of work and data to get the project off the ground can at times seem daunting. This fear can be valid if you choose a CPQ vendor with lesser experience. With Tacton and CPQ.se you can put your trust in industry-leading experts who have handled complex implementations for more than 20 years with a visionary product. We’d love to help you transform your business, scheduling a demo can make your CPQ project run smoothly, and on time.
Creatinga complete and accurateproposal document with the customer in focus when you have a large or heavily configurable product portfolio can be a time-consuming process and manufacturers know this struggle far too well. Proposals are one critical part of closing deals with customers, so creating fast, accurate proposals can make all the difference between winning or losing a deal. That’s just one reason many manufacturers are venturing to use Configure, Price, Quote solutions. Using CPQ proposal software can help you generate that winning proposal with a click of a button.
This week’s Tech with Tacton author is Kalle Bruno one of our Senior Business Consultants at Tacton. In Kalle’s eight years with Tacton he has worked with some of our customers such as Husky, Siemens and Ryder.
Manual workwithout CPQ proposal software
Just as fast as your customer contacts you with arequest, they want an equally fast response with a proposalthat answers their specific questions.
Many manufacturers in the past have taken a lot of time to build proposals painstakingly, manually writing a word document, copying and pasting standard sections from old proposals to retrofit an old customer proposal for a new one. Omitting those yellow sections like they’ve done so many times in the past. This can lead to error-prone handovers with missing documents, inaccurate pricing, and product specs.
In that scramble to create a proposal the old way, your sales team uses old company logos and creates documents that seem pasted together from old documents, creating an inconsistent proposal experience for your customer. This isn’t just a difficult read for your customer but a bad look for your brand.
All this work keeps customers waiting. So why do many manufacturers go back copy and paste from old word documents into a new one every time? They haven’t discovered how to use CPQ proposal software to make their lives easier yet.
Want to go deeper into CPQ Proposal Documents? Check out our guide to CPQ!
Configure your perfect proposal
Customers are unique and expecttheir needs to be acknowledged and fulfilled, this I should be reflected in a proposal. Choose if you want to include a note from you CEO and product specs, just check that box. The note mentions the customer’s name and contact person, the correct specs are added which relate to the products that will fulfill the customers’ needs.Only show a total price, oris it important to present a price for reach individual options,your choice.It’s even easy to add the product visualizations you impressed the customer within the initial sales pitch.
The best part? If you reconfigure products and adjust prices in CPQ, you just need to press that button again to generate aproposalreflecting those changes.
The documents included with Tacton CPQ Proposal Software:
Generates proposals and supporting documents –product sheets, user manuals, BOMs, spare parts lists
˃ Documents in Word, Excel or PDF
˃ Country- and role-specific proposals
Dynamic Proposals can help empower sales and customers
Creating an easy and editable way of creating proposals used to be a tall task. Now with CPQ Proposal Software by Tacton it’s easier than ever to populate documents with accurate product info, removing any chance of errors. This error-proof proposal generation can help sell faster while making each customers unique proposal dynamic, easy to read and accurate.
To learn more about dynamic proposals and Tacton CPQ: