I know many companies hesitate to introduce a configurator because they think ‘Our products can’t be streamlined. Our combinations are too complicated’. We also heard these comments in our company. There were people who said it wouldn’t be possible, but it was.
These are the words of Dr. Michael Klos, General Manager of Yaskawa’s European Robotics Division.
Yaskawa is a world-leader in industrial automation and robotics. With products like the collaborative Motoman Robot, the company is at the forefront of the smart manufacturing revolution – its products equipping the factories of the future.
Yaskawa’s reputation is built on innovation and pin-sharp precision. And yet the company couldn’t offer the same accuracy and quality when it came to its quoting process.
We sat down with Dr. Klos to discuss why Yaskawa decided to look at an advanced CPQ tool.
Can you tell us about the quotation process at Yaskawa before Tacton?
We sell over 120 different robot models, all with numerous configurable options and add-ons. Each customer has a unique set of requirements for their factory, and on top of this we’re usually dealing customer-specific pricing agreements and discounts. This means the situation gets very complicated, very quickly.
Our field sales team was using Excel to capture a list of customer requirements. This was then handed over to an inside sales team who would manually create an offer based on requirements in the list.
For each sales case, the team would spend time chasing down information internally, sometimes even needing to involve the Japanese organization to get clarification on product availability, lead times and compatibility.
Selecting the wrong component or not having a configuration dependency properly clarified could create a mess, and just one missing option could hold up the entire process. A quotation typically took eight days and sometimes up to two weeks for the more complicated or unusual configurations.
The quality of our documents was also a big issue. Our quotations looked more like a spare parts list. They were very product-focused and cryptic and said very little about the benefits of the product and its functionality – which is, of course, the part that is of interest to the customer! Sometimes we’d even need to explain a quotation after we sent it out, delaying the buying process further.
Even though Yaskawa’s current situation was inefficient, the team deliberated carefully before switching out their existing process. And you can’t blame them. If you’re to upgrade such a key tool, it has to provide substantial benefits in every aspect of the sales process.
As Dr. Klos mentioned, there were some serious doubts within the company as to whether a configuration tool could handle the complexities of the product suite.
What were your goals and key requirements for the project?
We need to be sure that everything that we sell is 100% technically correct. Our reputation is built on that. Our broad goal was to reduce quotation lead times and to eliminate the risk resulting from our quotation process. We also wanted to cut out all the time wasted chasing information internally.
Our team set the goal of reducing quotation time from an eight-day average to one day. The ultimate target was to be able to leave a budget quote with the customer at the end of a sales visit.
It was very important for us to use a standard software tool as we wanted to avoid going too deep into customization work. Of course, the quality of quotation documents was also a major factor, as was ease of maintenance – we wanted to have a system that could be used and updated by people who are not IT engineers.
Integration was another critical factor – we wanted BOMs to be generated automatically and transferred to the ERP system once a quotation turned into an order.
You went with Tacton CPQ. How has the project gone and what have some of the outcomes been?
The biggest success is the fact that we are able to react so quickly and get quotes to our customers immediately. That one-day target was easily reached, and some of our sales are even impressing by doing configurations together with the customer and leaving a budget quotation at the end of their visit.
We can include tailored brochures, drawings and illustrations and everything is gathered automatically by the configurator. The sales team are achieving this without the need to involve the inside sales operation. I feel that our salespeople are now proud when sending out quotations. The feedback from our customer base is very good and we are much more professional in the eyes of our customers.
What about the skeptics?
We never came to a point where we stalled or where the software had limitations that were a show stopper for us. We were always able to implement all our ideas within the standard software. In fact, we only had one minor customization for the whole project.
Does your CPQ tool answer the right questions?
When companies approach us, they usually share problems similar to that of Yaskawa – they are relying on a CPQ or quoting process that the company has outgrown. Quite often, the system only keeps track of what goes with what and doesn’t offer the intelligence, speed and agility needed to respond to the customer in a good way.
When you have a complex product offering, your CPQ tool needs to work harder than that.
You need to be able to answer the questions your customers ask, and you need to do it quickly.
Usually, that’s not “Does A go with B?”
More often, it’s, “I need the solution to do this…and I need it to fit with that. What can you offer me?”
And, “What happens if I change that, or increase something there? Can you meet my need?”
This scenario requires an advanced CPQ tool that can be used as a smart knowledge base – not just as product data storage. And that’s Tacton.
We’d be happy to tell you more, put you in touch with Dr. Klos, or show our solutions in action.