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What is a configurator?

One of the largest shifts during the 21st century is the constantly increasing demand for customized products. The modern B2B-customer wants to be able to pick and choose everything from the size of the windshield to the color of the stitches in the seats when buying a heavy vehicle. Or, the total amount of packaging material a packaging machine must be able to handle during a year when planning to invest in new equipment for a production line.

Of course, with more product options to meet customers’ demand, the complexity of products increase significantly. Sales teams have to handle sales orders that are not standardized, which creates longer lead times in the manufacturing process and makes room for more errors.

In an ideal world, you would have a sales tool that enables your customers to create their optimal products by explaining their needs to the tool.

Even more ideally (and to provide an excellent customer experience) would be if this sales tool could not only provide an optimal product configuration, but also a first-time-right price for this product, as well as a complete quote, in real time. You would be able to cut your time spent on crafting and revising quotes and speed up the sales process from weeks and days to minutes.

This is all made possible by using a configurator engine, which is the “C” in Configure Price Quote (CPQ). But the question is what is a configurator and what does configuration really stand for?

Is it about modules, variants and selections?

Yes. When talking about configurators, you do need modules, variants and selections. However, to your sales force and customers, they do not really matter.

How we choose to describe the product in the configurator is not important for the end user. It is just a way for our business consultants to structure the problem.

But the structure here is indeed important because it:

  • Provides the simplest possible maintenance in the long run.
  • Reduces the 100,000 old-school rules to 100 cutting-edge constraints.
  • Is a way to reduce a department to a single person.
  • Cuts the time it takes to carry out updates by reducing days into minutes.

What does the rules, constraints or product structure do?

Constraints are needed as they are used as a tool to meet a critical business objective – namely, to limit selections. And this is why manufacturing companies need a configurator. By being able to set limits on the various product selections, you avoid selling products you can not produce or deliver.

Why is limiting selections important?

Limiting selections is important because it is so expensive to sell something you can not deliver. Here is why:

  • Most likely there will be a negative margin on deals.
  • Most likely there will be delays in the delivery- and customer time-plan.  
  • Most likely the customer will choose another supplier the next time. We all know that the cost of gaining new customers is remarkably high.

These facts are not easy to live with – for any company. But if there is a possibility to limit the selection at the point of sales, your sales teams will end up offering products that are profitable while avoiding those that are not.

What do companies who are not using product configurations struggle with?

Companies who do not have a configurator usually begin every sales process by a sales rep talking to a customer to learn about their wants, needs, timelines, and any other information. The sales rep then takes this information and begins the process of finding the perfect product.

Once the best option is found, usually by using an excel sheet or homegrown configurator, the sales reps begin a lengthy back and forth with engineering to see if the product is buildable. This process usually sees CAD files shared to close the deal. The sales rep then goes back into their excel or homegrown tool and produce a quote.

Do a lot of manufacturers struggle with this process?

Yes, a lot of companies within the manufacturing space are struggling in this area. This process takes a long time to complete, and that is not even considering the increasing demands for customization from your buyer. Quoting with homemade tools, or excel sheets can lead to error-prone quotes, a slow sales process, and disappointed customers. This process can go from days to minutes if the correct product configurator software is implemented with time savings and customer in mind.

What does the ideal product configuration process look like?

Remember above when we discussed limiting selections? A good configurator provides users with a series of questions and use their answers as input to bring back the optimal product to fit the users’ needs. With these answers the sales representative will be able to see configurations that are valid and buildable for the customer. There is no need to double-check the configured product, because the configurator only provide products that are 100% correct.

Another important aspect of having an ideal process that enable customers to get the optimal type of products is to offer visual product configurations. By combining multiple digital technologies like augmented reality and 2D and 3D visualization softwares, you enable your sales teams and customers to configure accurate products directly in a three-dimensional visual representation quickly and accurately from anywhere. Find out more about our product visualization opportunities here.

What are the benefits of a product configurator?

Some common benefits Tacton customers see from our product configurator are a:

  • 34% efficiency increase.
  • 30% sales volume increase.
  • 20% increase in profit.

Can configuration help with conflict resolutions?

Although the configurator makes implicit selections on its own, based on the constraints, it does respect any selections explicitly made by the end user. If two explicit user selections are in conflict, Tacton configurator automatically presents a conflict resolution and alternatives to the end user.

How can a configurator help with Bill of Material and Pricing?

Instant updates of the sales Bill-of-Material, customer net prices and product visualization after every user configuration selection, makes the user understand the technical and commercial consequences of her choices. And if your sales Bill-of-Material is extensive, yes, we do support multi-leveled BOM.

Can Tacton’s configurator be used to mass configure products?

Some of our customers oftentimes sell hundreds of individually configurable products in one and the same opportunity, e.g. pumps or valves for a complete pulp or chemical processing plant. In these cases, Tacton CPQ’s Mass Update and Mass Import saves a lot of time, by handling a batch of configured products in one go without having to open them one-by-one.​

How is Tacton shaping configurator technology?

Although Tacton configurator looks like an ordinary questionnaire, there is more to it under the hood. For every selection made by the end user, the configurator validates all attribute constraints and automatically selects compatible modules and features.

In this way, the configured product is always 100% correct and valid. The user is never led into configuration “dead ends”, being asked to go back X steps to change a selection. ​

Author: tacton_webdevadmin