For manufacturers trying to juggle greater product complexity and customer demand for personalized, unique experiences, 3D configuration tools offer the ability to quote complex products with confidence.
Customers have always wanted to feel special and, today, they are increasingly willing to pay a premium for it. In return, they want to have a deeper, more influential role in the development of the products they buy, putting pressure on manufacturers to identify ways of making their processes accessible to the world outside their own four walls.
Long gone are the days when consumers can be expected to accept standard ‘one-size-fits-all’ products. Modern customers want the ability to personalize and customize products to their own unique desires and needs.
This is one of the most challenging competences for manufacturers to develop, requiring a radical shift in their design and manufacturing processes from mass production to mass customization. In today’s world of on-demand services and instant-gratification, it has never been easier for consumers to shop around to find the products that best fit their needs, with many of the them switching their brand loyalties accordingly.
Every year, more and more buyers are researching goods online prior to making purchases in person – a growing trend known as ‘ROBO’ (research online, buy offline). Being able to so easily compare market offerings means that competition has never been fiercer, growing in tandem with customer’s expectations for more advanced, innovative and varied products.
If that wasn’t enough to contend with, products have become significantly more complex, with embedded electronics, software, connectivity and next-gen materials. As a result, manufacturers have had to develop deep expertise in multi-disciplinary techniques, advanced simulation, digital technologies and new manufacturing methods and materials.
What are 3D configuration tools?
In the past, viewing a final product or design iteration in great detail was only available physically, either in bricks-and-mortar stores, showrooms or with manufacturing samples.
Digital 3D configuration tools have changed that, enabling products to come to life directly in the hands of the customer, presenting them with unique possibilities rather than off-the-shelf designs.
Users are able to visualize designs in real-time, rotating the model and zooming in to see the fine detail as each option is selected. The 3D models instantly react to selection changes such as to color or dimensions, allowing users to immediately reconsider and reselect product features and options until they arrive at the optimum design for them.
This is particularly beneficial for manufacturers of complex products as it’s not always easy to imagine how product features or options appear or relate to one another.
Digital configuration tools have been around for some time, but the recent rise of cloud platforms, and the affordable processing power and accessibility they offer, represents a step-change.
Hosted in the cloud, digital assets such as 3D models are now no longer confined to engineering teams, but shareable with sales teams, manufacturing operatives and customers across the world, anytime, anywhere on any smart device.
“Technology like Configure One CPQ presents these 3D models appropriately to the audience; providing sales teams with the product knowledge required to efficiently configure, price, quote and sell, and guiding customers through the sales process,” explains Austin Roche, director of EMEA for Configure One, a world leader in CPQ (configure, price, and quote) software.
“Users can even add animations to the 3D models to make the experience more immersive,” Austin adds.
Innovation not repetition
For almost 20 years, manufacturers have benefitted from visual configuration technologies provided by Configure One, from viewing simple JPEGs and static 2D images of products through to real-time generation of both 3D models and 2D drawings – which allow true customisation of otherwise standard products.
“These technologies not only enable a customer to define the product to best fits their needs but reduces the burden on a manufacturer by automating the regeneration of manufacturing 3D models, 2D drawings, bills of materials (BOMs) and routings,” says Austin.
“Automating these processes reduces the impact of having to process orders for one-off, unique variants, allowing your technical resources to focus on ideating the next generation of products rather than modelling the same product in yet another variant,” he adds.
What does the future hold?
According to Austin, the next generation of high-speed mobile networks, such as 5G, will enable more data and therefore more detail to be delivered to users. “As a result, expectations for rich content will continue to rise,” he predicts.
The biggest development (and opportunity) he sees, however, is around augmented reality and what it represents. “The pace at which augmented reality technologies continue to evolve in capability and usability means that manufacturers will be able to present a truly immersive experience to their customers, educating them to the exact capability and fit of a particular product or configuration.
“Seamless experiences like this will be crucial in not only generating greater brand awareness and loyalty but, ultimately, additional sales orders,” Austin concludes.
Originally posted by The Manufacturer