Configure One recently participated in the annual Manufacturing Innovation Summit which drew together 75 manufacturing professionals to talk product, process and people innovation – attracting SME and MNC manufacturers from across the industrial spectrum. Configure One hosted a discussion table, and delivered a keynote presentation.

The keynote discussed how manufacturers are having to take more innovative approaches to cater for specific customer requirements, and highlighted some of the new tools available to help support companies with this complex problem.

It is generally agreed that the first shoe was created sometime around 1600BC, Jon Lidbury, EMEA Director noted, yet what’s interesting is that as late as the 19thcentury, shoes were made with no difference between the right and left shoe.

“The options we take for granted today, like selecting color, materials, laces, and style were of course, either just not available or weren’t even a consideration,” he said.

Jumping forward to the 1920s and Henry Ford’s Model T was famously available in any colour… so long as that colour was black! Clearly, the options available to customers were still very limited; however, 34 years ago, in 1984, Dell was founded and is widely recognised as an early progenitor of consumer personalisation.

“Dell was the forerunner of current configure price quote [CPQ] tools and for the first time gave users a glimpse of what personalization could achieve,” Lidbury said.

From those roots, we are now experiencing personalisation on a grand new scale. Every major automotive manufacturer, for example, now offers personalisation on a mass market scale – demonstrating how far companies are willing to go to drive new business.

Hyper-personalisation is becoming a consumer expectation

The above statement may be true, Lidbury continued, yet manufacturers have typically been lagging behind this trend due to the complexities involved in managing the variability in the products and the specific requirements of their customers.

That being said, there are a number of forward-thinking manufacturers who are embracing hyper-personalisation and pushing themselves to be the first in their segments to offer personalised products at scale.

“This transition to mass-customisation is disrupting the traditional production process in unprecedented ways, causing businesses to rethink their complete sales, design and manufacturing strategies. However, managing that end-to-end process is complex, and becoming more so,” Lidbury warned.

The drive for hyper-personalization is seeing manufacturers discover new and innovative ways to streamline their internal processes in support of ever growing customer demands,” David Ray, Director of Enterprise Solutions added. “But what does that actually mean?”

Ray offered four examples:

Personalised customer experiences – customers are increasing expecting B2B processes to mirror the capabilities provided as part of the modern B2C experience. They know what they want and are no longer willing to accept what the masses ask for.

Product customization – customers expect to be able to order products that are more tailored to their individual needs and requirements, versus simply ordering off-the-shelf goods.

Customer engagement – customers have quickly become smarter about your – and your competitors’ – products, and are seeking a more robust interaction as part of the quotation and ordering experience. Customer engagement will be expected to include elements that strengthen loyalty, such as higher quality, more frequent and robust feedback loops, best in class service, and ongoing support services.

Customer interaction – customers will expect future interactions to far more enriching engagements, that includes collaboration or co-designing opportunities at far earlier stages.

The role of configure price quote tools

Increasingly, CPQ systems are an enabler of hyper-personalization, Ray continued. “They allow manufacturers to offers thousands of variations of their products, they organize specification to capture information in a consistent, efficient manor, and they automate customer deliverables such as quotes, proposals, specifications and engineering drawings,” he explained.

“Additionally, they can provide rich visualization and content to the user community to allow for better alignment of product use; automate inputs to manufacturing processes such as bill of materials, routings and engineering outputs; and provide a base for data analytics tied to hyper-personalization and allow for feedback loops in the design process.”

About Configure One
Configure One is a leading provider of web-based product configurator and CPQ (configure price quote) software. Configure One’s Enterprise Product Configurator® is an enterprise CPQ application that enables companies to efficiently sell and process orders for configurable, multi-option, and customizable products and services. Configure One’s customers can increase revenues while reducing costs by automating much of the sales, order entry, and engineering processes. Customers include industry leaders such as Alstom, Dover Corporation, Rosenbauer, Masonite Corporation, Otis Elevator, SPX Corporation, Stanley Black & Decker, and Sumitomo.