Customers’ acceptance of a one-size-fits-all product may be ending, but the demand for more personalized, unique experiences doesn’t have to cause the production challenges many manufacturers believe it will.

Smart, intuitive digital technologies have permeated every aspect of our lives, meaning it’s never been easier for customers to educate themselves, shop around and find products that precisely fit their needs.

Fortunately, these same digital technologies, particularly CPQ software (configure, price, quote) and cloud computing, are enabling manufacturers to adapt their approach and cater to this rapid shift in buying behavior. Unlike churning out thousands of the same product, customization can create complex challenges for any organization.

One of the biggest front-end challenges is how sales teams get to grips with the growing number of options that they need to offer, and the new quoting and ordering processes required as a result. Sales teams must become highly knowledgeable in – not to mention proficient at selling – a much broader range of product possibilities.

At the same time, order entry teams must shift from processing orders for large quantities of a few standard products to many smaller quantities of non-standard product variants.

Furthermore, winning an order creates increased pressure to quickly and accurately translate these unique customer requirements into usable manufacturing data, and downstream engineering and manufacturing processes need to fully support these continually changing specifications.

“While it’s true that customizing products can add complexity to the manufacturing process, this shouldn’t stop manufacturers from taking the step to reducing batch size and increasing flexibility,” says Austin Roche, director of EMEA for Configure One, a world leader in CPQ software.

“As the requirement for smaller batches of non-standard products becomes more prevalent, manufacturers need to adapt their shop floor and administration processes to remove complexity, costs and the need for additional resources to support this growing requirement,” Austin adds.

Simplifying complexity

Over the past 20 years, Configure One has been drawing on customer feedback to evolve its cloud-based Enterprise CPQ Technology to address the challenges that customization poses to organizations.

“At the front-end, real-time 3D visual configuration and a powerful rules-engine support the sales team to offer complex, multi-option products,” explains Austin.“The intuitive and interactive customer experience increases confidence and, as a result, reduces the time to order.

“One of the biggest benefits inherent to our CPQ technology is the capacity to take compatibility rules and automate outputs such as calculating prices, generating quotes, bills of materials, routings and production drawings and models, and processing orders at the click of a button.”

Automating these tasks directly in the quote process without the engineering team’s involvement compresses lead-times, eliminates keying errors, and greatly reduces the load on engineering teams.

It enables your engineers to focus more of their time on higher value, more technical projects such as developing the next-generation of products and delivering genuine efficiency improvements and business growth, rather than modifying the same drawings repeatedly in support of the sales teams.

“It’s a ‘win-win’ for sales, engineers and ultimately the customer who sees a responsive supplier providing high-quality, valuable information,” Austin adds.

“Our customers tell us that the lead-time reduction from generating the quote to commencement of manufacture is one of the most significant benefits they have experienced; and with the added benefit of these manufacturing outputs being more accurate, customer satisfaction is measurably increased.”

Reducing costs, increasing buyer satisfaction

Another, often overlooked, advantage of CPQ software is its ability to reduce the chance of incorrect products reaching customers, helping to reduce potential warranty claims and increase buyer satisfaction.

The cost of manufacturing, packing and shipping an incorrect product is significant, encompassing labour, materials, transportation, storage, handling and – perhaps most importantly – customer satisfaction. There is also the additional cost of having to correct any shipping errors.

Unless organizations work to remove the potential for errors from their processes, the likelihood of repeatedly making the same or similar mistakes increase.

“Configure One’s Enterprise CPQ Technology defines the configuration rules and logic both for the sales teams and the manufacturing outputs,” says Austin.

“The creation of dynamic drawings, bill-of-materials and routings as part of the configuration process allows organization to be confident that what is being sold can be manufactured and with a significantly reduced number of potential errors.”

“We are often told that without Configure One, the additional manual resources required to support the process would simply be unsustainable,” he concludes.

Originally posted by The Manufacturer.