Excel Product ConfiguratorExcel is a great tool for organizing information, but there are far better solutions available when it comes to configuring products for manufacturing. If you’re still taking customer orders using an Excel spreadsheet, it’s time to take a serious look at what CPQ software can do for your business.

So why is Excel such a bad choice as a product configurator? To put it simply, Excel is a nightmare to maintain and it often results in costly errors from miskeyed entries or incompatible product options.

Despite these drawbacks, many manufacturers have relied on the software for decades, so many companies may be hesitant to change. However, companies that move to a CPQ system for product configuration see vastly improved turnaround time on customer price quotes and virtually eliminate errors.

Top reasons why Excel makes for a bad product configurator:

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  • Integration Nightmare — Excel doesn’t integrate directly with your CRM or ERP system, so it doesn’t have visibility of your inventory and distribution chain. This means you need to manually upload or re-enter everything for a simple task like building a bill of material.
  • Manual Changes — When customer orders are submitted, they have to run past the engineering department for approval and inventory needs to be checked to ensure the order can be fulfilled. This sometimes means a new set of specs have to be approved by the client and every time a change is made, it has to be manually updated in the spreadsheet, increasing the chance for errors or missed changes. Then, if the customer changes their mind on something, the process starts over.
  • Error-Prone — If you’ve ever tried to type in a string of numbers quickly, then you realize how easy it is to make a single keystroke error which sets off a chain reaction of mistakes. Excel spreadsheets are very error-prone because there are no safeguards or checks that can point out if something is wrong.
  • Reliance on the “Excel Master” — When using Excel for product configuration, there’s usually just one person who maintains the spreadsheet. This “Excel Master” knows everything about the configuration process, but what happens if this person leaves the company? Further, the spreadsheet’s setup may only be comprehensible to the person who designed it. Along with being a bottleneck to implementing new products, it can be a nightmare to find someone else who can understand how the interconnected formulas work together.

Why CPQ Is a Better Choice

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A better option that is being embraced by many manufacturers is CPQ software. CPQ, which stands for Configure, Price, Quote, provides an intuitive interface for selecting product options that is far more efficient than Excel.

Here are some of the specific qualities that make CPQ the better choice:

  • Eliminate Errors — When you use CPQ software, a sales associate walks the client through the configuration process directly in the software. Along with having helpful images and performing complex calculations, it has safeguards built in to ensure that only compatible options are selected.
  • Faster Quotes — CPQ software can generate a complete bill of material and quote for the customer in just a few minutes. The same quote might take days or weeks using Excel, since it would require approval from the engineering and manufacturing teams before it can be presented to the prospective customer.
  • Cost-Effective — Streamlining the process for generating quotes with CPQ software keeps everyone working more efficiently. The manufacturing line can get started on production right away, without needing to wait for approvals or get clarification from the sales reps. Your engineering department can also focus on product improvements instead of fielding questions and approving customer specifications.
  • Better Sales Tools — You can even use CPQ software as a sales tool by instantly producing 3D models and mockups to show how the finished product will look. Along with eliminating issues of customers being unhappy with the delivered product, it can also increase customer confidence in choosing to commit to ordering the product in the first place.
  • Integration Options — ERP and CRM software has been widely adopted in the manufacturing industry, and CPQ software can integrate with these systems to use up-to-date item data and keep track of customer information. It can also integrate with CAD applications to construct fully configured 3D models and CAD drawings.
  • Easier Maintenance — CPQ software is easy to maintain and doesn’t require a degree in mathematics or computer science to get set up. Although CPQ software can handle incredibly complex products, a robust admin interface simplifies the process of setting up new products and making changes to existing products.

Excel may have been a decent product configurator 20 years ago, CPQ software has far surpassed it in every aspect. With the advent of newer technologies that can integrate with other programs, it’s time to replace your old Excel spreadsheets with CPQ software. The CPQ experience streamlines the process of configuring, pricing, and quoting custom orders so they can be processed faster. This, ultimately, means more productivity and potential sales for the savvy manufacturer who knows how to leverage this new tech to their advantage.