ERP

Variant configuration: as individual as your customers

Michael Hering08/21/2020

These days, customers are more demanding than ever. When they purchase a product, not only do they want to be able to choose from different variants, they also want to be able to have these product variants customized to suit their individual needs. Ideally, they want all that at the price of mass-produced goods. Is there a way to produce such a product cost-effectively? And what does it look like in practice? We set out to answer these and other questions using the variant configurator.

The key to success

If a company hopes to secure its market position, USPs and prices long-term, it’s vital to acknowledge and respond to the “new” needs of the customer. That’s why modularly configurable products are the key to success.
Now, that sounds easy enough in theory – but in practice, it gets a bit tricky. The more complex a product is, the more rules apply to all the potential variants. Every single parameter that makes up the product could be dependent on other parameters. The primary challenge consists of efficiently mapping, organizing and implementing these dependencies.

Many variants, one solution

These challenges affect basically every part of a company’s value creation chain. That’s why it’s crucial that the variant configurator should account for all of these aspects and provide solutions to them. From a sales perspective, for instance, when gathering information on the product, it’s important that the only selections that can be made are those which are technically feasible and commercially desirable. The configurator lets you select lots of different product options with the click of a mouse, creating a custom-tailored final product. These selections are linked to dependencies between the individual parameters. So if a customer chooses Option A, which cannot be combined with Option B, then Option B will disappear from their list. This way, they can’t accidentally select any “impossible” combinations.
The configurator also allows customers to see price information on their resulting product right in the configuration process. This feature is particularly relevant from a sales perspective, since it lets customers immediately see the cost of the option they have selected.

The supreme discipline

The supreme discipline of configuration is linking the options to the parts lists behind them. The biggest challenge is that the commercial information has to be translated into a set of technical rules from which the order-specific BOMs are generated. In other words, all the information entered in the first step has to be stored in variables. These variables are then accessed and evaluated, and the BOM is completed automatically and dynamically. All the options that the customer selected in their configuration are factored into this BOM and combined with the basic modules to make up the final product. The whole process is centralized and managed through a single interface. The BOM can then be used to create a production order for release to the shop floor. Faster, easier and more efficient than ever!

Don’t let it scare you

Many companies still feel intimidated by the apparent complexity of variant configuration. “Apparent” is the key word, since it makes work much easier and more efficient in the long run. The error rate goes down, since BOMs no longer have to be compiled manually, using Excel lists or the like. Instead, they're put through plausibility checks and transmitted automatically. This also results in increased efficiency. The variant configurator helps you manage a large number of product variations and respond to customer inquiries at the drop of a hat. You’ll be more flexible with regard to change requests, and you’ll save time and money thanks to a greater number of interchangeable parts and reduced engineering effort.

The argument that customers will be limited in their customization options is defeated by the faster lead times. And it basically doesn’t matter how complex the final product is. COSMO CONSULT serves customers from the widest-ranging sectors who are already successfully utilizing the variant configurator, proving that even the most complex products can be described with a configurator.

We also advise companies on how to implement variant configuration and would be glad to sit down and go over your options with you.

Interested?

Check out our webinar page, where you’ll find some interesting 30-minute webinars.
In one of these, we offer you a closer look at the variant configurator live in the system.

For more details, see our white papers

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Author:
Michael Hering
Industry Manager Discrete | COSMO CONSULT