Your Conny and your Product Configurator are 3

janv. 05, 2016
Did you hear the news? Conny will leave the company. A big shock. She knows all the carpet collections inside out. No problem for her to determine which designs are allowed for which carpet qualities. She made the engineering bill-of-materials (BOMs) to instruct subcontractors how to weave each possible, allowed combination. She knows everything. If product configuration would have set up in the software system, Conny could have left the company without bringing problems to the company.

Why consider implementing a product configurator?

If you have a business with a lot of similar products, you should think about product configuration. You define one single, central source of rules, by means of which you determine all possible variant configurations. A common example are configurator tools for cars. No need to say that options and colors are key in the viral world of cars. In the textile world, typically, cloths are woven or knitted based on commercial characteristics like quality and design. In fashion, jackets, shirts or trousers are produced in different models, colors, sizes…  The maintenance via product configurator is done centrally, the rules are transparent.

Product configuration in the sales process

Conny used to make catalogs for standard available carpets. Preconfigured stored variants could be created out of the product configurator in advance. Those variants are separate materials, separate stock keeping units. The customer could order them directly via the known material code or description.

In other cases, the customer could order a unique customer specific combination. Conny loved those carpets with customer specific logos in the design pattern. In that case, she had to design the appropriate quality and design specifically for that customer.

Next, the product configurator tool allows the customer to specify all commercial characteristics of the carpet. Based on that, all technical characteristics are derived (automatically) and also the way it has to be produced.

A box of characteristics

Conny knew the technical characteristics by heart, like yarntype warp and weft behind the quality/design combination chosen. Based on her knowledge of the product collection and production limitations, she knew the valid combinations.

The product configurator tool allows to set up a set of independent commercial characteristics centrally (with rules). Typically, you define obligatory and forbidden combinations. Certain quality and design combinations do not fit together. Moreover, you can eliminate certain design choices, once you’ve chosen the particular quality. By filling in a quality, a default value can be filled in directly for the most common designs if desired or applicable.

Via master data, for each quality the technical characteristics like yarntype, number of warp and weft, and weft density can be derived automatically. Of course, if new qualities or designs are introduced, you have to specify the corresponding technical characteristics in advance once.

The result is a set of commercial and technical characteristics belonging to a valid produceable carpet variant.

How to produce?

Based on all commercial and technical characteristics, Conny calculated via Excel the needed quantity for warp and weft yarns. Next, she created separate Bill-of-Materials for each standard combination in the software system.

She knew also on which machines particular qualities could be produced. That way she made the appropriate bill of labors. She also took into account that particular qualities take a longer time to produce on the same machines.

A product configurator tool works centrally. Based on a generic Bill-of-Material and Bill-of-Labor with rules, the correct components and operation steps are derived for each possible variant combination (configured in the sales process for the first time or stock variant). The result is a list of warp and weft yarns with corresponding quantity (kg for example), the machines on which we should produce and the production duration machine and labor.

We want Conny back

Let’s be honest. The product configurator tool does not replace Conny. The best would have been to implement it together with Conny. Typically, you need an IT person able to understand how to set up the product configurator in the software system. But the biggest challenge is to understand all the business rules behind, which determine each configured variant. For that reason, you need huge business knowledge about the product collection and its production process. This is also the most time-consuming part when defining the product configurator rules the first time.

Moreover, the product configurator is the most efficient when you are able to define logical business rules which do not change too much each time you introduce a new and not yet produced variant. Otherwise, you need, again, a lot of business analysis before you can start the next, not common product variant. And when the customer is eager to sell it, you don’t have that much time.

Do you want to know how other Delaware Consulting customers did implement product configuration? Do you want to implement it before your Conny is leaving the company to make her task more challenging? Contact us! And let’s celebrate the product configuration optimization together with your Conny!


Author: Wouter Dessein. You can follow Wouter on Twitter (@DesseinWouter) or connect with him on LinkedIn