How to create a collaborative product configuration and design strategy

HCM-ERP equipment factory

August 11, 2020

For industrial manufacturers, delivering personalized, unique products is the key to doing business in an increasingly competitive environment. To reduce costs and increase sales, successful manufacturers embark on digital transformation journeys, automating calculations and decisions, while improving customer and employee experiences through connectivity.

This 3-part blog series uncovers common product configuration challenges that industrial manufacturers face and describes how leading manufacturers are modernizing their product configuration processes in three key areas – sales and marketing, engineering, and supply chain and manufacturing. In this blog post, part 2, we will examine how modularization and automation enable a collaborative and sound product design process.

Download the Best Practices Guide: How to effectively design, sell, and deliver configured products

Many manufacturers limit their customization offerings because they don’t have a method of monitoring and managing the added complexity of selling configured products. The risk of confusion escalates every time a custom order gets passed from one department to another—from a sales rep to the design department, or from engineering to manufacturing. That problem can arise partly from simple communication failures, but also from each department’s distinct information needs that other teams might not consider. Without meeting the customer, working only from a specification, a product designer might not fully grasp the client’s priorities and preferences. The best designers like to get a full sense of customer desires so they can envision new ways to meet or exceed expectations.

You can’t deliver customized products if your engineers aren’t building modifications into their designs from the beginning. Failure to take customizations into account can lead to several adverse outcomes:

  • Products don’t meet quality standards
  • Utilization of materials that are not readily available
  • The size of components prevents new options from being added
  • One-off products create delays in delivery of standardized products
  • New modifications cannot be easily made to existing designs
  • Procurement sources insufficient or non-compliant materials due to lack of visibility

When it comes to product design, customization must be built in from the ground up. It’s not always simple to add options to a product that has already been tested and standardized, especially as that product becomes more complex. Existing design workflows and supporting documents may not be flexible enough to support customization. Building new products with an eye towards modularity is key to enabling the delivery of customized products, and further towards creating an ability to deliver new products by tying those sub-assemblies together. Truly, R&D sits at the center of customization.

Creating and launching new, make-to-order products involves a multitude of internal and external teams. Leading manufacturers take advantage of the powerful product data management capabilities available within product lifecycle management (PLM) software to ensure that everyone is accessing the right information, which helps to avoid errors and eliminate product delivery delays.

The most effective PLM software systems include distributed storage vaults that make information quickly accessible anywhere, supporting global product development and supply chain collaboration strategies. The software also has visual collaboration capabilities to broaden and increase the pace of discussions, resulting in better products that can be brought to market faster.

A comprehensive software platform that includes a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, seamlessly integrated with CPQ, PLM, and a computer-aided design (CAD) system, helps break down departmental silos and efficiently get products to market.

Stay tuned for part 3 of our 3-part blog series on achieving product configuration success. In the meantime, we encourage you to check out this comprehensive Best Practices Guide: How to effectively design, sell, and deliver configured products.

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