Data Flow Through the Extended Enterprise
To build and maintain an effective value chain, key information about customer orders must flow freely, accurately and in real time among all supply chain partners. This is particularly true for MTO/ETO and other companies where complexity is inherent. That's where configuration software comes in. It can eliminate the business process silos of information that reside in the sales, marketing, order entry, engineering, shop floor planning/routing and production departments and consolidate key data within a central repository.
Product configurators have come a long way from yesterday's front-end solutions, which were often costly and unwieldy, highly customized, involved long implementations, and delivered limited enterprise functionality. Basically, they were designed to reduce waste by preventing order errors and engineering snafus. Newer and more advanced configuration engines take a bottom-up, rules and constraint-based approach, relying on object-oriented database technology and bundling of business process templates to facilitate easy access to real-time information.
Characteristics of New Generation Configurators
What kinds of technology features should companies look for in an enterprise configuration application? First and foremost is integration both integration of the configuration modules with each other, and integration of the configurator with existing enterprise systems, such as ERP, materials resource planning (MRP), customer relationship management (CRM) product data management (PDM)/computer-aided design (CAD) and advanced planning systems (APS). This integration with legacy systems is what allows users to access and retrieve data from a number of sources and import it into the central repository.
Second, the software should take a