To derive the greatest business and operational benefits from an enterprise configurator, it's important for a company to first define its unique complexities, and then select a solution offering functionality that addresses that complexity over a wide range of supply chain processes. For example, depending on the business model and critical path process workflow, a CTO manufacturer might look for the following configuration functionality:
* Flexible quoting and cost estimating designed to handle complex, multi-level products/services.
* Guided selling tools and templates for all product types and sales channels.
* Pricing based on product specifications and options, for the sales force, dealers, distributors and customers.
* Strong rules-based engineering and manufacturing execution functions to accommodate generations of multi-level BOMs, detailed process routings, CAD drawings for exchange with in-house and external supply chain partners, and customers.
* Demand flow capabilities to facilitate scheduling, process engineering, materials handling and administrative tasks.
* Generation of CTP date and MTO component/subassembly scheduling based on finite material and/or capacity planning.
* An intelligent integration control system that serves as a "visibility dashboard," enabling users to define and manage various activities on the system.
Keys to Rapid Implementation and Return on Investment
To achieve a rapid implementation and ROI on the configurator investment, it is important for CTO companies to take the following steps:
Define the project scope. Identify areas where the configurator can add the most value, then map out an implementation path based on products, processes and problems. If some systems and processes need to be redesigned — for example, part numbering, product coding or nested product configuration — map out workflow procedures for these processes, using industry best practices as a guide.
Set a timeline, budget and resource allocations. Have the executive sponsor and implementation team meet to establish a realistic budget and timeline, then identify and allocate the necessary resources for implementation. Also, assign a project manager and draw up a project management plan that includes periodic benchmarking and execution progress reporting. These steps will ensure that the team takes a pragmatic approach, focusing on results and staying within the project scope, schedule and budget.
Cleanse data for optimum integrity. For any CTO company, the business value of a configurator relies on the appropriateness and integrity of the data in the central repository. For this reason, it is imperative to ensure that the right data sets are identified, collected and cleansed prior to implementation of the enterprise configuration application.
Don't skimp on training. Take advantage of the software vendor's professional services to implement on-site or classroom sessions. This will ensure that all users throughout the enterprise are fully on-board in how to use the system for maximum workflow efficiency and productivity. In addition, make sure the IT staff is well-trained in monitoring and maintaining the software for maximum uptime and reliability.
In meeting customers' product configuration and customization requirements, capabilities can be a powerful differentiator in the marketplace, whether the company happens to be selling food processing equipment, steel and wood office furniture, elevators, or mobile phones and service. First you must know the configurator characteristics that will best fit your company, and then follow the steps outlined above to make sure any implementation goes smoothly and brings a healthy ROI.
About the Author: Dale Colosky is president, CEO and founder of Configuration Solutions. Colosky has many years of experience in the manufacturing software industry and is a frequent writer and speaker at APICS, A.I.I.E., and A.I.C.P.A. events.