Manufacturing Product Configurators That Help You Move In Customer-Centric Direction

Today’s Manufacturing has definitely overcome the hysteria of mass production which is famously reflected in Henry Ford’s thoughts about the ability of the customer to have a car painted “any color he wants so long as it is black!” 

We have come a long way since then. Manufacturers are more successful in offering bespoke personalization for their customers in a wide range of products. According to a Bain & Company report on product customization, the ability to customize a product can increase its selling price by up to 30 percent.  

This trend is likely to pick up steam with digital transformations like manufacturing product configurators, 2D/ 3D visualizers, etc. pushing the industrial space in a customer-centric direction.

What are Manufacturing Product Configurators? 

A manufacturing product configurator is briefly defined as a rule-based module where manufacturers can configure product designs, generate custom bills of materials (BOMs), routings, pricing, and discount rules for custom products, and do much more. All this can be done from a simple to use browser interface that is accessible from almost any device. 
An important addition to such configurators is 2D or 3D visualization that renders the final output in real-time, as per the configuration. Three.js is the most popular and widely used method to create and display animated 3D computer graphics in a web browser using WebGL.

How to Choose the Right Manufacturing Product Configurator? 

Many different versions of product configurators are used in manufacturing. Based on our analysis of various industrial manufacturers, architectural manufacturers, and electronic component manufacturers, they can choose the kind that best works for them.

Website visitors can configure industrial components, parts, or assemblies to their exact specifications, even if there are millions or trillions of possible combinations.

CPQ product configurators

Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) configurators are one of the popular front-office sales solutions and are often associated with eCommerce and retail. But as D2C manufacturing is gaining traction, a CPQ product configurator for make-to-order manufacturing can help customers choose the most suitable version of the product.

In our previous blog, we discussed a D2C Dutch furniture manufacturer. They employ a manufacturing product configurator that feeds custom design specifications into its CNC machine for precision manufacturing. You may want to read more about it here. 

Integrating visual CPQ configurator with existing ERP solutions

For large manufacturers, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Material Resource Planning (MRP) software solutions help streamline processes and improve data visibility around finance, project management, and manufacturing. 

If visual CPQ is integrated with an existing ERP solution, manufacturers can increase customer satisfaction by providing more accurate quotes with realistic delivery timelines. 

To illustrate, a typical interface of such a configurator might contain options to increase/lower the volume of raw materials shipped in, with the application then calculating further changes that should be made to effectively process the materials.

The software may identify problems and bottlenecks in production, making relevant suggestions to improve them. Configured quotes, estimates, BOMs, and pricing rules integrate real-time into the ERP’s centralized database. This eliminates duplicate record creation and reconciliation. 

Here’s a working ERP product configurator for a truck manufacturing company. 

CPQ Manufacturing Product Configurator

So why should you integrate a visual CPQ with any existing ERP solution? 

Because if you are a manufacturer of configure-to-order products, an ERP/MRP product configurator will: 

  • decrease engineering design time; 
  • make your sales team more efficient and accurate in creating quotes; 
  • increase customer satisfaction by providing more accurate quotes with realistic delivery timelines.

Training product configurators

They are typically 3D visualization of products, mainly intended for learning purposes. This configurator allows the user to examine various components of the product and helps them learn how the product works. Usually, it is provided to sales associates, engineers, and other technical staff that must have good knowledge of the product. 

An upgraded version would be to integrate Virtual Reality (VR) along with the configurator. Users can put on a headset and controllers, launch the software, and are transported to a virtual training room. There, they can assemble and disassemble all of the parts as part of the training.

CAD product configurator

This manufacturing product configurator is predominantly suited for product development. It makes use of CAD (computer-aided design) software which is built into the configurator application.

CAD configurators more often rely on 3D visualization of the product and dozens of options to modify its parts. It may carry additional functionality to update the product’s performance specs in sync with design changes.

BOM product configurator

BOM is a document containing all the details about the materials, parts, components, and other dynamic resources needed to manufacture a product. It may also have a very narrow-use solution. 

A BOM product configurator can be related to a fancy, customizable spreadsheet which is given a facelift with interoperability and visual design elements. Accordingly, the configurator allows the user to modify certain values and see instant changes in other values included in the document. This allows users to dynamically generate a customized bill of material for every product configuration. 

Every configuration can generate multiple bills of material, such as a sales BOM and a manufacturing BOM. Each BOM type can be configured to display pricing, costs, item quantity, and more. BOMs can be edited to add or remove items as needed directly from the quote or order interface.

What Are Some Custom Options for Manufacturing Product Configurators?

Building a manufacturing product configurator from scratch in partnership with a web development agency can open multiple custom options like 

  • Animate configured product: In addition to 3D images, demonstrating product functions through high-detail and realistic animations is more effective. 
  • Immersive experience: Employing Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) into product configurators can make any interactions with the product much more engaging and informative. 
  • Universal accessibility: Making a web-based product configurator increases its accessibility across devices that supports popular web browsers. 
  • Save/export of configuration: A “save” option built into your software can allow users to print and reuse designs/builds, as well as return to the configuration when they reopen the file.

Where to Begin for Customized Manufacturing Product Configurators?

There are plenty of options available to choose the right manufacturing product configurator online. Few ready-built enterprise configurators offer good services on a subscription basis. However, their adaptability to specific & unique business processes is still questionable. Moreover, they offer limited options for personalization as well as a 3D visualization. 

Thankfully, there are few full-stack digital agencies that are offering custom-built configurator solutions for manufacturers to overcome this challenge. 

If you have a product configurator project in mind, feel free to read more about us. We are available at your convenient time to discuss the specifics of your requirements and offer a suitable solution. Call us at +1 (919) 234-5140 or +44 (757) 853-6333 or +91 (944) 278-9110 or simply drop a message here

Manav Gupta
About the Author - Manav Gupta

Manav Gupta is a full-time CopyWriter at ColorWhistle, where he works to benefit both professionals & enthusiasts in the field of Digital Marketing, Branding & Web Development by creating engaging content. Prior to joining ColorWhistle, Manav was responsible for managing & executing content projects ranging from sales collateral to web content, ad copy to letters, business proposals to sales plans, and training manuals. A graduate of a reputed university, Manav holds an honors degree in Engineering. When not hard at work creating meaningful content, he enjoys perfecting his knowledge of music, playing cricket, and volunteering to build a carbon-neutral society.

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