However, advanced software solutions such as CPQ software are providing a competitive edge for those manufacturers who adopt them. These innovative solutions are empowering digital leaders in the industry to overcome obstacles, while also driving disruption and innovation.
This article will delve into 9 ways that CPQ software solutions are having the greatest impact on the manufacturing industry, providing valuable insights and strategies for manufacturers looking to stay ahead in a complex world.
What Are CPQ Software Solutions?
CPQ software solutions (CPQ, for short) are tools for configuring products, calculating prices for configurations, and generating quotes. Manufacturers selling complex configurable products can leverage these solutions to transform a once slow, error-prone sales cycle into a fast, error-free process. The result? More profit for manufacturers and a smoother experience for buyers–a success for all sides.
How Is Advanced CPQ Software Different?
The most robust or “advanced” CPQ solutions, like Epicor CPQ, have additional functionality, providing more than the standard configure, price, and quote components. Features like visual product configuration, CAD automation, and systems integration save manufacturers significant time, effort, and money while enhancing customer experiences.
Below is a quick step-by-step of how advanced CPQ software works.
How Advanced CPQ Software Works From a User Perspective
Step 1. Visual Product Configuration
Users (salespeople, partners, or end customers) configure a product with an intuitive visual product configurator that’s often embedded into the seller’s website. They view a base assembly on-screen and drag and drop to change parts, materials, dimensions, colors, and more–anything’s possible.
Step 2. Real-Time Pricing
The CPQ software calculates prices in real time during the configuration process. The price changes as users select different options, enabling product optimization in line with budgets and faster decision-making.
Step 3. Instant Quotes
The CPQ software uses the configuration and price to generate a quote. There’s no more messing around in Excel. Everything’s automated.
Step 4. CAD Automation (This is where the “advanced” CPQ functionality kicks in!)
The CPQ software auto-generates various custom engineering and production documents, including CAD files, BOMs, 3D renderings, and CNC cut sheets and sends them to the correct department or recipient.
Step 4. Engineer-to-Order Success!
In some cases, the engineering team might want to give the CAD files a quick once-over to ensure they’re shop-floor ready. Otherwise, all the necessary files and documents can flow downstream untouched for an entirely automated engineer-to-order process.
How CPQ Software Is Reshaping Manufacturing
The manufacturing industry has evolved and, with it, the expectations of today’s buyers. Gone are the days when a generalized approach to manufacturing was sufficient for achieving success.
Today’s buyers demand customization and convenience. They expect the ability to configure products to their exact specifications, order online, and receive their goods fast. They want high-tech products and buying journeys to match, and they want to navigate these journeys seamlessly and independently of sales reps.
Epicor CPQ Brochure
The way that companies quote, sell, design and manufacture products has fundamentally changed. Epicor CPQ is different too, and this brochure distinguishes it from other CPQ solutions.
CPQ solutions are making it possible for manufacturers to meet these demands, thus causing the further reshaping of the manufacturing industry. Here are some of the key trends they’re driving.
1. Visual Product Configuration is streamlining the design process by replacing pen and paper
Visual product configuration is a digitized way of configuring products. Instead of relying on pen and paper, users configure products using an interactive visual interface that displays finished products in 3D.
Visual product configuration removes all the guesswork from the sales process. Salespeople don’t have to assume what customers want. Customers don’t have to worry about misunderstandings. Customers see a lifelike representation of their product before they buy–ordering couldn’t be easier and less stressful.
2. Mass Customization is enabling greater flexibility and personalization by moving away from mass production
Mass customization, where manufacturers produce products tailored to individual customers’ specific needs and preferences, is steadily replacing the traditional mass production approach. Increased demand for personalization is driving this trend.
With the rise of eCommerce, customers have become accustomed to having more options and being able to customize products to their specific needs. With so much choice in their personal lives, they now demand the same degree of personalization when buying for business.
CPQ software is purpose-built to give customers as much choice as possible. All without increasing complexity and cost on the back end. Other technological advances, like 3D printing, make customization even more efficient and profitable.
3. Self-Service is improving customer experiences and reducing costs by replacing high-touch sales
The modern B2B buyer is different. They don’t want to deal with a salesperson unless forced to, no matter how charismatic and seasoned they are. The more they can do independently online, the better. Therefore, manufacturers able to provide a fully self-serve end-to-end buying journey have a massive advantage over their competitors.
CPQ software makes self-serve and eCommerce easy for manufacturers–it doesn’t matter how complex your products are or how many configuration options you provide. All it takes is copying and pasting a few lines of code into your eCommerce platform to embed your visual product configurator into your website and make it available worldwide.
Providing self-serve on-demand increases the size of your total addressable market. You can break out of your locale, reach a global audience through search, and leverage up-to-date digital marketing strategies like Google Ads, social media retargeting, content marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO).
4. No-Code is reducing reliance on expensive developers by simplifying the software development process
Product and pricing rules are the lines of code that determine how users configure products and how the CPQ generates prices and documents. They ensure finished configurations are profitable, manufacturable, and optimized for customer satisfaction. They also orchestrate workflows behind the scenes.
In the past, every time a manufacturer wanted to launch a new product or option, create a discount or promotion, or tweak their pricing model, they had to call on experienced developers (in-house or third-party) to adjust or create new rules. Making changes was slow, and the ability to experiment was limited, which throttled a seller’s ability to maximize margins.
Today, the best CPQ solutions have a no-code rules engine, making it possible for users with no coding ability to create and maintain rules. Like other no-code solutions, users create rules using a visual interface, making an area previously only navigable by developers open to everyone.
A no-code rules engine in a CPQ solution provides several benefits:
Greater accessibility: Non-technical users can create and implement sophisticated product and pricing rules without coding knowledge, empowering them to take control of their business processes.
Reduced costs: A no-code approach can be more cost-effective than traditional development methods as it eliminates the need for specialized in-house talent or costly third-party support, reducing overall development costs.
Greater flexibility: Users can experiment with an unlimited number of product and pricing strategies, allowing them to create, modify, and test to optimize profitability and reach the ideal approach.
Greater agility: Manufacturers can swiftly introduce new products or modify existing ones in response to customer needs and market fluctuations, allowing for agile and efficient product development.
Greater scalability: A no-code rules engine allows businesses to easily add and manage many pricing and discount rules, making it easier to scale their operations. They can offer a near-unlimited number of products and options, meeting the needs of a more extensive, varied customer base.
Improved customer experience: Customers can receive personalized prices and discounts through the design of specific rules, which can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, resulting in increased retention and revenue growth
5. Guided Selling is reducing training costs for new hires by replacing expensive training
Hiring experienced staff has never been more challenging or expensive. The so-called “Great Resignation” has left many manufacturing employees reassessing their employment options and demanding higher pay.
Meanwhile, the existing manufacturing workforce is getting older and starting to retire, leaving the force depleted. Fewer young people are willing or able to fill the gap because, in the age of social media, manufacturing isn’t viewed as sexy!
CPQ is helping address the skills shortage in three ways:
- i) Self-Service
CPQ makes it easy for manufacturers to sell online and let customers self-serve. This alleviates pressure on the sales team, enabling manufacturing businesses to serve more customers with fewer salespeople.
- ii) Automation
CPQ automates multiple workflows to increase efficiency and productivity across the board. But CAD automation has the most significant impact, saving your valuable engineers a lot of time. Instead of being bogged down in menial, repetitive tasks, your engineering department can focus on research and development and automate other business areas.
iii) Guided Selling
The best CPQ software has Guided Selling functionality that transforms your product and pricing rules into prompts and guidelines for salespeople to follow. Algorithms and logic built into the CPQ software carry out the bulk of the configuration for the user and calculate a price–all the salesperson has to do is stick to the script!
Guided Selling turns average salespeople into top performers and ramps new hire fast. This transformation increases the size of the labor pool you can fish in and reduces the cost and time required for providing extensive training.
6. Dynamic CPQ pricing is increasing profitability by moving away from cost-plus pricing
Every manufacturer knows the benefit of taking a value-based approach to pricing over a cost-plus model. It lets them extract the maximum margin from every deal and leave nothing on the table.
But such a flexible approach to pricing–where prices are adjusted on the fly–creates inconsistencies and confusion. It’s slow, prone to error, and even provides opportunities for rogue discounting.
With advanced CPQ solutions, prices are calculated automatically with any number of internal and external variables taken into account. Manufacturers can tweak prices based on the current inventory level, the customer’s order history, and live competitor prices. Pricing approvals, where necessary, are routed to the appropriate individual automatically and signed off with a single click.
7. Augmented and Virtual Reality are improving customer engagement by replacing showrooms and paper brochures
The most advanced CPQ software solutions have augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) functionality built in. With this technology, customers can configure, view, and interact with products as if they were right there in front of them–all without leaving the comfort of their home or office.
When there’s no need to make prototypes or build a physical showroom, the cost savings for manufacturers are immense. But it’s not just sellers that benefit. The customer experience is far superior. It’s highly engaging and entertaining, making your business a pleasure to do business with, increasing loyalty.
8. A Single Source of Truth is improving efficiency and collaboration by replacing siloed departments and systems
Manufacturing companies are typically highly siloed, with sales, engineering, HR, accounting, and the shop floor all relying on different systems and data to get their jobs done. Siloization makes cross-domain collaboration inefficient and confusing, which holds everybody back.
Advanced configure price quote solutions integrate seamlessly with ERP, CRM, CAD, and your other core business systems. Each talk to the other enabling workflow automation. Data is centralized into one repository, ensuring teams can access, share, innovate, and make strategic decisions using the same up-to-date data set.
9. Cloud (SaaS) Software is increasing scalability and accessibility by replacing on-premises software.
It’s little surprise that manufacturers are steadily migrating to the cloud. Cloud software generally provides greater scalability, accessibility, security, and business continuity (data backup and disaster recovery) than on-premises software. The vendor handles all updates, upgrades, and bug fixes, reducing the IT burden on the businesses, making it a more efficient and cost-effective option for manufacturers.
Leading CPQ companies give manufacturers the option of a cloud-based solution. And, for many, this is the option that makes the most sense. Cloud-based CPQ is accessible from any location, making it ideal for collaborating among remote teams. It has robust security measures for protect manufacturer’s precious IP. And thanks to APIs, integrating CPQ with CRM, ERP, CAD, and other business systems is fast and seamless.
The manufacturing industry faces a new reality of increased competition, changing customer expectations, and the need for more efficient and personalized products. The introduction of CPQ software solutions is not only helping manufacturers to meet these demands, but it is also driving innovation.
With the ability to easily configure products to individual specifications, move away from mass production, and provide self-service buying experiences, manufacturers can differentiate themselves from the competition and cater to the demands of the modern buyer. The use of no-code and the integration of eCommerce are making it easier and more cost-effective for manufacturers to launch new products and expand their reach.
As manufacturing shifts and adapts to new demands, CPQ software solutions are emerging as a vital tool for manufacturers to stay competitive and keep pace with the market. With an array of innovative features, it’s empowering manufacturers to meet the dynamic needs of today’s buyers and stay ahead of a fast-paced and ever-changing industry.