The Definitive Guide to CAD and Design Automation for Sales
April 7, 2020
Rapid quoting with fewer errors, increased customer loyalty, and larger order values are just some of the benefits associated with CAD and design automation. Yes, design automation provides greater engineering efficiency, but most importantly, it simplifies the sales process, shortens sales cycles, and reduces the training required to get new hires up to speed.
Computer-aided design (CAD), as the name suggests, is the use of computers to aid in the design process – specifically its creation, modification, analysis, and optimization. The history of CAD dates back some 60 years, to Dr. Patrick Hanratty, the “Father of CAD,” and the invention of Pronto, the first commercial numerical-control programming system, which laid the foundations for things to come.
Today, SolidWorks dominates the CAD space (in manufacturing at least), offering a powerful, but accessible, 3D design system. With SolidWorks, users can edit and view products in great detail, combining photorealistic rendering with features like kinematics, dynamics, stress, deflection, vibration, temperatures, and fluid flow.
CAD output is so realistic, on both a technical and aesthetic level, that users can predict precisely how products will look and behave before entering into the costly manufacturing stage.
The downside to CAD is that it’s slow, expensive, and requires significant training, leading to substantial bottlenecks in the sales process. Automating the design process, especially the most repetitive and time-consuming tasks, cuts down on the need for engineering input, slashing deal times as a result.
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With a tool like KBMax, sales reps can configure complex products using an intuitive visual configuration interface rather than a dog-eared paper sales catalog (or its digital iPad-based equivalent). Each company’s visual interface is different, depending on its specific requirements. This ranges from a simple, 2D configurator with an Amazon-style filtering system, right up to a photorealistic 3D interface.
Rather than scrolling through an endless list of part numbers, sales reps can point and click or drag and drop to assemble selections as per their customers’ exact preferences. It’s an immersive experience that customers can play around with themselves, reps can use alongside prospects, or sales can use exclusively, as a gated tool. Again, this varies from business to business.
As customers and reps play around with designs (resizing sections, adding or removing parts, upgrading features, etc.,) prices change dynamically in real-time, as do a wide range of associated documents, which can be as advanced as cutting lists and CNC data. Logic built into the back-end prevents reps from making errors or designing technically nonviable products. Visual and complex engineering rules built into the configurator gives reps (even new hires) a detailed understanding of product offerings and technical features without ever having to call on the expertise of the engineering department.
Once a customer has settled on a design, the rep can go ahead and generate all necessary technical drawings from the admin. For some companies, a simple rendering with dimensions will more-than suffice. For others, a detailed technical drawing will be essential to make the sale. Reps can automatically generate technical drawings through SolidWorks at the touch of a button (KBMax also works with systems like AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, and PTC Creo.)
The final step is document automation, which, yet again, is managed from within the admin. Renderings and technical drawings (along with things like marketing collateral, Ts and Cs, or contractual documentation) can be tagged on to any document sent out to the prospect, whether it be a quote, estimate, or request for further information. The crucial thing is that these documents are compelling and include whatever designs or technical drawings are needed to get a deal over the line.
Sales reps no longer have to learn an entire product catalog to provide expert-level service to potential customers. Design automation gives them the ability to configure complex products and generate technical drawings with just a few clicks.
Automating menial, slow, recurring design processes dramatically shortens sales cycles. Reps can prepare detailed quotes more quickly, spending more time bringing in new business and cultivating profitable relationships, and less time waiting on engineering feedback.
New hires can be brought up to speed in a matter of days, gaining a deep, contextual understanding of sophisticated product offerings and creating technical drawings that only skilled engineers could typically produce.
Logic built into the software prevents reps from making sub-optimal selections and costly errors. This means fewer delays, a lower return rate, less frequent chargebacks, and considerably happier customers.
2D or 3D visualization brings the sales process to life, providing an immersive buying experience that connects customers to a supplier’s brand and products. Customers take full ownership of their configurations, understanding every available option (no nasty surprises), and feeling more confident in their purchase decisions.
Engineering bottlenecks are a massive pain point for reps wanting to streamline sales cycles. Design automation negates much of the back and forth between sales and engineering, improving collaboration and supercharging quote speeds (not to mention interdepartmental harmony!) That which used to take 20+ calls and emails can now be achieved with just one.
Freeing your engineering team from the burden of the sales process leaves them with more time to focus on innovation – doing the work that helps take organizations to the next level.
KBMax’s design automation UI is responsive and can be used on all devices. This means reps can meet customers where they are, be it an office, showroom, third-party dealership, or coffee shop.
Design automation is ideally suited to companies with B2B2C business models. Take Tuff Shed (a KBMax customer,) as an example, which sells its sheds through Home Depot. Customers can use Tuff Shed’s online visual configuration software on iPads located within Home Depot stores. Once submitted, the design documents are automatically sent to Tuff Shed’s manufacturing team to build and ship.
Most businesses have a configurator that’s a black box – reps put information in and get information out, with no understanding of what happens in between. Design automation gives reps complete visibility over, and knowledge of, the configuration and design process. This gives them a higher level of ownership and degree of freedom over the sales process and requires less reliance on engineering.
Tyler earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Oklahoma State University and has accrued over 15 years of experience in the design and manufacturing space. As a Solutions Engineer at KBMax, Tyler solves problems for customers, so they can achieve their bigger goals. Tyler lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and three young children. He loves back country skiing, hiking peaks and building Legos with his kids.