The Role of AI in CPQ: Shaping the Future of Sales and Manufacturing

“The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.” Bill Gates

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AI has taken the world by storm, with OpenAI’s ChatGPT igniting a new era of productivity.

The impacts are already profound––but this is only the beginning. McKinsey estimates that AI could contribute $13 trillion to the manufacturing sector by 2030, and Accenture suggests that AI can boost productivity by 40% by 2035.

But how can businesses unlock AI’s full transformative potential? Configure, price, quote (CPQ) solutions represent a powerful entry point––a gateway to embedding intelligence into sales and operational processes.

In this article, we’ll explore how CPQ is already revolutionizing pricing, configuration, and selling in today’s modern, dynamic market. We’ll also set out our vision for smarter, more adaptive CPQ systems that bake AI into everything you do.

Let’s dive in.

Where We Are Today: The Brains Behind Epicor CPQ

At its core, Epicor CPQ simplifies the sales journey, enabling seamless product configuration, accurate quoting, and direct transition to production.

Visual configurators transform the complex task of customizing products into an interactive, intuitive experience. Users can drag and drop components, select colors, and add features, watching the configurator assemble products in real-time.

However, Epicor CPQ is not rigid software that just follows a fixed script. It’s a powerful configuration engine with a flexible architecture that can handle the most complex product customization scenarios.

By combining robust rules-based logic with an intuitive user interface, Epicor CPQ brings a new level of intelligence and adaptability to the CPQ process, setting a higher standard for the industry.

Here’s how our platform integrates advanced capabilities:

  • Visual Programming: Epicor CPQ has an easy-to-use rules engine to streamline product and pricing rules without the need for hardcore coding. The drag-and-drop interface democratizes the creation of rules and maintenance of the platform, enhancing efficiency and accessibility.
  • Guided Selling: Epicor CPQ analyzes customer preferences to navigate product customization complexities. It suggests optimal configurations, facilitating informed customer decisions and feasible production solutions.
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality: Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) enrich customization experiences. Our technology accurately places virtual products in real-world settings, heightening customer engagement.
  • Integration and Automation: Epicor CPQ integrates with ERP, CRM, CAD, and other systems to create a cohesive data platform. Algorithms orchestrate workflows and processes for streamlined operations.

With this smart system, every aspect of the CPQ process is more intuitive and aligned with your business needs. It’s as if your best engineer, sales rep, and product manager have all contributed their know-how to create a system that works automatically for you.

Where We’re Heading: Our Vision for the Future of AI and CPQ

The pace of advancement in artificial intelligence feels dizzying at times. New tools and technologies emerge constantly, each one promising to reshape and redefine aspects of our world.

It’s our job at Epicor to stay ahead of the game, which is why we’re actively pursuing exciting new AI features to enable truly futuristic workflows.

Here’s our vision for Epicor CPQ as AI technology continues to mature and be integrated into business applications:

NLP For Conversational Design

Natural language processing (NLP) is the domain of AI that deals with text and language. It underpins the large language models (LLM) that enable chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Gemini, and Anthropic’s Claude. Thanks to NLP, humans and computers can now talk to each other in a way that’s valuable and meaningful. It’s truly a transformation in how we interact with technology.

In the coming years, CPQ will be able to understand and interpret our everyday language. It will grasp the nuances of our design requirements, even when expressed in casual, imperfect speech, breaking down any technical barriers that may have previously existed.

Sales reps and end customers alike will have the ability to employ natural language prompts to effortlessly generate design concepts, engage in price negotiations, and extract data in their desired format, streamlining the entire process and making it more accessible to users of all technical backgrounds.

For example, you could start by prompting the CPQ system with a specific request, such as:

CPQ, build me a pair of waterproof work boots with steel toe caps, fire protection, and green reinforced full-grain leather uppers.”

Once you have the initial design, you can negotiate pricing:

“CPQ, I need 500 pairs of those work boots. What kind of volume discount can you offer? I have a budget of $100 per pair––let’s figure out a mutually beneficial price.”

To finalize the order, a salesperson can request a detailed breakdown:

“CPQ, send me a spreadsheet with the bill of materials, cost breakdown, and lead times for manufacturing the work boots we just designed. Include columns for material costs, labor, overhead, and target profit margins.”

Generative Design For Product Innovation

Generative design is a revolutionary approach that harnesses AI to explore a vast array of design possibilities. The process starts with users defining design goals, constraints, and parameters. These inputs serve as the foundation for generative design algorithms, which create and iterate upon thousands or millions of designs that meet the specified criteria.

Generative design-integrated CPQ will usher in an era of rapid visualization, limitless experimentation, and truly one-of-a-kind products. Users will be able to explore and compare limitless design variations, select their preferred option, and further customize it as needed.

The CPQ software will then automatically generate a detailed quote based on the chosen configuration, and the final design can be seamlessly transferred to the manufacturing process.

Integrating generative design into CPQ software offers significant benefits, including increased creativity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. By empowering users to explore a wider range of design possibilities while streamlining the quoting and manufacturing processes, businesses can push the boundaries of what is possible in design and manufacturing, ultimately delivering highly optimized, customer-centric products.

In Conclusion

Integrating advanced AI into CPQ systems opens up an exciting new world of possibilities. Conversational interfaces, generative design tools, and autonomous task managers will reshape and redefine sales and manufacturing processes from the ground up.

Ultimately, the goal of Epicor CPQ is to put the power of creation into the hands of our users. By combining human creativity with machine intelligence, there are no limits to the personalized products and streamlined solutions we can build together.

One thing is clear––AI changes everything. By embedding intelligent capabilities into CPQ, we’re poised to revolutionize sales and manufacturing in ways we can only begin to imagine. The possibilities are endless, and the future looks bright as we harness technology to increase efficiency and innovation across industries.

If you find this idea exciting and are interested in shaping the future of product experience, we invite you to partner with us. We are looking to collaborate with innovative brands and manufacturers. All you need to do is fill out a form, and we will schedule a meeting to discuss further.

 
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