How Visual Product Configuration is Revolutionizing Manufacturing
May 19, 2020
Manufacturing isn’t what it used to be. Today’s buyer demands customization, and if manufacturers want to stay competitive, they need to offer the latest and greatest in configuration options, which means doing things visually.
Traditionally, customization has meant more parts and more variability, which has led to more errors, and more dissatisfied customers. This is why the manufacturing sector, as a whole, has stuck fast to its one-size-fits-all-buyer approach, while the rest of the B2C and B2B world has shifted rapidly towards a more personalized, interactive shopping model.
Custom configuration at scale represents a huge challenge to manufacturers already struggling to coordinate their many departments and functional areas. Still, those that are building out customized orders correctly every time have integrated visual configurators into CPQ systems.
I’ll show you why.
Vision trumps all other senses: When you hear a piece of information, you’ll only remember 10% of it after three days, but if you add a picture, this figure jumps to 65%. The more a consumer’s senses are involved in a purchasing decision, the more connected they are with the brand, and the more they are willing to pay.
With a tool like KBMax, sales reps can configure complex products using an intuitive visual product configuration interface that’s tailored to each company’s specific needs. This interface can range in technical complexity from a simple, 2D configurator with an Amazon-style filtering system, right up to a photorealistic and fully interactive 3D interface with AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) capabilities.
It’s an immersive experience that, depending on the use case, customers can play around with themselves (the software can be embedded into a customer-facing website,) reps can use alongside prospects, or sales can use exclusively as a gated tool.
As customers and reps explore different designs (resizing sections, adding or removing parts, upgrading features, changing colors and dimensions, etc.,) prices change dynamically in real-time, as do a selection of associated documents – from PDF quotes and proposals to cutting lists and CNC data.
Once a configuration has been finalized, reps can generate technical drawings and CAD files from inside the admin, at the touch of a button. These can be tagged on to any documentation that’s sent out to the prospect, whether it be a quote, estimate, or request for further information – whatever is needed to get a deal over the line.
When sales reps swap outdated, paper- or iPad-based sales catalogs for visual product configurators, they give their prospects a crystal clear understanding of the products they’re buying. The result: average deal sizes increase markedly, and return rates fall way down.
Rather than scrolling through an endless list of part numbers and codes that the most experienced on your team struggle to remember, sales reps (or buyers themselves, depending on your setup) can intuitively point and click or drag and drop, in two- or three-dimensions, to rapidly assemble the most complicated selections as per their customers’ requirements.
It’s an immersive shopping experience, and a marked differentiator, that brings products to life and connects buyers to brand on a deep, emotional level. Buyers take full ownership of their configurations, understand every available option, and feel invested in their purchase decisions.
Visual product configuration automates your more menial, slow, recurring sales tasks, empowering reps to respond, lightning-fast, and with pinpoint accuracy, to requests for proposals and quotes. Such agility dramatically shortens sales cycles. If you’re in an industry where “who quotes first” usually wins, you’ll inevitably be losing out to competitors leveraging visual product configuration if you’re stuck using on-prem solutions and Excel.
It’s not just speed, but accuracy that’s greatly enhanced. Visual product configuration software contains logic and rules that eliminate human error and make it impossible for sales to design products that are nonviable from an engineering standpoint. On the contrary, reps are carefully guided towards the optimal selection for the customer, and the one that’s most profitable for you, the supplier.
Thanks to these product and pricing rules, new hires can be brought up to speed in a matter of days. In-depth, visual understanding of complicated products and bundles enables all staff to provide expert-level customer service, becoming their clients’ trusted advisors. The streamlined sales process leaves reps more time to bring in new business and cultivate relationships – you know – the things that actually make money!
Manufacturers of complex, configurable products that are ambitious and want to grow are faced with a serious conundrum: Should they hire more engineers, as they have in the past, or invest in new technology to automate engineering tasks and reduce their engineering burden?
This shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer.
Hiring engineers is expensive, and training them is labor-intensive while investing in technology is cost-effective and scalable. By investing in visual product configuration, you can meet your company’s future engineering needs while improving your efficiency today.
Increased engineering efficiency stems in large part from enhanced collaboration between the sales and engineering departments. Visual product configuration accurately communicates product designs to sales, engineering, and the shop floor in a shared language that each intuitively understands (no more back-of-a-napkin sketches.) Long-standing engineering bottlenecks are diminished.
The detailed understanding of products that visual configuration provides empowers reps to assemble products and bundles without having to call on the expertise of the engineering department. Complex engineering rules built into the backend make technically nonviable or suboptimal configurations impossible, cutting out the endless back-and-forth between customer, sales, and engineering which makes pushing deals over the line so painfully slow.
KBMax’s visual configuration software takes engineering efficiency one giant step further, combining complex engineering rules with CAD and design automation. Producing technical drawings was once the sole domain of the engineering department, now sales reps can generate everything from simple renderings to technical drawings with the touch of a button – whatever’s required to make the sale.
KBMax’s visual configurator automatically generates technical drawings through Solidworks (or many other systems like AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, and PTC Creo.) When engineers receive the CAD outputs, they can either run with them and validate, or customize further as required. The entire sales, engineering, and quoting process is cut from multiple days, or even weeks, down to just 12-48 hours.
As an Account Executive at KBMax, John guides our prospective customers along the exploration path of the KBMax solution to show how we can help solve their major business issues.