Let’s say you are a manufacturer that produces a basic portfolio of products for filtering light or protecting against the weather. You sell to businesses—primarily distributors. Those businesses are dealing with a new breed of end users—whether they are consumers, other distributors, or retailers. We are living in a world where consumers, and the businesses that give them those products, want custom products that meet specific, even personal needs. Or they want the latest options for creating those products. So it makes sense that your business customers want you to give them a vast array of options for blinds, awnings, screens, or whatever you produce. They want you to process orders without tapping on their shoulder, and deliver products that cut costs to the bone and race out of the gate. And those awnings and screens need to be fabulous.
The demands can either turn your business into a tangle of textiles and teams working with the wrong information, or an organization in tune with the changing marketplace. A product configurator, and increasingly a sales and product configurator, is an essential tool for anticipating, developing, and selling the products that your business customers need.
Configuring success for distributors and retailers—e-Con’s your tool
We began by talking to a manufacturer, but a configurator like e-Con is an essential tool for a distributor and retailer dealing with many options for products. Businesses that sell customer products need a configurator that can make “custom products” a standard. And you need a standard, but flexible process that helps teams move from quote to production (or for distributors and retailers, quote to delivery) whether they’re working with their configurator or their ERP or CRM system. Let’s look briefly behind the screen and see how a best-in-class configurator can do more than you might expect for speed, cost, and quality.
Configuring sunscreens, shades, blinds, and awnings: challenges
Options and variables for shades, blinds and awnings meet different needs, but they do share one need—sheer volume, and an abundance of choices. The customer alone is choosing from an increasingly large array of fabrics, screen and frame materials, sizing, UV protection—options need to be impressive and readily available. And every choice can open what we call the Pandora’s Box if a salesperson doesn’t have checks and balances. Even a seemingly simple option—say an awning’s frame size—impacts design, weight, and a host of mechanical issues.
We’ll take one mechanical issue that can turn into a train wreck if every variation isn’t considered—unfolding setup for a screen, blind or awning. A large unfold may require 2 or 3 arms to wear the cloth. If that large size is custom, then design variables still need to make that 2 or 3 arm option work. Choosing mechanical over manual operation can make design take a 180-degree turn by bringing in an electro motor that can change depending on all the other options chosen. Opting for an electric engine adds another layer that has to work with all options, including intricate engine options.
Those choices impact pricing, production demands, delivery timelines—all the prickly issues that need to reflect crisp efficiency across the business and optimal speed and flexibility.
And then we arrive at margins. Customers are fickle, but you can’t simply reduce costs to meet their need. Quotes need to reflect precise and always current costs and built-in pointers to options that can meet customer needs and still help realize profit.
The e-Con Sales and Product Configurator: Profitable sun and shadow
e-Con’s flexible, robust product and sales capabilities can meet your industry needs, without the need for you to re-engineer the solution. Of course, you can tailor solution options, but even that doesn’t require programming knowledge.
- Errors are perhaps your greatest hurdle—one mistake on an order can lose a deal. If you win, cost over-runs, waste, and delays kill a project. e-Con’s integration with ERP and CRM makes sure information is current and centralized. Our rules engine has checks and balances, pricing is automated, version control means one version for everyone—accuracy is our priority.
- If you’re dealing with volume orders—for example, varied screens for a large hospital, your customer wants to see multiple quotes reflecting accurate options on one screen—you can copy and paste, fill your screens, and generate quotes concurrently. It’s cool, it’s efficient, and customers like what they see and how quickly they get it.
- You know all selling is based on a balance of competitive pricing and quality. Exacting design and costs for producing them must be incorporated into the quotation process. e-Con maps costing with design within that first phase, and it’s always current, thanks to integration with ERP.
- A strong rules engine and robust integration with (Dynamics) ERP ensures that sales people and customers select options and accessories that you’ve set up as feasible.
- e-Con calculates all essential data for costing, pricing, weight, and other variables in real time.
- Results can be pushed to (Dynamics) ERP or CRM in seconds—a jump start for production.