To configure means to put together a product from well-defined modules according to a set of pre-defined rules and constraints.
Product configuration enables the user to select modular components from the standard product library. The configurator is an expert system that is able to combine modules according to predefined rules. The complexity and number of possible variants would make it difficult to carry out this task manually. The product configurator software usually comprises a form that allows the user to choose from predefined options. Rules ensure the user makes valid selections.
The product configurator usually requests the user to create or open an existing project. A project collates the data produced during the current configuration session. The ability to reopen the configuration session at any time allows the saving of data acquired as a project.
As the user makes selections and enters values, the product configurator selects the appropriate components and adds features or options which eventually define the product. The configurator dynamically shows information such as component cost, weight and possibly manufacturing lead time.
By linking the configurator to a computer-aided-design (CAD) system, a 3D model is created dynamically with each user selection. For more details of this see design automation.
Once all selections are complete, the user can create several documents at the touch of a button. Often a customer quotation is generated, which contains a detailed breakdown of the equipment, the prices, delivery options and all other information that the customer needs. Automatically a financial summary is sent to management for approval.
The product configurator allows a product to be defined very quickly and accurately. Configuration saves considerable sales time by eliminating the need to research the product, find information, apply selection rules and collate the information. It takes just a few minutes to enter new information and create accurate customer quotations. Product configurators help reduce sales cost and build customer satisfaction as information is received quickly. Following a purchase order, the configurator specification requires no further engineering and is passed directly to production. Saving engineering costs, reducing delivery time, and improving the overall profitability of the business.
It is essential to maintain the product configurator to reflect all changes in the standard products. Engineering must learn new skills to be able to maintain both the modular products and also the configurator system. In most cases, this requires some knowledge of computer programming.
Gatehouse Design has considerable experience in the design of product configuration systems. We can provide help for you to implement your product configuration system. We can offer a free product audit, advice and product configuration systems.
Take a look at a series of white papers written to discuss the advantages and challenges of deploying product configurators.