Many of the configurators used in the manufacturing industry today cannot provide the security of knowing all configurations are legal, as they are based on older configuration technology. This insecurity can put the company at risk. Many manufacturing companies of complex, configurable products attempt to mitigate this risk by having a team check all proposals before sending them to a customer; a process that is time consuming and open to human errors. And errors do unfortunately happen.
Let me give you two real life examples. Have you ever received the wrong item in an online order, for instance when ordering clothes? Most of us have. It is a relatively small issue, and after contacting the clothing company, sending back the wrong item and waiting 2-4 days for the right item, the incident is quickly forgotten. While it can be frustrating, it only cost us a bit of time. Now imagine the same happening with a $500,000 machine that has been produced especially for your company (engineered to order or ETO). The sales and manufacturing process of such an expensive machine usually take months, and if an error is not caught in the initial process and the machine is built, the error will be manifested in the finished product. Any plans your company had for that machine will have to be postponed, which might entail a loss for your company. The manufacturer also takes a huge loss, because they now must re-produce the machine to the (hopefully) correct specifications at their own cost. So, the initial phase of configuring the product correctly first time around is a must to minimize risk for both manufacturer and customer.
The hearing aid demo is an example of a product configurator based on new generation configuration technology. Using a compilation of the full solution space of the product (all the features, rules and conditions), the product configurator has the knowledge of all legal configurations of the product and can thus inform the user when a choice would result in an illegal combination of features. With this level of configuration technology, the product configurator will produce 100% legal products, making the process much smoother and safer for both customer and manufacturer.
If you would like to know more about the potential of knowing the full solution space of a product, I urge you to look at this page about solution space. It really is a game changer when it comes to focusing resources on your most profitable products, while recognizing significant cost savings from eliminating product combinations that are rarely, if ever, sold.
This blog post is the first of a series of three posts that all look at product configuration as a topic. The next two posts will address this theme by looking at different use scenarios, and at what to be aware of when looking to choose or upgrade a configuration engine.