Customizing products to customer requirements helps manufacturers differentiate and drive higher margins. Creating variants of a single, global product to meet local needs and preferences helps them get to market fast on a global scale. But offering multiple product variants in either of these scenarios creates a tremendous amount of complexity. This complexity results in overburdened engineers, slow quote response times, and costly mistakes. What if companies could take advantage of configured products without having to invest so much time and effort in designing custom-engineered orders? Or put so much time and energy into creating a quote with a reasonable level of confidence? Or suffer from errors?
As discussed in the new eBook from Tech-Clarity‘s founder and President, Jim Brown, 3D Design and Validation for Configure-to-Order, there are ways to make life easier at order time. The eBook shares best practices uncovered by Tech-Clarity’s research and practical experiences from GE Power’s Jeff Erno. The answer is to shift as much design and validation as possible “left,” or earlier in the product development process. This helps resolve a lot of the headaches that happen when quotes or orders require engineering effort to estimate costs, create designs, and prepare manufacturing documentation.
The eBook discusses the value of a configure-to-order (CTO) approach. While there are many products that have to be produced using engineer-to-order (ETO) techniques, and many more that have some elements of ETO, companies that can move the bulk of the workload earlier in the process can create an advantage by responding more rapidly to customers. They also give themselves better insight into costs so they can develop more accurate, confident quotes.
CTO comes with its own complications, of course. One approach that companies use to configure products to order, for example, is creating multiple CAD assemblies in advance. Unfortunately, this is very time-consuming and makes incorporating changes a nightmare. Instead, companies can design across configurations using an approach called the “150% BOM” or “max case” design. This includes all possible combinations in a single CAD model. With the right ability to filter based on configuration options, this can help companies reduce design and validation complexity without having to create a library full of assemblies. Our research also suggests that using a modular design approach leads to better results, and makes this “shift left” easier.
In addition to designing in a configured context, there are other things manufacturers can do to reduce time and effort when it matters most – when the customer is waiting. Our research shows that rules-based design, design automation, and configurators help manufacturers achieve better financial performance. As the eBook concludes, “Using the right processes and 3D configuration technology, manufacturers can improve efficiency, streamline order processes, reduce errors, and develop accurate quotes much more quickly.”
Manufacturers of “to order” products should investigate the ability to shift design left and leverage automation to streamline quotes, orders, and manufacturing. While not all products are CTO candidates, and many will have “specials” that require engineering at order time, a shift left can result valuable quote and order performance improvements.