It used to be enough for the equipment manufacturer to build the highest quality product. Customers often were willing to wait for the manufacturer to fine-tune a design or tweak a production process if it meant improving the quality of the final product.
The emergence of a global economy fueled by Web-based information technology has changed that dynamic. It has made it easier for competitors from across the globe to enter new markets, forcing all manufacturers to change their mode of operation. Companies that use industrial machinery no longer have the luxury of waiting for new equipment to be delivered because their customers are demanding faster delivery on their orders. Thus, the industrial equipment manufacturer has to cut time-to-market as well.
Under this new paradigm, product quality is a given. If an industrial equipment manufacturer can’t deliver a product to the customer’s exact specifications in the time frame the customer demands, there likely is another supplier waiting in the wings that can, and maybe even at a lower price.
It’s only natural that companies struggling to manage such complexity would seek out Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. After all, they have come to be widely recognized as the core technology platform for bringing a sense of order to business processes. A recent study by Aberdeen Group, a leading business research and consulting firm, found that best-in-class companies in the industrial machinery and components sector make more extensive use of ERP than their peers
In their infancy, ERP systems helped companies streamline operations by automating business processes. Over time, however, ERP vendors have architected systems that mimic best practices for a range of business functions—from taking customer orders to planning production schedules—allowing these systems to be a force for instilling a sense of discipline—while also helping improve performance—in an organization.
Often, companies adopt the best practices embedded an ERP system as a way of ensuring that all business processes are performed in exactly the same fashion across the entire enterprise. This form of standardization has many advantages, from cutting down on the potential for duplication of effort to winning favor with customers and suppliers by making the company easier to work with.
The use of a product configurator is a prime example of how an industrial equipment manufacturer can benefit from using the best practices embedded in an ERP system or Manufacturing system. A well-designed product configurator will be linked to a repository of information on the makeup of products that the company already has built, as well as a knowledge base of parts that can fit together to create new configurations. This information typically is gathered by querying company’s product design and Manufacturing experts.
Linking this information to the product configuration gives sales and customer service reps the ability to tell customers almost instantly whether the exact product they are requesting can be built. When the configurator is part a fully integrated ERP system, the rep also can tell the customer whether the parts required to build the product are readily available, and if the company has the available production capacity to fill the customer’s order in a reasonable time-frame.
In short, the company has an easy, standardized method of telling customers exactly what they can build for them, when they can deliver it, and how much it will cost.