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Showing posts with label constraints. Show all posts
Showing posts with label constraints. Show all posts

Don't re-use your existing rules

Posted On Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Ok, so you've invested a couple of man-years to get your configuration rules working in your current ERP or PLM system. It took a lot of work, and you have over 10,000 rules - some of them really complex. You're really proud of the accomplishment of the team.

You don't always get the result you expect, and then some engineer has to debug for a few hours - but all in all it works.

However, the rules are now in you back-end system - and your sales are still using Excel or some other home-built tool to quote. The quotes never matches what the back-end system has available. Your have a lot of change orders, where you need to come back to the customer with a updated and correted quotes.

So you think, maybe you should buy a CPQ system and re-use the existing rules?

No - don't do that!

Switching system and keeping your rules is not the answer. I'm sorry to say, but your rules probably aren't very good. This is a classic 'sunk cost' bias where just because you spent a lot of money on something - doesn't mean it's good. If you have 10 people digging a hole in the ground for a day, is the hole worth 80 man hours?

You need efficient rules or even better constraints.

One example for a rim and tire:
tire.diameter=rim.diameter
Read more about constraints here.

These rules or constraint will be correct today, they will be correct tomorrow - because they describe the natural relation between two items in your product portfolio.

Write new rules!

Maybe even re-use them in your back-end system in the future. The complicated and error-prone maintenance will kill your old rules. Don't let them kill your CPQ-system as well.


Constraints, rules or relations - what's the difference?

Posted On Tuesday, October 8, 2019



In CPQ, there's a lot of talk about the way you describe how the products can be configured. Some vendors talk about constraints, some about rules, some try to get around it by calling it constraint rules (I'm looking at you Apptus!).

All in all though, who cares about what they are called? The more important question is how easy they are to set up and maintain.

Tacton calls it constraints. If you look up the word constraint, it's a limitation or restriction - which is actually a good way to think about it. Without constraints all combinations of all items in the product can be combined in any way the customer wants. With a constraint, you limit the way you can combine the product.

So if you have 100 rims and 100 tyres, and you want to describe the valid combinations of these - how do you do?

In Tacton, you try to figure out the natural law, of why they work together. So, why does a tyre work with a rim? Well, they obviously have to fit. So the width of the rim needs to match the width of the tyre. In Tacton language:

rim.width=tyre.width

And that's it. It's a natural law. It's true today, and it's true tomorrow. Most likely it's true in 10 years (if we haven't come to flying cars by then...). I want to point out, that usually, there's a number of constraints working together, so there's going to be constraints about diameters, materials, tyre patterns etc. But let's stick to one constraint for now.

So now you may be thinking, is there any other way? This seems to be the smartest way?

Yes, this is the smartest way - but there are many more ways you can do this. You can write relations, e.g.

tyre A works with rim A, B and D
tyre B works with rim C
tyre C works with rim D and E

This works. And sometimes this is the only way to describe the product (typically where things have to be tested to ensure it works). But this way stinks in general, because is the first relation true tomorrow? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows? So it becomes a very cumbersome way to describe things. Also, this is an easy way to get to 10,000 rules or more.

So, in summary. Ignore what the product description method is called. But do make sure it's easy to set up and maintain over time!

Configurator challenge

Posted On Friday, March 8, 2019


The configurator is one of the more difficult parts to evaluate in a CPQ-solution. The most straight forward way is probably to set up part of your real product rules in the CPQ system. However, this exercise is time consuming if you are evaluating multiple vendors. You are also likely to get questions from the vendors which in turn consume even more time.
It is not uncommon to try to solve this by instead giving the vendors a general problem and ask them to solve it. The travelling salesman problem is one typical example, however these problems tend to be completely unrealistic and have almost no relation to real configuration problems.
Below is an example of a configuration task that can show you how the configurator works. The main complexity with this challenge are all the ‘or’ statements which are very common product rules problems, but that are difficult to solve with a simple configurator.
Please contact us to get the expected results for the scenario.
Configuration task 1: 
Variables:
  • A: integer between 1 and 5
  • B: integer between 1 and 5
  • C: integer between 1 and 5
  • D: integer between 1 and 5
  • E: integer between 1 and 3
  • F: integer between 1 and 9999
  • G: integer between 1 and 9999
  • H: integer between 1 and 20
Rules:
  • Rule 1: A=2 requires D=4
  • Rule 2: B=1 requires (A=1 and E=1) or (A=2 and E=1)
  • Rule 3: C=1 requires (A=3 and B=2) or (A=4 and B=2)
  • Rule 4: C=2 requires (A=3 and B=2) or (A=4 and B=2)
  • Rule 5: C=3 requires (A=2 and B=1) or (A=3 and B=2)
  • Rule 6: C=4 requires B!=4
  • Rule 7: C=5 requires D=3 or D=4 or D=5
  • Rule 8: A=2 requires G=1 or G=2
  • Rule 9: D=3 requires F=3 or G=4
  • Rule 10: A >= F
  • Rule 11: E >= F + G
  • Rule 12: H = A * B
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