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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

Publicly available B2B CPQ examples

Posted On Saturday, February 2, 2019

(updated 2020-06-24)

Configurators built using CPQ software :

ABB (Configit)
Aritco (Animech Technologies)
Bennington Marine (Verenia)
B├╝rkert (Tacton)
Demag (Camos)
Ebara (Intelliquip)
Festo (Camos)
Grundfos (Configit)
John Deere (Configit)
Lisec (Encoway)
Maxon motor (Camos)
Mercedes-Benz Trucks (CAS Software / SAP)
Oldcastle (KBMax)
Scania (Tacton)
Tuff Shed (KBMax)

Demos by vendors:

Bike/Lawn Mower/Etc (e-Con Solutions)
Elevator (Tacton)
Hearing Device (Configit)
Med-tech cart (Tacton)
Scissor lift/Cupboard/Etc (DriveWorks)
Truck (Tacton)

Notable configurators built in-house:

DAF Trucks
International Trucks
MAN Trucks
Montech AG
Renault Trucks
Schindler
Siemens AG
Volkswagen


Other configurators may be found in the configurator database, however most of them are very simple B2C (Business to Consumer) products.

Why is product configuration complex?

Posted On Thursday, January 17, 2019


In essence, a product configurator is only a bunch of selection menus that you need to keep track of to validate that it is technically correct solution. So why is it complex, and why do you need a tool for it?

The easiest way to explain this is to think of a typical configurator for a product. Imagine that our sales configurator has 25 questions, with an average of 10 answers to each question. This is a reasonably sized configurator, your product may very well have many more questions. So how many theoretical variants of the product do we have? To calculate this, you have to take the number of variants in question 1 which is 10, multiple by the number of variants in question 2 which is also 10, and keep on going...

So basically 10x10x10… until we get to 25 questions. So this gives us 10^25 number of solutions (that’s a 1 with 25 zeros).

This is a large number, but how large is it? Well, imagine we spend 1 millisecond (a thousand of a second) to analyze each potential solution just to make sure it is valid or not. Well, then we would spend the time equal to the age of our universe 10000 times (the age of the universe is about 10^21) to validate that our solution is correct.

So it becomes obvious we cannot analyze each solution in a configurator. We can cheat - and just try the configuration the sales rep put together and check that all rules are ok. But then we won't know if there are any better solutions out there.

Tacton uses a constraint-solving configuration engine, to try to do something smarter.

Contact us to find out what!

Common abbreviations explained

Posted On Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Below is a list of frequently used abbreviations used in relation to CPQ:

  • ATO – Assemble To Order;  is a production approach where once a confirmed order for products is received, the products are assembled.

  • BOM – Bill Of Material; describes the different components/articles that together create a product. A BOM for a bicycle, for example, consists of all the parts that make up the bicycle: the frame, the saddle, wheels, and so on.

  • BTO – Built To Order; sometimes referred to as make to order (MTO), is a production approach where once a confirmed order for products is received, products are built.

  • CAD – Computer Aided Design; is the use of computer systems to assist in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design.

  • CPQ – Configure, Price and Quote; the complete software suite for configuring, pricing and quoting your custom product.

  • CRM – Customer Relation Management; the software suite for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients, and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. 

  • E-BOM – Engineering Bill Of Material; the list of engineering components/articles in a product (see BOM). Typically used as an complement to S-BOM and M-BOM.

  • ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning; the software suite to manage information across an entire organization, including finance, manufacturing and sometime sales and service.

  • ETO – Engineer To Order; a product in which after an order is received, parts of or the design is done uniquely for the specific customer.

  • M-BOM - Manufacturing BOM; the list of components/articles required to manufacture a product (see BOM). Typically used as an complement to S-BOM and E-BOM.

  • MTO - Made To Order; see BTO (Built To Order)

  • PDM – Product Data Management; typically an IT-system containing information about the product like CAD-drawings etc.

  • PLM – Product Lifecycle Management; in essence the next generation of PDM (even though vendors of PLM like to differentiate)

  • Sales-BOM – As Sold BOM; which is the list of component that are sold to a customer. These components are broken down to a E-BOM.

  • SKU - Stock Keeping Unit; a distinct type of item for sale, often the items included in a S-BOM. Typically used as another term for article or component. 

How CPQ analytics can improve product development

Posted On Friday, August 18, 2017


One interesting aspect of an implemented CPQ solution is the possibility to analyze sales in a new way.

Traditional sales statistics answers the question what has been sold. This is somewhat interesting but normally it doesn’t bring very much new insight to the table.

With clever BI-tools (like Tableau or QlikView) it’s possible to slice the data in a way that will give you a better understanding on what’s tending and who is really doing profitable sales. But this still doesn’t answer the big question… With ordinary sales statistics one can tell WHAT is selling, but it doesn’t answer the question WHY?

A CPQ solution makes it possible to keep track of all quotations. This opens up for analysis where one can compare successful quotes with the less successful. This type of analysis will give concrete measures on what products that has been offered and make it possible to compare it what has actually been sold.

The analysis gives the possibility to reduce the product portfolio based on what has been part of actual quotations and if it has been sold. This gives a rating per sub-component whether a certain product is providing adequate value on the market.

The analysis also answers the question where there is possibility for new business. By understanding the type of deals that are refused by customers gives great input for product development.

This video introduces the concept of CPQ analysis.

Five common pricing mistakes a CPQ solution will address

Posted On Friday, September 2, 2016



Pricing is difficult and also very sensitive. Changes in pricing is one of the most effective way to level overall profit.

This list of pricing mistakes can be used to build a good business case for a CPQ (Configure-Price-Quote) investment.

Weak controls on discounting
It’s not uncommon that sales representatives are given a lot of freedom when it comes to negotiating the price. This means what the profit per deal is very dependent on the person executing the sales.

Discounts are often given without a controlled won/loss analysis and are more based on gut feeling. This means that prices will vary very randomly.

Without analysis and a proper approval process these issues will not go away. This is something a CPQ solution will address.

Inadequate systems for tracking competitor selling prices and market share
It’s difficult to understand the completion and most companies don’t put any effort into analyzing the lost deals.

With a CPQ solution it’s possible to benchmark the won and lost deals in a very structured way. It’s possible to find what key features of the product that correlates with won deals and also what features that are typical for lost deals.

Cost-plus pricing
Cost plus pricing is still very common in the manufacturing industry. The problem with this approach is that it assumes that the customer value is dependent on the production cost. Everybody knows that this is not the case.

A CPQ solution can price on factors that are actually valued by the customer and at the same time ensure that margin.

Price increases poorly executed
There is a problem when price increases can’t be motivated. If we’re not providing any new customer value, why should I pay a higher price?

It’s essential to plan ahead and do price increases as your product improves. If your new engine will cut fuel consumption there is no problem to pay a higher price.

That’s why price increase should be coordinated with product development. This means that timing is essential. Do the math and plan ahead. This is a process that a CPQ solution should support.

Worldwide price inconsistencies
In a global market it’s no longer possible to have inconsistent pricing.

By introducing a central storage for local price it’s possible to understand and correct price inconsistencies. A CPQ solution normally connects the global and the local prices. This means that a CPQ solution introduces the possibility to have governance for local pricing.
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