Configuration services: taking the guess work out of furniture specifications
October 10, 2017
A great software tool makes work easier for everyone. In the case of a CET design software, such as Configura, this technology ensures accurate specifications and orders for office furniture layouts, assisting manufacturers, designers and dealers throughout the ordering process.
CET Designer software is a tool that simplifies the design, specification, and selling process for businesses with configurable products, such as office furniture. As an all-in-one space-planning utility, it allows users to focus on the visual picture while the program handles the technical requirements.
As a Configura premier implementation partner, OST provides the project management, development and quality assurance resources that help manufacturers create and publish CET Designer Extensions and Catalogs for their products. We have helped manufacturers of all sizes leverage the power of CET Designer to increase revenue on sales, increase efficiency for quote and order preparation, and decrease cost by reducing or eliminating quote/order entry errors.
We went to the subject matter expert, Nathan Bonner, Configuration Consultant at OST, to hear firsthand how configuration tools makes specifying and selling products fast and easy, while reducing cost and errors.
Q. What is rules-based product configuration and what makes it a valuable investment?
A. Rules base product configuration ensures that all of the rules and requirements for correct product specification are represented in the final configuration output. Any configurations outside of a certain range are flagged or rejected. The software eliminates the possibility of configuring a product in a way that is not recommended or unsafe. Configura allows the user to focus on the creative process as opposed to having to remember rules about brackets, connectivity, sizes, etc. We work with the engineers or subject matter experts, those who are most familiar with the project at the beginning to define typical business scenarios for the product. We would work from the simplest configuration to the most complex, and with that develop rules for how the product can be used throughout an environment. We then validate against those business scenarios and rules. For a product manufacturer, the tool reduces the likelihood that a product will be planned incorrectly, reducing errors, costly mistakes, and unhappy customers and dealers.
Q. How does the configuration software help in the sales process?
A. The software creates a validated bill of materials so there is no more “oops, I forgot the brackets.” As the product is placed in the layout, a materials list is created. Parts are not left off an order, which means installers aren’t left without valuable parts on installation day. The software also creates high quality renderings, which helps everyone envision the finished product.
Q. Can you explain why Configura is the preferred tool among manufacturers and the Architect and Design community?
A. Other space planning tools don’t compete with the graphical complexity of Configura. They also are not a rules-based system, so there are no checks in place to ensure the application is created correctly. Other programs require a designer, architect, or a dealer to have access to company catalogs or specification guides. These users must verify all their bills and materials themselves.
A company at NeoCon shared that they were specifying a panel system installation, and when it was almost put together they realized they had chosen the wrong top cap for the panels. They said to me, “This would not have happened had we had a rules-based system.” A rules- based system can prevent these types of disasters and costly mistakes.
Q. What are the benefits of a price list model for a manufacturer?
A. A price list model is built so the user doesn’t have to go research and pull pricing from a generic catalog after they have planned and specified the product. Configura gathers that price information behind the scenes as the product is being specified. Every time you are grabbing a new product or configuring it in some way, calls are being made to the appropriate price list based on the customer you have identified. The price lists are based on not just the general product, but on specific customers and discounts. Because Configura calculates the price while you are specifying the product, the software does the work for you to get a base price at the end. This efficiency saves manufacturers and their customers an immense amount of time and hassle.
Q. Can you explain direct integration with third party business tools such as ERP and CRM software?
A. Integration takes away all the duplicate order entry, saves time, and removes room for error. Manufacturers are currently not using CET as their primary business tool. Manufacturers typically have ERP or business tools to support CRM and operations manufacturing. CRM and ERP can absorb the information from the CET designer to reduce complexity.
The integration piece happens when we configure something in CET designer. We specify the space, create our price list, and review everything. The customer accepts the proposal and we then need to create an order. In a typical system, someone must now go back and key in all that same order information into their order entry system. We can integrate CET designer with those business systems to pass the order information along and say okay, your order information has been confirmed. All that order information then goes to the manufacturer’s system. They can review it, and with a simple click, approve it into the workflow and put it into production.