In an increasingly competitive and wide market what makes the difference among companies is the capability of perfectly meeting clients’ needs. In order to be competitive, manufacturing companies have to allow for product customization taking advantage of innovative solutions. Like a configurator allowing to offer bespoke products and solutions for every client.
Thanks to a web configurator, creativity moves from the producer to the consumer, so that the latter has the illusion of creating the product. Creativity and interaction make users’ wishes take shape in real time.
When we talk about web-based product configurators we refer to particular cutting-edge solutions which are very complex given the increasing need to be available from any device and browser.
In designing the product we will pay particular attention to:
- Aesthetic and functional quality
- Ease of use
- Clear and engaging interactions
- Product enhancement
- Maximum portability of the system on all devices.
HOW PRODUCT CONFIGURATORS ARE ORIGINATED
3D product configurators spring from many hours dedicated to analysis, focus on the product to be configured, graphic interface design, User Experience analysis and to choose the most suitable technology.
During these production phases a lot of papers, charts, drafts, wireframe models and concept maps. These sketches will be shared with clients in order to let them fully understand the choices made in every phase of the project.
Clients’ involvement is crucial for us, as it allows us not to take the wrong course, save time, understand if the product is actually suitable for their business needs.
“I would like to develop a configurator”. It is not enough, but generally it starts like this. The next question is: “How much does it cost?”
Answering is not easy. For this reason it takes to spend some time with the client to study in depth different issues such as:
- Where will the configurator be used? Web? Desktop? Tablet?
- Will it have to be integrated to existing platforms? ERP? E-commerce platforms? Business intelligence?
- Who is going to use it? Employees? Retailers? Final customers?
- What does the output have to look like? Bill of materials? Quotation? Order?
During the development phase, a thousand questions will arise, that will have to be rationalized and properly documented. This is what also brain storming is for: to discover doubts and questions that could otherwise compromise the successful result of the project.
It should be pointed out that developing a bespoke product configurator is an investment for both clients and developers. Delaying the delivery or worse still retracing one’s steps is a cost for everyone. Therefore it will be necessary to proceed step by step bearing in mind that it is a prototype.
Once the early drafts have been carried out and ideas clarified, it is the turn of the first hypothesis about interface and process.
Interface design and Process design are not distinct activities.
It is definitely the most complex phase, in which the client could discover that the final product is not the one he was imagining or in which undervalued production or sale issues arise.
Putting a human decision-making process down in black and white with the aim of turning it into a mathematical algorithm is a fun yet difficult game.
In this phase little drawings and concept maps help a lot and will be reworked many times.
Wireframe helps define graphically a process that is often complex.
At the end of this phase we will have a logic and graphic project to be developed.
In this phase we will need to precisely define how the product to be configured is made. What are its manufacturing characteristics? What accessories does it have? How do they influence other accessories, prices and bill of material.
The characteristics will be spread within a process consisting of (sequential or parallel) phases.
Usually in this phase, after steady assessments and considerations, the client starts seeing his own product in a new light.
The outcome of this phase will be a flow chart or a long and branched process map if preferred.
Any product generally has its own configuration process and here it will be very important to succeed in grouping products into logical categories, which not always correspond to the market one already defined in the price list or on the ERP software.
Creating and filling in data sheets of a standard product or of potential exceptions to assess the solidity of the structure and of the process phases.
Once the previous phases of steady meetings with the client, after about two weeks, the early experiments on prototypes will appear.
The prototype can be something imaginary or a working semifinished product of the final project.
Releases and testings will be made on an operating platform.
When all will be convincing, the full production of the project will be activated.
Product configurators do not exist, that is to say that it does not exist a tailor-made one for your product: it has to be built.
Everyone who invests in it distinguishes himself from others. The cost of the investment could be transformed into profit in terms of sales or corporate image.
Clients using configurators are satisfied because they feel involved in its implementation, they consider it as personal and original.
Having different items is not the same as combining different items: combinations that cannot be produced can generate, but they can be used to anticipate new productions or only in terms of promotion.
The configuration can be aligned to the development of price lists.