Selling kitchens and office furniture is a complex and time-consuming task. Too much non-value-added time is spent dealing with technical details. From previously being a traditional and largely localized industry, the Kitchen and Bath Industry now quickly moves toward becoming globalized, with high demands on rapid product development and efficient sales channels. The companies that choose the best tools for their sales and ordering needs will enjoy competitive advantage in the fight for market shares.
Combining large-scale production with unique customer demands is a challenging task for companies that produce component-based products – kitchens, office furniture, shelving systems, material handling systems, construction products and other goods. Assigning part numbers is the customary way of describing component based products and communicating with ERPs and other information systems. Many part numbers, however, increase the risk that incorrect specification and incorrect input become routine; errors begin to compound in sales, ordering and manufacturing processes.
Indeed, component-based products give rise to millions of potential variants. The almost infinite number of combinations begs these questions:
Can the salesperson or designer, without the use of an intelligent configuration tool, correctly calculate multitudes of combinations?
Is it humanly possible to propose the best solution without the aid of an intelligent configuration tool when there are millions of potential variants?
Will the customer understand the proposal if it lacks visualization possibilities and only “shows” numbers and vector drawings?
Will the products be accurately produced, delivered and installed without the aid of an intelligent configuration tool?
The answers to the above questions, of course, are “no” in every case.
However, the problems associated with component-based products and variant handling can be solved by using a graphical, rules-based product configurator that automatically handles part numbers while providing stunning visualization possibilities.
4 fundamental points to consider
In our view, any analysis of design software must consider the degree to which a system can support a company’s operational, strategic and tactical goals, as well as any added value that a new system can generate. The advantages of a sales configurator impacts time, certainty, creativity and training of new designers and salespeople. All are equally important in the struggle to win a contract/customer.
1. Time it takes to design an average-sized kitchen
The first aspect is to look at is the time it takes to design an average kitchen. As a reference, designing and drawing, quoting and visualizing an average-sized kitchen in CET Designer takes about 15 minutes. Comparing this time with the time it takes using a traditional kitchen design tool shows that the latter takes significantly longer – often an hour or more.
Most often, customers want to make design or layout changes to the initial proposal. The number of revisions could be many; every revision creates a lot of work and delays the sales process. With CET Designer, as opposed to traditional design software, the many automatic revision features make changes extremely easy and fast. CET Designer has proved to be many times more efficient in this design and change phase, thereby shortening the sales process and the number of iterations between the kitchen designer and the customer.
2. Certainty that rules out configuration errors
The costs of human error vary among industries and companies; however, a conservative estimate puts this amount in the range of two to four percent of a company’s annual sales. The actual cost of errors is usually much higher.
A sales system that automatically prevents errors from being entered into quotes and orders is a huge competitive advantage. Errors create a ripple effect of extra costs and inconveniences affecting everyone in the sales, ordering, manufacturing and installation cycle. Errors particularly affect the sales organization, eroding and sometimes destroying the relationship with the end customer.
Creativity is a factor that is not easily quantified, but it’s still important to include in an analysis. A designer or salesperson’s ability to quickly and easily produce different proposals, while the system simultaneously ensures each proposal’s accuracy, can give the salesperson a confidence-inducing boost in the pressure-filled sales environment. It will also give a strategic advantage to the company if the sales person is able to create and deliver new and unique design concepts to the customer in a fashion that is easy for the everyday person to understand.
4. Training new designers and salespeople
One of the greatest hurdles for expansion is training people in product knowledge and drawing software. Finding a salesperson is easy. Solving the issues of logistics and distribution is relatively easy. But training people in product knowledge and the use of a drawing package is difficult, time-consuming and, in the early stages of the learning curve, prone to a lot of human errors.
A commonly used figure in the kitchen industry puts the cost of training a new salesperson at the equivalent of the new hire’s annual salary plus the time it takes to become proficient (between 12 and16 months). Imagine significantly reducing that cost to a fraction and shortening the time it takes for the new hire to become an expert, from years to months or even weeks.
These are some of the four top aspects we believe a company should consider when choosing a configurator. The mindset among many company leaders, unfortunately, doesn’t go beyond thinking of software for sales and design as more than a drawing tool. It’s a narrow mindset, because the true power of a technology like Configura’s is in the ability to quickly and accurately design, specify, render and order configurable products.
But smart companies do analyze and are open to reimagining old processes. They’re open to reinventing themselves. Ultimately, they’re open to technology that doesn’t just tweak a process – it turns the process on its head, simplifies it and creates a whole new way of working.
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