I recently had a truly exciting meeting with one of our clients at PLM Group which really made me think about different ways product development teams can become successful in digital world and innovate with speed, therefore achieving efficient sales.
All businesses have their advantages and disadvantages, regular challenges and concerns, but they also have brilliant ideas. Although no two customer meetings are ever the same, they do have a consistent format. We talk about the difficulties the client faces and fix the basics but arguably the most crucial step is figuring out the challenges they are unaware of.
As a member of the PLM Group team, it is our responsibility to regularly meet and guide our valued customers to make sure that all their needs are covered with the latest technology and industry’s best practices. This is the part of the workday that really demonstrates the significance of what we are doing.
What the customer wanted to achieve
The customer I visited develops intelligent furniture and interiors for both the commercial and private sectors. Their goal was to reach efficient sales while expanding their portfolio with more variants of their products to accommodate the preferences of a broader customer base. They also wanted to expand their business from a local supplier to participate in a larger market across different regions and countries
Part of their business was also to install and service the delivered products, hence they wanted to ensure that any issues related to installation or service could be traced to the specific component. This was part of an internal goal of continuous development; by recording all issues they could identify which are frequently reoccurring and change the design to prevent them.
The customer’s challenges
During the initial discussions with the customer, they informed us of some challenges they believed had to be addressed to reach their desired goal of efficient sales. The first challenge concerned the sales process and was related to the sales personnel’s need to visualize the potential order for customers. This capability was in turn connected to another challenge of generating visually appealing 3D data for expanding product portfolio. Furthermore, the quote to the end customer had to be populated with additional information, for example, pricing and estimated time for delivery.
Additionally, as they did not have their own production, another challenge was how to integrate their suppliers into the value chain for efficient cross-company collaboration. This was further complicated as the suppliers were not only consumers of information but also wanted to add data to the digital assets.
Challenges the customer did not know they had
Besides the ones identified by the customer, we soon discovered another set of challenges that they had not realized themselves. Firstly, the continuously growing product portfolio combined with the many variants of each product made portfolio management a necessity. This is to help sales create accurate quotes without being fully reliant on engineering while the latter is guided in the design and development process, including releasing articles.
Another challenge was to determine which system should govern which data and when data should be sent between the different systems. This in turn boils down to what process is to be done in which system. However, utilizing several different systems also results in data being scattered across different databases, something that oftentimes results in data being “locked” in the system it is created. This makes it hard to obtain for people not using – or having access to – the system, hence being reliant on other people to provide them with the information.
Further, the customer did not realize the complexity of their own product development process. Even though their products were not mechanically very complex, the way they were using their tools and systems made the overall development process quite inefficient with many obstacles along the way. The process was more or less determined solely upon the engineer’s way of solving one specific design challenge without considering how this could impact other processes within the organization. For example, what the consequences might be for the release or change management processes, or even how much extra work this choice would inflict upon the engineers themselves in the following design phases.
The value roadmap
To overcome these challenges and enable the customer to reach their desired goal of efficient sales, we created a roadmap of different steps – each with declared values and benefits – that would help them progress towards their goals. Based on interviews and discussions with key persons and stakeholders from the customer, we concluded that they would need a Configure to Order solution that was based on:
- Collaborative Engineering to Manufacturing
- Portfolio & Project Management
- IP, Documentation, and Content Management
- Exchange Management
The solution and its benefits
We started by focusing on Collaborative Engineering to Manufacturing with the goal of implementing a design and release process that was aligned with the strengths of the system.
The new process enabled them to leverage their design tools in such a way that new product variants could be added to the portfolio without the use of CAD tools. It also greatly reduced the number of CAD files needed, which in turn resulted in more efficient releases of new variants and a significantly improved change management process.
Further, the agnostic nature of the 3D ecosystem enabled suppliers to connect their data and information directly to the customer’s value chain, which provided the engineers with a single, unified product structure on which they could work in parallel, both internally and externally.
It was followed by Portfolio & Project Management to define and connect their portfolio to product development, hence closing the gap between sales and engineering. This enabled sales to – without being overly reliant on engineering – put together visual 3D quotations to the customer, thus increasing the RFQ (Request for a Quota) ratio. An additional benefit of this way of working is that the quotation is directly connected to the digital assets, meaning that the customer had full traceability of each delivery: which version of which component was delivered to which customer while also being able to issue reports and services to specific deliveries.
IP, Documentation, and Content Management enabled the customer to reduce the administrative burden through the consolidation of intellectual property, data, and other information within a unified 3D ecosystem. The data consolidation made it possible to minimize the number of duplicates and reuse those already existing to a greater extent, hence also reducing the required inventory. Procurement could leverage this single source of truth to propagate procurement decisions to design and manufacturing while engineers received system support for quickly finding approved components or systems needed for their designs.
Finally, Exchange Management connected the customer’s design and engineering data to their ERP system to manage pricing information for quotations and manage agreements with customers and suppliers.
By using a systematic procedure with a focus on understanding the “why’s” and “what’s” before looking into the “how’s”, we were able to understand the customer’s needs and translate those into a plan by using the latest technology. We put a lot of focus on not getting stuck in habits, i.e. “old ways of working”, in favour of a value-oriented approach to overcoming issues and instead implement a “smartest way of working” for the customer. This enabled the customer to adopt processes that were both more efficient and aligned with the strengths of the system.
This journey to efficient sales demonstrates the importance of being thorough and not jumping to conclusions before having the needed information. It really is through teamwork and collaborative thinking how we help businesses succeed and create value. This customer has created a unique innovation process and we are excited to see their success.
Interested in how we could help your business succeed? Contact us now!