A configurator is a tool that will guide a user through configuring the product they wish to order. The user will make a selection and based on that selection, the user will be shown their next options and so on. This allows customers to “co-design” their own products.
A configurator can be built on top of PLM [product lifecycle management] software, ERP [enterprise resource management] software or coded on a relational database.
Configurator Example – Dell
A good example of a configurator can be found on the Dell internet site. When you select a desktop computer, their website allows you to choose the processor. Based on that selection it asks you to choose the amount of RAM. Using both of these selections, it walks you through your choice of disk size and so on.
At the end of this process, the user has configured a computer with all of the options of interest to them. The customer will get the computer they want and Dell now has a bill of materials to manufacture that computer.
Configurator Example – Small Company
I have been working with a company that manufactures custom parts with a variety of materials. We are talking about hundreds of materials. They have a need to create a data sheet for each of these materials and possibly a combination of materials. They could be printing more than 1,000 datasheets per year.
They have 2 problems:
- Printing 1,000 datasheets can get expensive
- They want sales to have a current datasheet [some materials get discontinued]
We wrote a software program that sits on a relational database that allows their sale people to search for materials. When they have found the material of choice, they can click create report and the software will automatically generate a datasheet in a PDF format. Sales can print or Email as needed.
Benefits of a Configurator
Companies deploying a configurator hope for benefits like these:
- Lower distribution costs
- Quicker reaction to customer inquiries
- Reduced capital commitment and less overproduction
- Error elimination throughout the ordering and production process
- Quality improvements in customer-service
- Worldwide access to up-to-date product information