Product Configurators & How to Select Them

A New Economy 

In today’s economy, product variability has grown dramatically.  What would have been considered radical 20 years ago is expected today.  Consumers expect to be able to go on-line, select from a set of features and choices and receive a custom made product just for them.  From T-Shirts to paintings, from cars to computers, custom made products are here to stay. 

In the software world, custom products present a challenge that is dealt with through a product configurator. If you’ve gone to any car manufacturers website lately to price out a new car, you’ve seen a product configurator.  They are designed to streamline the process of generating a quotation and sometimes the design of a product.  They’re based on the concept of a configuration – which is really just the choices made by a consumer. 

Choosing a Configurator – Take your time 

In my experience, the capabilities and costs of product configurators vary so widely that the selection of the configurator should be independent from the selection of the ERP.  The features of the product configurator are going to be so important to your business, it needs to be handled as a major purchasing decision all on its own. 

Two Paths for Choices 

In the Manufacturing ERP world, product configurators come in two flavors.  The “Built In” product configurator, and the “Addon” configurator. 

The built in product configurator is part of the ERP system.  It will integrate tightly with the system of choice.  For a general purpose ERP, the product configurator is going to be capable of a wide variety of general product configuration capabilities.  Other times the ERP is focused on a specific industry, which means the software is entirely built around the configurator. 

The Addon product configurator isn’t tied to a specific ERP system.  In fact, it is usually designed to work with ERP systems that either do not have a built in configurator, or have a very basic one.  The addon may have a degree of industry specialization, or may be more generic. Different addon products have different features and functions that stand out from their competitors. 

Conclusion 

There are more and more companies that sell variable products.  This is driving a higher and higher interest in product configurators.  If you are one of these companies, it’s inevitable that you’ll feel a need to look at product configurators.  Whether you choose to go down the route of the built in Product Configurator, or the Addon – you have a big decision to make.  Be sure to evaluate the product configurator as a stand alone decision.  Do not make it a “sub task” of choosing an ERP.  This software will have a huge impact on your business, and can result in huge costs and mistakes if you make the wrong choices.

For more information on product configurators, check out our latest YouTube video here!

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