posted 3 Aug 2005 in Volume 8 Issue 10
Knowledge advisory centre
How to adopt a customer-centric and knowledge-focused approach to mass customisation.
What does a customer-centric approach to delivering business solutions look like? Does it mean giving your customer exactly the product solution they want based on your manufacturing capabilities? Does it mean fast turnaround on a quote? Does it mean more efficient delivery of services? Does it mean transmitting information about the customer to all relevant touchpoints in the organisation? Does it mean freeing up your sales force from time-consuming quotes so that they can collaborate on the “unanticipated solution” to a problem the customer is grappling with?
Customer-centricity means all of the above, with the ultimate objective being the continuous development of stronger capabilities in order to serve the customer better.
Today, buyers, distributors and manufacturers can take advantage of web technology to transform slow, inefficient processes into streamlined, mistake-proof configuration systems that give new meaning to the concept of collaboration.
Since its founding in 1934, S.A. Armstrong Ltd has pioneered a range of pumps and heat exchangers for global markets. But for customers, the selection process for a complex product like a pump can be a daunting task, with hundreds of variations. Understanding this, Armstrong commissioned a configuration system to remove the complexity and error out of purchasing their products and services, while at the same time affording almost perfect dissemination of customer information throughout the organisation.
One of the requirements of the configuration system was that order workflow needed to be streamlined and integrated with the existing ERP system. This proved to be a clever strategy, ie, to build an incrementally functional system that bolted on to what Armstrong already had. The result – RAPIDS – was a fantastically enhanced ability to sell product.
With the implementation of RAPIDS, S.A. Armstrong Ltd became the lowest transaction cost company in a highly complex configured world. The RAPIDS Product Configuration System significantly reduced the long cycle time involved in converting a quotation into an order, making orders simple and error-free and changing customer problems into solutions with quotation drawings and product specifications.
Best of all, as a knowledge management system, the RAPIDS system was close to perfect architecture. From a human capital side, it was the perfect expression of tacit to explicit knowledge conversion. Product data experts (PDEs) for each product group were involved in converting years of individual knowledge into the product-specific rules and constraints. This then became the structural capital of the enterprise. Customer capital also increased in value, because the virtually error-free order entry meant the fastest possible execution of fulfillment.
Configurators are the true embodiment of mass production’s economies of scale with custom manufacturing’s flexibility. They virtually wrap the know-how of the organisation and its products and services around the customer. Configurators may even mitigate conflict between sales and marketing, engineering and production. They take the noise out of what happens in the factory – ie, salespeople selling stuff that can’t be made.
For further information see www.rapidstechnology.com