How Visual CPQ Streamlines 6+ Steps From Shopping Cart to Shop Floor

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Visual CPQ is software that helps companies configure products visually, calculate pricing, and create quotes. It’s a 3-step process that lightens the load on sales, accelerates times to quote, and reduces errors.

But that’s not all.

The usefulness of a visual CPQ solution like Epicor extends way beyond the sales team to the engineering department, the shop floor, and aftercare. It’s the glue that connects and streamlines the entire manufacture-to-order process. Below, we explore each of these steps in turn.

The steps are:

  • Product configuration (with a sales rep)
  • Product configuration (without a sales rep, i.e., self-serve)
  • Dynamic pricing
  • Quote generation
  • CAD and design automation
  • Shop floor automation
  • Customer support

Step 1a: Product configuration (with a sales rep)

Manufacturers of complex configurable products tend to have massive product catalogs. Even the most seasoned sales reps find it incredibly challenging to optimize outcomes for every customer when there are hundreds or thousands of options to choose from. For new hires, it’s practically impossible.

Visual CPQ makes configuring products quick, easy, and accurate. The software contains product rules, programmed into the back-end, that guide reps towards the right choices. Every configuration is ideally matched to each customer, and optimized for profitability, and engineering efficiency.

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A visual CPQ like Epicor has the power to handle the most complex product rules and logic. But unlike other visual CPQ solutions, product rules are easy to build and maintain in-house. There’s no need to call an external partner when you want to add a new product or variant, non-technical users can do it themselves without having to do any coding.

The unique feature of visual CPQ software is that sales reps configure products within an intuitive 3D visual interface. Rather than answering endless questions and ticking a hundred boxes, reps can point and click on their screens to change colors, dimensions, parts, and more. As reps try out different options, 3D images update on-screen in real-time. It’s the opposite of a black box – sales reps understand products in detail and can impart valuable advice to customers.

Step 1b: Product configuration (without a sales rep, i.e., self-serve)

Today’s B2B buyer is used to dealing with Amazon and wants the same self-serve experience when they buy from you too. For manufacturers of engineer-to-order products, providing this level of freedom and convenience is difficult because their products are complex, and buyers lack the knowledge to configure them independently online.

Not so with visual CPQ. Visual CPQ is so intuitive that end customers can configure their products themselves. Thanks to carefully structured product rules, there’s no need for sales or engineering to get involved (unless buyers want them to.) Manufacturers can embed their visual product configurator into their eCommerce website, enabling buyers to configure, price, quote, and purchase any time, any place, through any device.

Unlike some face-to-face sales interactions, buyers actually enjoy playing around with visual product configurators. It’s an immersive experience, the pressure’s off, and they frequently end up selling products to themselves. If they do end up abandoning the process halfway, all of their preferences are recorded in the system, so a well-informed sales rep can always follow up.

Step 2: Dynamic pricing

Sales reps are good at selling. They’re not always good at maths. If you force your reps to number-crunch complicated deals when they should be out selling, then you’re setting yourself up for delays at best and mistakes and rogue pricing at worst.

Visual CPQ calculates prices in real-time as users configure products. Sales reps don’t have to lift a pencil. Pricing approvals and discounts are all automated, and sales managers get total visibility.

Step 3: Sales quote generation

Creating quotes is yet another waste of active selling time. Visual CPQ automates the process. Sales reps or end customers can automatically generate quotes, estimates, proposals, marketing collateral, terms and conditions, and more at the touch of a button. No more messing around in Excel!

Step 4: Engineering automation (CAD and design automation)

Epicor is unlike any other visual CPQ solution in that it automatically generates all relevant CAD drawings to be sent to engineering and production teams. It works with any CAD software, including Solidworks and Creo. Engineers can quickly validate products, make minor tweaks, and send them on their way downstream.

CAD and design automation is a game-changer. It clears engineering bottlenecks, which can ramp up as CPQ moves more customers through your sales pipeline. What’s more, it frees engineers from repetitive, time-sapping tasks, allowing them to focus on R&D. If you want to retain your brightest engineers, they need to be given time to innovate.

Step 5: Manufacturing automation

Epicor can be configured to generate any outputs needed for the production phase. BOMs, cut sheets, parts lists, inventory control – it can all be output automatically. Data, like STEP and IGES files, can be sent directly to machines. Other data, like assembly instructions, are designed to be digested by operatives on the shop floor.

Visual CPQ cuts sales-manufacturing complexity. It’s the glue that binds each step to the next, ensuring information never falls between the cracks.

Step 6: Customer support

Whether you use visual CPQ as a standalone solution or, more likely, integrate it with your CRM, ERP, or both, every team within your organization works within the same platform. It provides a single source of truth, enhancing cross-functional collaboration.

Customer support agents have equal access to all of the information outlined in the steps above. They can see the product that a customer has configured (or started to configure but quit halfway through.) They can see how pricing has been calculated, which documents have been sent, and the order status as it works its way through manufacturing, shipping, and on to installation.

The more information a customer support agent has at their fingertips (assuming it’s easy to scan and understand,) the better and faster they can solve customer problems. They don’t have to call (or email) around different departments to determine what’s going on. They can provide excellent customer service backed up by a detailed visual understanding of products and workflows.

Visual CPQ in the Real World (No Step is Set in Stone)

The six steps outlined above provide a basic framework for how Epicor connects the shopping cart to the shop floor. But these steps are by no means set in stone. Epicor CPQ is flexible. It molds to the shape of your business’s sales and manufacturing processes and integrates with existing systems and workflows.

To illustrate this point, here are the automated steps that two of our Epicor customers follow to shorten sales cycles and reduce complexity.

Timberlane: A manufacturer of custom exterior shutters with no stock sizes or configurations – everything’s made to order.

Step 1: A sales rep configures a set of shutters using the visual product configurator

Step 2: Configuration data is sent to Salesforce CRM, which calculates and uploads pricing, taxes, and shipping

Step 3: Epicor and Salesforce combine to automatically draft a quote

Step 4: The ERP adjusts global stock-level data and orders materials as needed

Step 5: Epicor generates a 2D rendering

Step 6: The 2D rendering is sent to manufacturing along with BOMs and work instructions for production to begin

NanaWall: A manufacturer of more than 20 unique operable glass wall systems

Step 1: Either a) a customer configures a glass wall system using the 3D visual product configurator on NanaWall’s website, or b) a sales rep, designer, or architect does the same on the customer’s behalf

Step 2: CPQ product rules validate everything, making adjustments based on weight and length limitations

Step 3: Epicor outputs the product configuration data to XML

Step 4: The XML data is sent to AutoCAD and SolidWorks

Step 5: CAD outputs are combined with pricing information and sent to Salesforce CRM as a quote object.