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In today’s digital business world, the B2B sector is very much part of the growing demand for individually configured products. This includes the manufacture of everything from truck trailers and hazardous goods containers to wind turbines, pumps, and transmission units.
To be able to efficiently meet the associated requirements, these manufacturing companies need a networked value-added chain. Only in this way can they cost-effectively manufacture products in all quantities down to a batch size of one – that is, at costs no higher than those achieved in series production. Effectively, this means smart factories.
Configuration as a success factor
Consequently, even the standard version of a product contains a variety of configuration options – i.e. variants and configuration data – that have to be managed and maintained. Moreover, the number of product variants, and therefore the complexity of configuration, is constantly growing. Efficient, practice-oriented configuration processes that are optimally adapted to the requirements of the different user groups are thus crucial for commercial success, particularly as the configuration data is required in virtually all business processes: in sales, in purchasing, in manufacturing, in accounting, and in controlling.
Expert solutions partner
The firm msg treorbis from Hamburg, Germany offers variant manufacturers support for the optimization and future-oriented design of configuration processes in a SAP environment. With consulting, process, and technology expertise founded on over 20 years of experience, the experts at msg treorbis develop an individual solution concept together with the customer, one that is precisely tailored to the configuration tool which the customer chooses: the SAP Variant Configurator (LO-VC) or the SAP Configure, Price, and Quote (SAP CPQ) software.
With msg treorbis Variant, a SAP-based add-on that has repeatedly proven its worth in practice, the SAP full-range service provider provides a platform containing over 60 solutions, which enable users to simplify and improve processes and data management in a product configuration context. In this way, businesses can cut the time needed for configuration support by up to 80 percent, and the time needed to create a new product by up to 70 percent.
Configurator with SAPUI5
In addition to greater efficiency, the same intuitive experience enjoyed by personal online shoppers awaits users working on configuration, whether they are internal or external sales workers, engineers, or end customers. Moreover, this experience is available to users on smartphones and tablet computers as well as on desktop PCs.
It is precisely here that the innovative, web-based UI Quotation Configurator comes in. A component of msg treorbis Variant and also an add-on, the application has a modern, easy-to-use HTML5 (SAPUI5) interface. Thanks to responsive design, it adapts automatically to the respective operating system and the device itself. In this way, it fulfills the demand for easy and convenient operation.
Operation of the SAPUI5 interface is as easy to understand as a consumer app, and the configuration processes are clearly visualized in a 3D model. As a result, even unpracticed users are guided quickly and surely through all steps without any problems. So that every customer receives an individual configuration solution tailored exactly to their needs, the SAPUI5 interface can be adapted in terms of layout, the sequence of the configuration dialog, the visualization of characteristic value assignment, and the corporate design. The experts at msg treorbis implement the requisite add-ons and extensions in the web-based SAP Web IDE development environment.
Online access to data
UI Quotation Configurator also allows direct online access to current data in the SAP backend, irrespective of whether the data comes from LO-VC or from SAP CPQ. Consequently, the configuration knowledge stored there can be used one to one while the user interaction is managed in UI Quotation Configurator.
This removes the usual technical hurdles which often hinder access to configuration data, as well as eliminating duplicated data storage and all the associated drawbacks, such as the risk of database inconsistencies – an advantage that should not be underestimated.
Because of the online connectivity, every change to the configuration data in the SAP backend also appears in UI Quotation Configurator in virtual real-time. This provides genuine added value, particularly for companies with configuration models and/or rule sets that are subject to frequent amendments. Conversely, every change that users make to the 3D configuration model in the web application is immediately adopted in the database in the SAP backend.
Configuration becomes guided selling
The starting point for a configuration process in UI Quotation Configurator is product identification. If the sales team does not know the material number, they can easily select the product to be configured in several trouble-free steps via demand queries, image maps, and various filters. Once the item in question has been located, the actual configuration process can begin.
Step by step, UI Quotation Configurator guides users through the workflows right up to the finished configuration, which also includes pictures, drawings, and technical descriptions. This process is referred to as guided selling.
If a required input is missing or the selected combination of characteristics is invalid or technically unfeasible, the problem is flagged immediately. In addition, alternatives are automatically displayed to the user. Primarily, this function benefits users such as the field sales force and customers, who generally do not require in-depth technical know-how with regard to the feasibility of a product variant.
Highly flexible thanks to mobile processes
All this together with the ability to use UI Quotation Configurator on mobile devices hugely increases quality and flexibility. In a dynamic business world, it is a significant competitive advantage when the field sales team is able to quickly configure a product on site at the customer’s premises without any difficulty and then test its technical feasibility, correctly determine the price, and calculate the delivery time.
Equally, it is possible to give customers an initial overview of various configurable solutions and their costs. To do this, the field sales team only requires access to certain configuration data and not to the entire configuration. By contrast, sales managers and product experts, for example, need more comprehensive access privileges when they have to check the details of a configuration or confirm prices or discounts.
A role-based authorization concept controls which privileges each end user has and what data they can view and edit in the SAP backend. To this end, UI QuotationConfigurator uses the SAP authorization system.
Multitude of uses in SAP environment
For variant configuration, msg treorbis has set itself the goal of working with the customer to find the optimum solution for each individual use case. As a principle, then, it is always possible to use UI Quotation Configurator in various scenarios. In the SAP environment, this means SAP ERP, the SAP Business Suite, SAP S/4HANA, and SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer.
In addition, the add-on is compatible with Microsoft Dynamics CRM (365) and Salesforce.com. Before using the Configurator in conjunction with SAP ERP, the SAP Business Suite, or S/4, users first have to install SAP Fiori Launchpad – the central gateway to the SAP-Fiori world – and the SAP Gateway component, which “supplies” the Configurator with the requisite data and functions from the backend via the standard OData (Open Data) web protocol; conversely, the configuration created there is written back to the backend. SAP Gateway can be installed on the existing SAP system or else autonomously – and therefore independently of release cycles.
The link with SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer, a CRM SaaS cloud solution, is implemented via SAP Cloud Platform Integration, which companies also frequently use to distribute customer data, prices, and articles in SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer.
UI Quotation Configurator was therefore specially designed for operation on the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) SAP Cloud Platform. Via OData services, the configuration data required for quote creation are transmitted from SAP Cloud Platform to SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer. Again in this case, all data is managed “on premise” in the SAP backend – SAP ERP, SAP Business Suite, SAP S/4HANA – which is connected to UI Quotation Configurator via SAP Cloud Connector.
Experience has shown that many companies pursue a best-of-breed approach with their IT strategy: core business processes are modeled in the integrated, secure SAP work environment – e.g. in SAP ERP, SAP Business Suite, SAP S/4HANA – whereas processes in sales, marketing, and service are modeled in another provider’s CRM solution. Popular options include Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Salesforce.com.
For this reason, the experts at msg treorbis created the option of integrating UI Quotation Configurator directly into the CRM solutions of these two providers – a real highlight and USP of this add-on. This makes it possible to directly access the SAP product configuration (LO-VC, SAP CPQ) from the CRM applications and thereby easily and quickly complete the quotation process. Because the Configurator is embedded in the UI of the respective CRM software via its own button, business users do not even necessarily have to know in which application they are currently working.
The future of configuration is now
Manufacturing companies are continuously facing new product configuration challenges. Accordingly, the experts at msg treorbis are further developing UI Quotation Configurator in a targeted manner, founded on concrete customer and market requirements.
Shortly, msg treorbis plans to provide the web application as an autonomous digital app via SAP Cloud Platform and thereby utilize the agility and flexibility of the PaaS – including for the development of innovations. The company already has ideas about how to go about this. For example, it wants to make functions available to B2B users that allow them to describe their requirements for a product in UI Quotation Configurator without any configuration at all. Based on this description, they should then automatically receive suggested solutions in clearly structured visualizations. However, that is still a long way off at present.