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Product Management

Sofon software allows for smart product management. It enables you to quickly market innovations and take full advantage of your competitive advantage.

Product Management

Sofon software allows for smart product management. It enables you to quickly market innovations and take full advantage of your competitive advantage. Through your products, you can instantly respond to new needs, flawlessly translating customer requirements into production and creating flow in your production process.

The core of the Sofon solution is that you build knowledge models based on ‘concepts’ or small building blocks of knowledge. A building block may be a product option, for example, but also a price variable or a piece of text in product documentation.

Each concept consists of a description, its effect on the total (product, price or text) and the legal regulations (where/when is this allowed).

Once you have defined these building blocks, you can use them to compose every product, price and product documentation and do so quickly, specifically and reliably. Drawing from those knowledge models smartly covers innumerable variants and prevents time-consuming, error-sensitive, ad hoc processes.

Sofon improves your order management processes by making the following processes smarter:

 

Configuration management

Your situation

As an order-driven company, you understand the need to be able to respond to specific needs through customized solutions, with increasingly shorter turnaround times. Translating that flexibility to your production is the key challenge, which is exactly where the root of the problem lies.
Each new, customized option represents a complete configuration that needs to be worked out in all product versions. This is impracticable and extremely error-sensitive. One line of outdated information in a configuration means an exponential rise in production costs. Expensive repairs, late delivery, products that may even turn out to be infeasible or that prove to be incorrect after delivery to the customer. Returns, claims for compensation, canceled orders, lost customers and bad press. Problems can take on extreme forms. It is a permanent risk, daily pressure.  
Perhaps you are looking for a solution to reduce the number of variants, but this would mean missed opportunities and revenue. After all, you can do them, just not deliver them. Meanwhile, you watch small-scale competitors cherry-picking the business with customized, innovative solutions. This does not feel right looking towards the future.  

Or, as an engineer-to-order business, do you not work out configurations in advance? Do you customize everything once with the engineers keeping you afloat? How does this fit in with production flow and time investment? Can you continue to compete in terms of cost? Does your price/quality ratio remain where it needs to be? And can you keep pace with the increasingly rapid evolution of needs in the market? Or are you becoming more and more concerned about this?

Solution: smart design of your configuration management

In that case, smart configuration management is the solution. Sofon can help you by means of software modules that are in keeping with your CRM and ERP systems. The essence is that you do not define a complete configuration for each variant, but their building blocks (the concept, the logic) instead.
Each building block is a piece of knowledge of your engineers. Herein you describe:

  • how to build the new option.
  • the impact the new option has on your product/service (relation).
  • what (legal) regulations apply to the new option


Suppose you offer a car with an optional number of doors: 3 or 5. The bill of materials for the car with 3 doors states folding front seats. In the 5 door version, the front seats are fixed. The correct products for the front seats therefore depend on the option ‘number of doors.’ You do not need to prepare separate bills of material for three door or five door cars. The same applies to other parts that vary, depending on the selected options, including for the left and right chairs individually.

Based on this knowledge that has been recorded, the Sofon software automatically translates each order into the required materials and instructions for production. This way you can quickly, correctly and reliably assemble each customized product. No more time-consuming configurations per variant, no more endless checks.
After all, a single concept covers endless variations. You only need to maintain and test a number of concepts. If they are correct, anything thereafter will be too.
And this does not involve knowledge that is alien to the business. Through our software, you record the knowledge of your engineers that they hold anyway in order to deliver your products/services. They also know what the vital checkpoints are. We simply help you make smart use of your own expertise.

Your benefits

  • Production receives clean orders: products/services are checked in advance. They are feasible, permitted and deliverable and cannot disrupt the production process.
  • Production is stabilized and calm. This enables automatic control of production, flow and standardization.
  • The risk of repairs, exceeding delivery times, returns, claims for compensation, canceled orders, angry customers and an unfavorable reputation for your company will be minimized. This in turn generates substantial savings and ensures that you do not miss any proceeds unnecessarily.
  • You are able to deliver customized products/services, despite a standardized production process.
  • Controlled order-driven production increases the flexibility of your business.
Variants management

Your situation

Customers and prospects are constantly seeking new options. The need to respond to specific requirements with customized solutions is becoming increasingly important. Obviously you want to adapt, set the trend, but developing and maintaining configurations of all variants is very time consuming. Each new option produces a variation which you need to rewrite for all versions of your products/services. Endless configurations that you continuously need to keep correct and updated. Impossible!
In fact, this is a frustrating dilemma. On the one hand, there is the pressure of the market, and on the other, the slowing effect of the lengthy process of variant management. You can see it, you want it, you can do it, but arranging it internally is a different story (altogether).
So your company is forced to limit variety in the product range. You are not delivering on what is ‘technically’ within your reach. As a result, you miss out on opportunities and revenue. Meanwhile, you watch small-scale competitors cherry-picking the business with customized, innovative solutions. How long can you keep this up?  

Solution: smart design your variant management

What you are essentially looking for is smart variant management. Sofon has an excellent solution for this in the form of software modules that are compatible with your CRM and ERP systems. The principle is that you record knowledge at a lower level, which is correctly and automatically included in all your variations.

You no longer record configurations of variants. Instead, you record the concepts (building blocks) that compose the variants. Each concept is a piece of knowledge, a piece of logic, in which you describe the new option in conjunction with the effect it has on your product/service and all the applicable (legal) regulations. In addition, you describe how to produce the new option.

Suppose you offer a car with an optional number of doors: 3 or 5. The bill of materials for the car with 3 doors state folding front seats. In the 5 door version, the front seats are fixed. The correct products for the front seats therefore depend on the option ‘number of doors.’ You do not need to prepare separate bills of material for three door or five door cars. The same also applies to other parts that vary, depending on the selected options, including for the left and right chairs individually.

Once you have defined and checked a concept, you know it is reliable, so there’s no need to re-check the contents of your product range each time.

Defining and checking a concept is considerably less work than maintaining complete configurations of variants. And the input of a concept does not concern knowledge you need to obtain from somewhere. It is knowledge you have in-house and which you need to provide your products/services. We simply help you make smart use of your own expertise.
 
We help you use the software modules and embed this relevant business knowledge. This is your knowledge, so you are and always will be in control within your variant management.

Your benefits

  • No more time-consuming and error-sensitive processes in order to maintain your variants. The time you save can be invested in the market.
  • You can deliver all the feasible and permissible variants you want, with infinitely less effort.
  • You can abandon the idea of specials. By defining concepts, any desired variant can be made for every customer, tailored to their needs. The specials you used to sell on a limited scale can now be offered broadly in the market based on your variant logic.
  • And you can respond faster to changing market needs, making you attractive as a provider.
  • Your revenue will increase.
Portfolio management

Your situation

Your portfolio has millions of customized product variants. Your product managers are continuously thinking up new and interesting options. You need a lot of manpower to manage your portfolio. A major problem in all this is that you are unable to introduce your products to the market swiftly. Before your sellers and dealers recognize the value of innovations and include them in their offers, competitors are already offering similar possibilities. Consequently, you lose your competitive advantage and have to lower your prices, thus unintentionally shortening the life cycle of your products. Occasionally, Sales may offer products that have been phased out, requiring you to renege on a commitment to the customer. You thus fail to meet customer expectations or have to disrupt your production process in order to deliver the product after all.

Solution

Sofon allows you to record all product families in the Sofon database, as well as all possible options for each family. Furthermore, all permitted options and relations between possible options are recorded in models. In these models, you do not record products, but concepts: how to build the new option, what effect does it have on the product (relation) and what (legal) regulations apply to them?
If you configure, manage and offer all product variants through Sofon, they are automatically added to your portfolio. They are then instantly available on the market. Once you know that a new option is feasible and permitted, you can record it and include it in your portfolio, even before it has been designed. Rapid product introductions allow you to take maximum advantage of the competition and significantly extend the life of products and thus the overall return in relation to the investment made in product development.
And if you remove any options, they are no longer offered in product variants. This enables you to phase out products without the risk of disturbing the production flow or failing to meet customer expectations. In the configuration, you immediately differentiate this according to regions, countries and sales channels, so your portfolio is always up to date ‘geographically’. You have complete control over your portfolio management with a minimum of manpower.

Pricing and margin management

Your situation

In a rapidly evolving market, the need for new variants increases fast. You find that your pricing mechanism is no longer able to keep up with these dynamics. Pricing thousands of configurations is still feasible, but once variations run into the millions, it becomes impossible.

There is a strong temptation to apply a fixed margin on top of the cost price (‘cost price plus’) when establishing the sales price. By doing so, however, you would be selling yourself short, badly. After all, a new option may be low cost in terms of production, but it may generate immense added value for the customer. And perhaps the customer is legally obliged to purchase a particular option. In that case, they are prepared or obliged to pay for it. ‘Cost price plus’ is in fact too simple an answer to a complex reality. It generates significantly less margin compared to your potential gain through smart cost management. Consequently, you ignore the shortest route to maximizing your profits. Failure to benefit from your own innovations is bad for business.

You know that ‘customized deliveries’ require a dynamic and nuanced pricing and margin policy. But how do you ensure that all the price variables are done justice? How you do you factor in the importance, the value that options represent to your customers, into prices? After all, all your customers have different applications. They all have to consider varying (legal) regulations. They are defined by different products in different competitive positions. A combination of options may be a valuable variant for one customer, yet mean little to another in terms of added value. How do you ensure that you do not ask too much with the risk of losing prospects and customers or ask too little and miss out on better margins and pure profits?

The solution: smart pricing and margin management

What you need is an intelligent system which will take all these price variables into account. Sofon has an excellent solution for this. Our software modules allow very detailed pricing and margin management, which perfectly meets your needs. No need to ‘overhaul’ your ICT system; our software modules are compatible with your CRM and ERP systems.

The essence of the Sofon solution is that you record every price variable in the form of a concept (a piece of knowledge) in advance. All you then need to do is merge the concepts applicable to a certain customer. This generates a realistic, fair price with maximum margin, regardless of the situation, enabling your sellers to remain completely consistent in all their offer versions.

For example, you can record your competitive position in relation to a certain dimension of a product. The fact whether an option is required or not. If this varies by country, you can also compensate these differences. You can thus adjust your prices, depending on who you are selling to, i.e. a dealer or end user. Anything you want to take into consideration can be included in our software modules.

Your benefits

You are not unnecessarily expensive or unnecessarily cheap. This prevents prospects and customers turning away because of high prices or you missing out on profits if prices are too low.

You are able to set higher margins and thus take the shortest route to increasing your profits.

Because you record price concepts in advance, you are always in a position to rapidly respond to new market requirements, in the form of correct and appropriate prices.

Adequate pricing and margin management leads to consistent offering, making you reliable as a business and putting your sellers in a stronger negotiating position.

Template management

Your situation

For each order, your sellers produce multiple, extensive offers with corresponding instructions, manuals and other documentation. They use templates with standard text blocks and manually add whatever is needed per request. This is time-consuming and error-sensitive. Text blocks may be chosen incorrectly, manual changes in one version may be lost in another or outdated text remains in templates. Consistency in offers is an mammoth task. Errors lead to unhappy customers who do not receive what they expected, which in turn results in costs involved in rectifying the situation.

Solution

Sofon software modules allow smart template management. You do not record text blocks per variant, but concepts on how pieces of text should be structured and how they are linked to corresponding tables, pictures, charts, etc.
Once you make a change, words and/or phrases in the offer text are automatically changed too. Where applicable, other illustrations and documents are immediately linked. Thus the entire offer is automatically reconstructed every time a change is made. Your offers are consistent and complete in all their versions.
And because you record and check concepts in advance, sellers don’t forget anything in their offer versions. And they don’t need to check anything either. Offers are automatically converted into contract texts. So a contract does not suddenly specify something different compared to the most recent offer or order confirmation.
For example, an offer may stipulate a delivery period of 1 month from the moment the order is placed. The contract subsequently generates an exact date automatically. If the order is placed on 25 March, for example, the contract will automatically stipulate a delivery date deadline of 25 April.

Your benefits

  • This in turn saves a lot of time and significantly reduces the risk of errors. Your offer texts/documentation meet/meets customer expectations, which translates into customer satisfaction and no unnecessary remedial costs.
  • Consistency in offer texts makes you reliable towards customers.

Sofon products that make Order Management easier

Sofon Studio

Sofon Studio is the working environment for the product specialist. In Sofon Studio, all relevant information for complete and error free, needs analysis, product configuration, calculation, visualization and document generation is maintained. This information is stored in a logical and transparent way, called Sofon models.

Sofon Enterprise Product and Lifecycle Manager (EPAL)

Larger organisations often have a layered structure in which production takes place at multiple locations, there are multiple local sales organisations, and there can be both a direct and an indirect sales channel for each market. There are owners of product information at corporate level, market level, and for each sales channel. On market or channel level, there can be deviating products, product options, and prices.

Contact Sofon (GER)

Sofon Deutschland GmbH
Centroallee 261
46047 Oberhausen
Germany

  • +49 (0)208 309 98 55 0

  • +49 (0)208 309 98 55 2

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Contact Sofon (NL)

Sofon B.V.
Science Park Eindhoven 5214
5692 EG Son
The Netherlands

  • +31 (0) 40 26 77 199

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