Product Configurator Review

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Product ConfiguratorSabre has been involved in helping customers search for “Product Configurators” for their Dynamics NAV manufacturing ERP many times over the years.  These tools are specifically designed to allow a company to configure a product, generate a bill of material, contracts, proposals, CAD files, and other documentation and design materials. Product Configurators are a fairly common “add-on” for Manufacturing ERP solutions, and this article focuses on the add-on space.  There are also entire ERP solutions that focus and are built around their configurator.  For instance, during our searches, we sometimes find product configurator products that are in fact full ERP solutions,.  Technically these are not stand-alone products.  This review is specific to add-on configurator products only as it is intended for companies already running or interested in Dynamics NAV.

Experlogix

Probably the main configurator product available for Dynamics is offered by Experlogix.  The Experlogix product is exclusively designed to work with Dynamics products (CRM, GP, AX, NAV).  The product is mainly designed for data entry by staff (as opposed to end-users or dealers).  Its design would allow integration with B2B and B2C (Business to Business and Business to Consumer) websites with a little work.  There is, unfortunately, no integration with CAD packages like AutoCAD or SolidWorks.

Pros: Out of the box integration with Dynamics products.  Relatively easy to create rules.  Parametric.  Web Interface.

Cons: No out of the box integration with CAD software.  No out of the box e-commerce.  Very limited image rendering capabilities.

Experlogix is definitely worth a look if you are a Dynamics customer.  If you want a product configurator for CAD generation and orders taken from your dealers directly – you might need to look elsewhere.

Cincom

I haven’t looked at Cincom in a couple of years – but at the time I last investigated it Cincom was a company that also sells an ERP.  Cincom has spun off its product configurator as a separate tool.  Their product is really a “toolkit” of easy to use programmer modules with a fully functional back end rules writing system.   This has the advantage of making their product incredibly powerful with respect to the ability to present to your customer or data-entry staff any layout or design you can imagine.

If you’re thinking of writing your own in-house configurator – this is probably a product you should look at.  The rules engine of a configurator is the tricky part, and Cincom solves the challenge of trying to write one on your own by giving you an out-of-the-box set of tools a programmer can use.

Pros: Allows highly custom configurator designs.  Supports .Net.  Strong Back-end rules engine.  Some CAD integration. Some e-commerce integration.

Cons: Requires .NET programmer knowledge to really get the most out of it.

Overall Cincom offers a bit of everything but isn’t stand out in any one area. Integrating it with your ERP might end up being your task as out of the box it does not have integrations with Dynamics – but it can be made to do so.

Infor PCM (Formerly Buy Design)

The Infor PCM is my top pick and favorite product configurator solution.  It is very expensive but in our opinion worth the price tag.  The user interface is very good.  The newest version is supposed to enhance it even more. The rules engine is also very strong.  It offers good extra features like full integration with SolidWorks, 2D visualization in real-time, a B2B e-commerce solution out of the box, proposal generation, and more.

What makes the Infor PCM stand out for me are two key features.  The rules designer is the easiest to use and understand of the dozen or more products I’ve seen.  It is drag and drop, and looks a lot like Visio.  The second feature is its architecture.  PCM is based on SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) which made it very easy to integrate into ERP solutions.  It comes out of the box fully integrated with AX, and Sabre has created additional functionality to link it to NAV.

Pros: The best product rules designer we’ve seen.  Very extensible (programmable).  A good selection of additional modules: B2B eCommerce, 3D, and 2D CAD, Proposal generation.

Cons: Expensive price tag.  No official support for Dynamics NAV, GP (although Sabre has created an integration with NAV).

Infor PCM / Buy Design is our Top Pick – because of the easy to use ruleset design.  In our opinion, easier ruleset design trumps the incremental benefits from some of the other products that have slightly better features.

Configure One

Configure One is very close behind PCM in our product configurator roundup, and for good reason.  The data entry interface is the best we’ve seen.  The rules engine is very powerful and very capable.  It offers the best 2D visualization in data entry and very robust proposal generation and 3D CAD generation.  It has a very strong B2B e-commerce solution out of the box.

Overall it’s very powerful – and if you’re looking for a stand-alone configurator (ie: Not connected to your ERP) it is awesome.

Where I feel that Configure One falls down is in two key areas.  The rules design interface is not as good as many of the others.  If you’re getting someone else to write the rules this might not be a big deal.  Sabre does a lot of rules writing and it makes a difference to us.    Secondly, it’s not based on an SOA design, so integrating it with ERP has to be done through SQL.  Integrating a configurator with ERP via SQL is not something I would want to do in 2015. Configure One assumes you will enter your configurations in their e-commerce site and transfer those orders into the ERP via a batch.

Pros: The best user interface screens we’ve seen.  The best 2D and 3D CAD we’ve seen.  Very good proposal generation and e-commerce.

Cons: Expensive price tag.  No official support for Dynamics (SQL Integration).  Older rules designer.

Configur8or

Despite the silly name, Configur8or is perfect for the small business space product configurator.  This product is very popular in the UK – and has a very modest price tag for the smaller business.  It has excellent CAD integration (in fact some customers use it exclusively for CAD integration) and has an SOA architecture making it possible to integrate it with more or less any ERP you like.

All of that being said, Configur8or is a no-frills product.  It comes out of the box with no proposal generation, limited e-commerce, a pretty decent rules designer (in the middle of the pack).  The user interface is average.  The CAD integration is pretty decent – but not as good as Buy Design or Configure One.  The biggest advantage it has – is that it’s attractively priced.

Pros: The least expensive configurator we’ve found.  Decent rules designer, descent rules entry screens, good CAD integration.  Reasonably easy to extend and enhance.

Cons: Limited e-commerce and no proposal generation out of the box.

Configur8or deserves special mention – for the smaller configure to order manufacturer.  The product is sophisticated enough to grow into and offers all the key features you would need – but at a very affordable price tag.

Conclusion

In today's manufacturing environment, the one major advantage North American manufacturers have over those overseas is the ability to more rapidly deliver a product to a customer that is customized.  Product configurators offer key advantages that allow businesses to achieve this more efficiently and at a lower cost.  There are ample choices for manufacturers using Dynamics NAV that allow them to choose one that will suit their needs.

Need Some Help?

If you're looking for more information about product configurators take a look at 6 product configurator benefits, or give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we are looking forward to hearing from you soon!

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