What is a Product Configurator?
Basically, a configurator is a tool that enables users to adapt the components and properties of a product so that the finished product meets the user's expectation as far as possible, thereby optimally covering their needs and requirements.
When we talk about product configurators today, most certainly we mean digital applications that can be used on websites by a very large number of users at the same time to configure the respective “perfect” product.
However, components cannot be plugged together arbitrarily. The functionality of the product must remain guaranteed, and the technical feasibility and production must also be taken into account. For this reason, configurators for commercial products always need a clearly defined solution space that can be mapped using product logic.
Different Types of Configurators
There is a fundamental difference between products consisting of static components that are arranged individually by customers and between a product that self can be parameterized: Think of cases like tailor-made products such as the walls of a house, which automatically adapt to the freely selectable length and width adjusted in a configurator.
The solution space that is different for each configurator, i.e. the logical set of rules for the respective product, must also be able to be mapped in digital means inside the product configurator. This is one of the biggest challenges in the long-term use of configurators.
Especially when companies quickly react to new customer preferences or trends in the market and introducing new products (therefore changing the solution space). A lot of flexibility is required here, which must be taken into account when developing the configurator.
Virtually Any Product is Customizable
The scenarios for configurator usage range from customizable urns to modular service offers, from technically simple tools for making offers to implementing it as the first link in the fully automated production chain when implementing Industry 4.0. From B2C such as a door configurator to CPQ applications for field staff in a B2B context (CPQ = Configure Price Quote).
Mass Customization is here to stay
Digitization and further automation of the ordering and manufacturing processes, new technologies such as additive manufacturing and the trend away from cheap mass products towards individual consumer goods and perfectly optimized machines support the spread of mass customization.
The Configurator Database Project, a platform and research source for mass customization, has seen a steady increase in the number of configurators available over the years.¹
Further Content you might be interested in:
¹ cyLEDGE Media (2020), “Configurator Database", www.configurator-database.com, Vienna.