How CPQ Helps Your Parts Business Overcome Five Major Challenges

August 27, 2015 Russ Chadinha

Two years after you sold them a complex piece of equipment, your customer calls and needs a part for it. After 15 minutes on the phone, you still have no idea what component they’re talking about or how to find the part they need.

Whether you’re providing high-tech business equipment, HVAC systems or farm equipment, companies face similar challenges with managing parts and components.

Parts management is complex due to the vast number of possible configurations as well as periodic changes and replacements. In addition, the topic touches a variety of aspects of your business, from customer service and sales to your partner organizations.

Here are five common challenges in parts management, along with tips on how to overcome them with configure, price, quote (CPQ) tools:

1) Identifying the correct part: It’s often difficult to verbally describe an individual part, and that leads to lots of mistakes when a customer calls you to order a replacement part. To solve that, CPQ tools provide a graphic representation of the parts diagram.

Now, as long as the customer can describe the base unit or model, you’re able to quickly share this diagram with the customer. This improves accuracy over the verbal description, because the visual serves as a check to make sure you and the customer are talking about the same part.

2) Tracking part use: When one of your suppliers stops providing a particular component, you’ll need to find a suitable replacement. But you’ll also need to find out where you’ve been using that discontinued part and update the parts information. Tracking replacements for thousands of parts across all of your sub-assemblies and possible configurations could be extremely time consuming.

CPQ includes a functionality that’s particularly valuable in this context. You simply enter the part number and click on the “Where is it used?” button. The system then brings up all of the places where that part has been identified, making it easy to manage the replacement with a complementary product in all of your catalogs.

3) Accessing information while in the field: Mobile access to parts information is important in a variety of field service situations, such as plumbing, HVAC, fleet maintenance and agricultural equipment. Imagine you’re standing in a field helping a customer with a tractor. You have to correctly identify the parts you need and figure out how to get them, all while you’re in front of the customer.

CPQ with mobile capabilities is a great solution. Your rep or field technician is able to use a tablet virtually anywhere to quickly identify the necessary parts, place the order and resolve the problem.

4) Resolving situations quickly: While proactive maintenance does involve identifying and locating parts, the most common context for these tasks is a problem or breakdown that’s unfolding in real time. That means time is at a premium.

Your organization must be ready to react at the speed of the customer’s need. CPQ with parts capability and a graphic component offers significant improvements in speed, helping you to resolve the situation much faster.

5) Supporting your partners and e-commerce: When you think about how companies typically provide support and parts, they often outsource these functions to partners or to self-service through e-commerce. But you need to support those partners appropriately. After all, if your partner brings the wrong parts or provides subpar service, that reflects poorly on your brand.

CPQ allows you to extend your information and capabilities to partner organizations, giving them the tools they need to represent your brand positively and consistently. If you’re steering customers to self-service, they need that same quality and consistency. They need to find the parts they want and order them in an efficient and accurate engagement.

Choosing the best CPQ solution for your parts business

Keep these five challenges in mind when you’re planning to deploy a CPQ solution to manage your parts business. First and foremost, look for a solution that provides graphically interactive parts diagrams with numbered elements that you click on to drop into your cart.

If you have a large volume of existing information, you need an easy way to convert them into this interactive electronic format. Some CPQ tools are able to connect to your ERP and other systems to automate the creation of the graphically interactive diagrams.

Second, the CPQ solution should make it easy to search for information. Often, you need to look up a part without the part numbers; free-text search capabilities allow you to type in a description. That’s especially important when you’re out in the field, without access to other resources at the main office.

Finally, make sure that whatever CPQ solution you have is accelerating the creation of the quote. You should be able to click on a picture of a part, drop it into the quote and go, resulting in quotes that are accurate and fast.

Attending Dreamforce 15? Attend this session: Carrier Traniscold: Selling Smarter in Manufacturing with CPQ to learn more about parts quoting in manufacturing.

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