Visual configurators: CAD models provide a unique experience

For component manufacturers whose portfolios are complex and varied, visual configurators are becoming increasingly indispensable. Because these companies know that visual configurators are an effective means of increasing sales. With 2D drawings and 3D models, they illustrate what the different product variants look like and which combinations are possible – in a way that is easy to understand for users without any expert knowledge. Solutions of this type are particularly attractive if they provide CAD models as the basis for further planning at the end of the configuration.

Graphically interactive configurators, such as those jointly implemented by encoway and KiM, take the customer experience to a new level. The requested products do not appear as static images or cryptic article numbers, but instead invite you to an inspiring stroll through a virtual showroom. If a parameter is changed during the configuration, the corresponding visualisation is immediately generated. The defined rule set always ensures that only feasible combinations are displayed.

CAD models as valuable planning support 

The potential of visual configurators is not, however, limited to attractively animated products in the online shop. Especially interesting for planners is the option to output CAD data. This allows engineers to export their configuration results and reuse them in their own planning systems. All models are true to scale, meaning that, for example, connection boreholes are clearly visible and the configured components can be easily integrated into the overall plan.

The prospective customer does not, however, receive the highly detailed CAD originals for the selected product, but so-called shell models. These highly simplified representations provide all the planning-relevant information. They do not, however, reveal any technical details of the component itself and thus ensure that the manufacturer's know-how remains protected. This abstraction has an important side effect: the shell models are “light”, i.e. they have a small data size. As a result, they do not result in an unnecessarily complex overall plan. Another advantage of the visualisation solution: the models can be displayed with various degrees of detail for the respective target groups. For a designer, for example, a low-level representation is sufficient. At the highest level, the models are displayed as photorealistic renderings, as required for catalogues among other things.

The flexibility and comfort of interactive product configurators are highly compelling for prospective customers. Experience shows: There is a probability of 60 to 70 percent that a potential client who downloads the CAD data at the end of the configuration will later purchase the solution.

Best Practice Phoenix Contact

Visual configurators transform customer requirements into solutions

Increased sales with less effort: precisely this strategy has proved highly successful for Phoenix Contact. The market leader for systems, components and solutions in the field of electrical engineering, electronics and automation knows it can rely on encoway and KiM for the presentation of its sophisticated portfolio. The key to the design of the visual configurator was the question of how, from the customer’s perspective, to find the right product in the company's wide and varied portfolio. Because here lies the decisive difference: The interested party primarily wants to solve a problem, not buy a product.

The visual configurator acts as the translation function between problem and solution. This is now a simple task for Phoenix Contact. The prospective customer is now able to, for example, individually equip and label an electronics housing in which many different components can be installed during configuration. And the client does not need to waste any thoughts on the feasibility, because the system itself takes into account whether the product ca be built. As soon as the configuration has been completed, the accompanying CAD data is available for download. The customers of Phoenix Contact are delighted with the solution and highly appreciate this intelligent service. And using this solution, Phoenix Contact is able to not only emphasise its own quality standards, but also to increase customer satisfaction and reduce time-consuming consultation.