There is no limit to the fields of application for plastics. And the range of solutions from REHAU is equally diverse, with new applications being constantly added. This is why during the development of a new configuration software, REHAU focussed on being able to maintain and expand the system themselves. encoway was able to realise the new software for configuring REHAU cabinet shutters as an expandable platform solution within six months. The subsequent configurator interface project was then completed in just twelve weeks. Other configurators for sales support are still to be added.
REHAU is the global market leader for polymer-based products. Their wide portfolio is constantly expanded to include new areas of application. The new configuration solutions must therefore first and foremost allow users to expand and maintain them themselves. “We need configuration solutions without barriers, that are easy to use, and that address the current situation of the customers” says Christoph Härtl-Müller from REHAU E-Business. The roller shutter systems were chosen as the initial product segment. Härtl-Müller continued: “For some time now, we have been offering a configurator for this segment on our website. For the current revised version with encoway it was especially important for us to be able to maintain the system ourselves. This option was not available to us in the past”
“We wanted to create an open software structure that allowed new product fields to be flexibly integrated"
REHAU AG + Co. KG is the leading supplier of polymer-based solutions for industry, construction and car manufacturing. Since the company was founded in 1948, REHAU has developed products and systems made from innovative plastic materials for a whole variety of applications for everyday life and for the world of business. The company headquarters and the main site are located in Rehau in upper Franconia. More than 19,000 employees in over 170 locations around the globe work for the the international group of companies.
Employees from product management, marketing and the IT department worked closely together to define exactly what was required of the software. "We realised that it was crucial to always consider the content together with the technical implementation." Everyone involved always bore the whole diverse REHAU product range in mind instead of just focussing on the field of roller shutter cabinets. Härtl-Müller explained: "No one can know what new areas of application for polymer material solutions we will discover in the future. After all, new uses are constantly being found. There is simply no limit to the application fields for polymers, and we don’t want to set ourselves any artificial boundaries. This is why we wanted to create an open software structure in which new product areas can be flexibly integrated”. The following common requirements for all applications were therefore included in the specifications:
- in-house data maintenance
- simple, logical operation
- tested plausibility of results
- tested, fully functional SAP interface
For the implementation, a supplier was selected together with encoway. This supplier has extensive experience in the programming of offer and configuration software for a wide variety of products. “We were looking for a low-maintenance solution,” says Härtl-Müller. "So we wanted to find an experienced partner who ideally had a software that covers all the basic functions. With encoway we were in very good hands. Not only did the standard software significantly shorten the duration of the project, but thanks to encoway having already tested the reliability of the functions and interfaces in the past for a whole range of scenarios, we received a proven, fail-safe solution.” One example of the flexibly implemented features of the platform solution is the SAP interface. The configurator in this version automatically transmits SAP-compliant order data to the SAP ERP system. This reduces the error rate. When the order is placed, SAP creates the Bill of Materials for the production. The situation at REHAU in the United States, where SAP is currently not used, is different. Here, the encoway configurator also calculates the prices, generates the Bills of Materials and transmits them to the production.
„Thanks to the standard software, the duration of the project has been shortened and we now have a proven, fail-safe solution“
The roller shutter configurator was fully functional in just five months. During this period, REHAU and encoway agreed the construction and design of the configurator in detail and structured the configuration knowledge. While encoway developed the software solution, which went through several test phases, REHAU created the various product and material images. The global rollout launched after just eight months. The configurator can be operated via internet browsers and mobile devices. Customised solutions are in use for the different markets in the respective language versions. REHAU is able to adapt the offer for each specific country and also, for example, block selected variants for a particular region. Units can be changed automatically. Härtl-Müller concludes: "One important result is that we are able to maintain the configurator more or less autonomously. We can thus add new variants and release different products for specific markets”.
As a follow-up project, encoway developed the interface configurator for individual furniture fronts. As the platform was now already available and the employees involved from both companies were working successfully together, it was possible to put the second configurator into operation after just twelve weeks.
Heike Laber, responsible for the product management of roller shutter systems at REHAU, sums up: “The online offering gives REHAU a unique selling point. Items can be individualised, without having to extend the waiting period. Brand awareness is strengthened, even in prospective customers who are not looked after by direct sales”.
The roller shutter configurator allows even prospective customers without any in-depth product knowledge to easily plan roller shutter systems even for a single unit. It provides self-explanatory user-guidance and clearly arranged input masks. As an alternative to the guided processing for beginners, experts can select a flexible configuration that allows them to start at any stage, and switch back and forth as required. Mouseover windows provide detailed illustrations and additional information. To ensure that the user keeps the wide product range in mind, several variants of the selected product are always displayed. The individual selection steps are adapted to the practical needs of the user: they can thus specify not only standard sizes but also individual measurements and the clear internal dimensions of the cabinet.
„Brand awareness is strengthened, even in prospective customers who are not looked after by direct sales"
Carpenters and distributors also benefit from the efficient offer process. In seven simple steps they can plan an individual roller shutter kit with the required design. After completing the configuration and registration in the system, the recommended retail price can already be seen and a diagram with dimensions is available to download. After configuration, customers simply choose a distributor from a list to request a quote. This eliminates the time-consuming filling out of order forms and the dealer receives the exact data provided by the customer via the REHAU customer portal. Repeat orders and adjustments are possible at any time via the stored planning ID number. Upon completion of the contract, REHAU ships the order-specific roller shutter kits directly to the carpenters within three working days.
encoway developed a software platform for REHAU that allows the rapid implementation of configuration solutions for even the most diverse products from the group’s wide portfolio. The roller shutter configurator, developed as a pilot project, and also the subsequent solutions ideally fit the company’s web presence with their uniform graphical design. REHAU is able to maintain the data and most of the user interface itself. The implementation as a platform solution has demonstrably reduced development costs. The workload decreased from project to project.