Vacuum technology specialist Schmalz has full control over its extensive modular product portfolio – the quotation configurator developed by encoway allows sales staff worldwide to quickly configure components and systems. The CPQ software checks the feasibility of the proposed configuration and creates uniform, attractive quotes. Automatically generated 3D CAD drawings are also included, directly providing Schmalz customers with a number of practical benefits for plant planning. The connection to the operational ERP system ensures accurate pricing and efficient processing of the quotation documents.
Customer benefits at a glance:
- Error-free configuration
- Automated generation of quotes for ideal solutions for customer applications
- Uniform CAD data creation system
- CAD data: added value for customers, competitive advantage for Schmalz
- Substantially reduced workload for internal sales thanks to reduction of the number of inquiries
- Automation and more efficient design of processes
Vacuum components and vacuum gripping systems help to increase productivity in automated processes. Vacuum handling systems help the human operators when lifting tasks cannot be automated. In transshipment centres, intralogistics and production they move a wide variety of loads from cardboard to solar modules.
Matthias Beschorner, Project Manager IT Projects at Schmalz, has accompanied the software project from the outset. He explains: “We wanted to quickly enable new sales staff in China, among other countries, to configure standard products in order to provide an accurate and optimal solution for the customer application. We have thus reduced the number of requests received by our office staff for standard configurations. The time they save significantly reduces their work burden.” Hartmut Schlee, Head of International Sales Applications and Processes at Schmalz cites another objective of the project: “The CAD data generation for configurable systems sometimes involved considerable design requirements, so we wanted to automate them. We aimed to avoid isolated solutions for the different product groups and to achieve a uniform system that is both professional and sustainable.”
„The added benefit of the 3D PDFs is enormous. The design drawings are a must for many customers and are now a competitive advantage for us.“
J. Schmalz GmbH has a comprehensive portfolio of components and modular systems. The complex products are configured modularly to meet the individual application requirements. The shape of the load, the weight, the lifting height and the lifting distance must all be taken into account. Before introducing the encoway software, the sales organisation used individual Excel tools for configuration. Now a comprehensive CPQ software system has been introduced in order to cope with – among other things – the company’s strong growth.
Schmalz is the world's leading supplier of automation, handling and clamping technology and provides innovative and efficient vacuum technology solutions to customers in a wide variety of industries. Schmalz products are used in a whole range of production processes, for example in the form of grippers on robot arms for car body manufacturing, CNC machining centres as a mounting solution for furniture components, and operator-controlled lifting tasks from cardboard boxes to solar modules. The company employs more than 1,000 people at its headquarters in Glatten (Black Forest) and at 16 international subsidiaries.
A larger scope of services
“Up to that point we had used Excel tools.” Hartmut Schlee tells us. “During discussions with the sales and business divisions, we discovered that a sales configurator that works like a question-and-answer game would best meet our requirements. While researching online, I came across an article called: ‘The market guide to product configuration’ by Dr Axel Brinkop, who mentioned encoway along with some other providers. In our evaluation process that followed, there were pronounced differences between the companies. Encoway was the one that took the time to look at our processes in depth. We were impressed by this approach because this is exactly how we deal with customer requirements. We did, of course, also ask for references. In the end there were three companies left who presented their models to us. Encoway was the best performer from, among other things, a cost point of view”.
During the process to select a provider, the wider possibilities of CPQ software became obvious. Beschorner tells us: “We decided to integrate the quotation generation process as well. To do this, the programme had to also be linked with our ERP ABAS in order to obtain the right price for the customer. Instead of a pure configuration solution we thus gained a fully integrated sales and quotation concept. We can now extract the parts lists from the orders and transfer them to ERP ABAS for the production.” This integrative approach and the automation have led to a more efficient organisation of the business processes.
Gradual implementation of the project
Firstly, a quote configurator for manual handling systems was implemented. As defined in the project objectives, everyone can thus create an accurate quotation. All the necessary requested information is derived from the customer application. The program is used by internal sales with an ERP connection. Step by step, a web-based version is being introduced via intranet in the foreign subsidiaries. An expert version is also planned. Experienced sales staff can then directly select the product type and add to the accessories manually. Standard users will start off via the application or the goods to be transported and will be guided by the programme, which also suggests the accessories.
„The success is to a large extent thanks to encoway’s meticulous project management with forecasts and monthly reporting. They get a thumbs up without reservation.“
In addition to the configurator for vacuum handling systems, solutions for the other business areas are being developed and discussed. The largest area is vacuum components. These are increasingly intelligent and provide integrated functions for energy and process control, which necessitates a well-thought-out design. The configuration rule-set for vacuum gripping systems is currently being developed. A configurator for vacuum clamping systems is being discussed – this could be used as, for example, an online spare part finder.
Quotations with 3D CAD drawings
A professional quote strengthens customer loyalty. The positive impression is reinforced thanks to documents containing CAD data with real utility value. The plant planners can process this CAD data directly. Schmalz introduced a uniform international quotation format and took the different recipient groups into account when structuring the quotes. Beschorner explains: “Buyers and technicians are interested in different things. Before, we provided them with a document. But today, things are far more customer-friendly because we basically offer two documents in one. The summary page with the total price, discounts, and an image of the system is sufficient for the purchasing department. The technicians, on the other hand, will find all the details they require in the long version.”
The quote contains links to additional product information about components on the internet. For configured systems, a 3D PDF document with a parts list is automatically generated and linked to in the quote. The PDF file can be easily shared with other users via email. It is also extremely useful, as it contains links to download an image and the 3D data of the configured system (STEP, DXF, DWG). The automatic creation of the 3D data increases the value of the quote for customers and thus also supports the sales department. Beschorner concludes: “The quotations are intelligent documents which means they appeal to the recipient and engage them more intensively. From our perspective, the design effort is no longer necessary. A manually created design drawing tends to take around two hours. But with the configurator, we immediately obtain a CAD drawing with very little effort, and the customer can use and further process this for their design.”
“The quotation configurator has the highest added value for foreign sales staff, and in future this will also be the case for sales partners” Hartmut Schlee tells us. “They often only sell components. And now, if they receive a request for a system solution, they can create a quote on their own, even if they have no detailed knowledge of the business area. The most important thing is that the configuration is correct and the parts list is accurate. And we should not forget: The added benefit of the 3D PDFs is enormous. The design drawings are a must for many customers and are now a competitive advantage for us”.
„In order to constructively address variant management right from the outset, we always consult encoway, because this is precisely their area of expertise.“
The project participants speak very positively about the collaboration with encoway. Schlee, who was responsible for the selection of a provider right from the start says: “The success is to a large extent thanks to encoway’s meticulous project management with forecasts and monthly reporting. They get a thumbs up without reservation”. And the cooperation is set to continue. Beschorner: “We are putting together a new product group which will allow numerous variants. In order to constructively address variant management right from the outset, we always consult encoway, because this is precisely their area of expertise.“