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You want to show stock in your Configurator. That must be easy right?

October 24, 2016

shutterstock_17837185For ex-stock sales showing stock (inventory) in a Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) tool offers a better chance of a “right first time” quotation. In Sales, how often has a solution been created but has to be re-worked and re-worked at great expense because it can’t be shipped in time?

Customer expectations are high and in some geographies same or next day deliveries are considered normal. One of the reasons factory configuration (aka configure to order) business models that were popular at the start of the millennium in the IT Channel are not as common anymore.

Surfacing stock should be easy. With our experience we know it’s not as easy as you’d think.

CPQ: a separate system
It’s very rare for an ERP system to be able to offer CPQ capabilities that exactly match the business or technical complexity. So stock has to be “fed” to the CPQ system. Today that almost certainly means a web service as even hourly text files can be out of date. A business turning over stock every two weeks in volume or value terms is shipping a lot of products per hour and it only takes 1 part from 10 to be sold to invalidate a configuration.

Web services are real-time and with the best programming techniques stock figures can cascade in once a page has loaded, to improve performance and handle complex configurations that have hundreds or even thousands of parts.

Pulling stock through in tandem with price makes sense so this is often a single process.

Stock is Stock
Well surprisingly not. At any stage a Manufacturer or Distributor may have orders placed on their suppliers so there’s what is in stock, plus what is on order. Then add in expected due dates so the user can accurately forecast when a configuration can be shipped. Sometimes products in constraint have “back orders” or “forward due date orders”. So the due quantity isn’t the amount on order it’s the amount after back/forward orders.

Imagine losing a sales opportunity today for 50 units when you have 5000 units arriving in the warehouse tomorrow.

Bundles
The concept of bundles is usually associated with promotional discounts so buy these 5 products together and get a better price. In addition, bundles also exist where “large deal” price lists are in place where all products must be ordered from one supplier on a single invoice. It doesn’t stop there though: for large geographies stock exists in multiple warehouses so to build a configuration, all the items have to be in the same location otherwise the shipping is a) more expensive b) slower. Lastly, some countries have complex tax laws and to pay the “correct” tax, products have to ship from specific locations.

Virtual Stock & Electronic Licenses
If you are a Reseller that carries some stock but can buy from multiple sources, you have the advantage of being able to show “aggregate” stock numbers but be careful not to fall foul to the Bundle rules that may be in play. Also some products are ALWAYS in stock as they are basically licenses or services delivered via an email. So your user interface needs to make it clear that they are ALWAYS available not ALWAYS out of stock.

Visual Aids
New word for the dictionary: shippability. Show products in the basket that can ship now in green and those that can’t in red. OK that makes sense. Especially if the “electronically” delivered parts are also green. The user can instantly see the entire configuration is shippable. You will also want your CPQ tool to update shippabillity in a quote that was created 2 weeks ago. If a product can’t be stock refreshed warn the user.

Still think showing stock is easy? Well it’s not impossible. All of channelcentral’s CPQ tools cope well with ALL of the complexities laid out here. If you are having issues managing stock for your Channel contact us to hear about the different CPQ tools that we can offer.

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