Recently I was having a discussion with a client who uses CPQ (Configure Price Quote) for the creation of custom products. The conversation was around the requirements for maintaining engineering controls – ECNs (engineering change notice) and revision management and how to maintain control with rule sets.
Engineering controls such as maintain BOM details and routing processes is straight forward when it comes to standard products. Most contemporary ERP solutions such as Infor CloudSuite Industrial (SyteLine) allow for the locking down of any BOM and routing changes unless ECNs are enacted, routed and approved. This is usually enforced as well with Quality Procedures that may be specified in an ISO QC method. When it comes to configured products however, the engineering controls can become more complex as it is required that the configuration rules which control the BOM and routing output be managed for change control. Rule sets are also typically more complex than a typical BOM as configuration rules may have logic and calculations that generate the BOM and routing output. Any change to the rule set can and will have an effect of the manufacturing BOM and routing that is output from the rule. To add additional complexity and issues, these same rules typically control the configured product pricing. So, any uncontrolled rule change can have a double effect – incorrectly pricing a product and building the product incorrectly. This double whammy of not having rules under change control was the crux of the conversation with my client.
We began looking at what processes and steps could be taken to mitigate these uncontrolled rule set changes to bring his company’s risk to a minimum. We came up with several best practices that should be implemented for anyone running configurators to build and price product.
1. Implement an ECN within the ERP to document and detail all rule changes and as well what would be the impact if the change was done incorrectly. As his company is running ERP SyteLine this was done via the ECN process as well as the built-in quality processes. Responsible parties, dates and details of the changes to be made. Sign off and workflows were used to be sure all parties were informed.
2. Within the Infor CPQ solution there is a formal ECN and Check out / Check in process that must take place to modify the rules. We recommended enforcing this process and tying it to the SyteLine ECN.
3. As they also had a test environment we recommended that the rule set changes first were written and tested in the test environment if the change was complex.
4. As a best practice, we also performed an enhancement to allow the SyteLine ECN to have online real time database visibility of the check in/out status of the production rule set. This was done using the native SyteLine Mongoose tools that allow for SyteLine to access external database tables and records.
5. Notes within the ECN included the rule set logic, values and scripts so that in the future, it was fully understood by all as to the change. The use of SyteLine’s built in document notes and attachments made this an easy and reliable task.
6. Quality processes and check offs were also maintained within SyteLine and as Infor CPQ can read data directly from SyteLine tables, if applicable, a rule set could be locked from execution unless proper quality or ECNs have been completed. This would be dependent on the desired level of control.
The result was a tightly controlled system that brought simplicity and reliability of rules management within CPQ to a level that would typically be seen only in standard BOM and routing type products. My client’s engineering and management teams felt that this mitigated their issues and would maintain their ISO quality levels while giving them the ability to build extensive configuration rules to create products their customers desired.
Bottom line – reduced risk, increased sales and customer satisfaction though the use of the Infor Configure Price Quote Solution and Infor SyteLine!