Value-chain integration can be complicated for any company. Imagine the increase in that complexity when your company manufacturers strictly or mainly engineer-to-order (ETO) products. Each ETO product is unique, therefore, how do you develop any standards on which to base a system of integration -- whether concentrating on selling, designing, pricing, or building your products? Cupertino, Ca.-based Design Power Inc. has been addressing this issue for more than 10 years with products based on its Design++ scalable, open software platform that makes instant ETO and mass customization feasible for both simple and highly complex products. One of the company's slogans is "a spreadsheet simple solution for mass customization." Recently, Design Power took its product offerings a step further with CustomWise, an Internet/intranet-accessible software package that automates the configuration and engineering of complex manufactured products. This gives an edge to a sales force that is selling ETO products because the program allows instant access to technical configurations on the fly. The program generates product proposals, complete with technical drawings, a 3-D computer model of the customized product, and a bill of materials. "The engineer and design is typically instant, and the quality you produce with these designs is consistent, which means less rework," says Ulf J. Strom, president and CEO of Design Power. "You really have a tool that can create a higher degree of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty." The CustomWise software engine resides on a company's central server and is accessed via a Java-based Web client. In addition to sales staff, distributors and key customers are potential users of the program, the company says. Design Power was spun off from Nokia in 1989 with the goal of applying artificial intelligence to complex design problems.
eMarket Holdings LLC Tonya Vinas is New Media Editor of IndustryWeek.com and IWValueChain.com. IndustryWeek Senior Editor Tim Stevens contributed to this report.