Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning, a joint venture between Hitachi Products and Johnson Controls, operates in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. The company has a group that produces scroll compressors that power air conditioning and refrigeration systems. Scroll compressors operate in a circular motion instead of an up and down piston action and have a reputation for reliability and efficiency. Scroll compressors are deployed in many different ways to meet the needs of efficiency, comfort and affordability – and therein lies the challenge. Finding the right scroll compressor for a specific application requires understanding variables such as refrigerant, rating conditions, and cooling capacity.
Spreadsheets have limitations
The spreadsheets effectively analyze common data and figures and will cook up a solution for a client with a quote. But a spreadsheet requires constant upkeep and maintenance, otherwise the data will be inaccurate and won’t integrate with other systems or processes. Johnson Controls–Hitachi Air Conditioning had outgrown the spreadsheet.
A client request on the website would cause questions to go back and forth for several days until we fully understood the client’s requirements.
A cloud-based online selection tool
Johnson Controls–Hitachi Air Conditioning needed an interactive product configurator to manage an ever-changing product catalog. The solution was a cloud-based selection tool, accessible from anywhere. The configurator presents several selection criteria for application, refrigerant, nominal conditions and cooling capacity. The configurator also generates technical documentation based on customer-specific inputs for download.
An interactive product configurator is ideal for companies that produce or distribute highly configurable or customizable products, with multiple options and features available for the same product. The importance of product configuration is currently increasing dramatically for a wide range of industrial companies due to the growing demand for individually specified products.
Tom Parrish, vice president of the Compressor Business Unit at Johnson-Hitachi Air Conditioning, said, “We provide our customers with superior engineered product solutions that deliver exceptional performance. Our future growth strategy required much stronger customer interaction, powered by flexible and scalable digital tools – those capable of providing easy access, high responsiveness and improving the quality of our initial customer engagements, especially new customers looking for new product applications. When choosing the solution that would meet the needs of Johnson-Hitachi Air Conditioning. He goes on to say, “The Infosys team has made this a reality by providing a cloud-based digital product selection tool that refreshes product data, introduces new models, updates drawings or specifications instantly, helping us reach global customers. We take great pride in delivering this transformational experience to our clients, and we believe this is starting to pay off as we see higher success rates.”
Selection of a strategic partner
Custom software is complex and undertaking the development of in-house product configurators is difficult and most likely tricky, and takes more time than it’s worth.
Johnson Controls–Hitachi Air Conditioning decided to outsource the work to Infosys based on trust and a long-standing relationship. Infosys understands the HVAC industry and has extensive experience in product sales and configuration. Vijay Narayan, Senior Vice President and Regional Head of Manufacturing – Americas, Infosys, notes, “Manufacturing organizations are dramatically adapting digitalization and in particular improving the customer experience in every engagement. At Infosys, we were thrilled to give our partnership with Johnson Controls Hitachi a head start and help simplify their complex sales processes with our advanced set of cloud-based engineering solutions and services.
Infosys has created digital catalogs to help customers search for products based on features and attributes. Infosys has a product configuration solution that speeds up the sales cycle by enabling sales teams to accurately configure products and estimate product costs. The solution captures customer requirements, automatically maps requirements with the product portfolio and optimizes pricing.
Infosys uses a program called Cobalt. Infosys Cobalt is a collection of services, solutions, and platforms that enable enterprises to accelerate the journey to the cloud. I’ve seen this in action with several customers, and Infosys has a great rinse and repeat process to reduce migration risk and implementation time.
The solution’s hosting environment is Microsoft Azure. Azure Active Directory provides multi-factor authentication and conditional access for security. The data store for product code and artifacts is Azure SQL Database, an Azure-based relational database service that automatically scales to meet requirements.
Web hosting uses the WebApp service in Azure.
Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), automated builds, testing and deployment using Azure DevOps. CI/CD is a method for delivering applications using automation and continuous monitoring throughout the stages of application development, from integration and testing phases to delivery and deployment.
The Product Configurator has automated the entire engineering selection process and improved the quote-to-order process, while reducing the time it takes for customers to create quotes. The information necessary to process an order is captured and will reduce the risk of having to go back to sales representatives to find the information. Design information takes minutes to generate instead of days.
The product configurator allowed customers to be more autonomous, allowing salespeople to focus on much more complex problems. Accurate quotes lead to fewer queries, which helps reduce customer service workload. Manual processes have been eliminated or reduced, allowing the sales team to focus on increasing sales by submitting more qualified and competitive quotes.
Complex products come with complex pricing and configurations, which increases the risk of human error. A product configurator greatly reduces the potential for these errors by pre-defining rules that create accurate prices and valid combinations. Redundancies and errors have been reduced, with no more incorrect or missing products. There has been a drastic reduction in the time needed to introduce new models.
With the help of Infosys, Johnson Controls–Hitachi Air Conditioning has a configurator on the website. Customers can select the right compressor for the application and download relevant product information.
The times have changed. Clearly, with more people and businesses buying products online, there has been a significant shift in behavior towards convenience and personalization.
Organizations need to redesign the sales process by deploying product configurator applications to optimize quoting, designing, and selling complex configurable products.
Johnson Controls–Hitachi Air Conditioning has established the first step to developing a website that includes access to a product configurator. Future customer expectations will be to order configurable products through the website and place an order online, have it shipped, or pick it up in person.
The customer experience should be simplified by automating as much as possible using default options, background calculations, and conditional logic.
Anything less can cause customers to give up and look elsewhere.
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