What is today about? Company and product
CAS is the market leader in medium-sized companies and has been in the market for 34 years.
CAS Merlin – the product, service and contract configurator
CAS Merlin is a 100% proprietary development of CAS AG. Even with the first customer of CAS – Daimler-Benz AG – the configurator was part of the very first CAS product in its origins. It was thus part of the world’s first sales system for commercial vehicles. The configurator has now been around for 34 years. CAS Merlin has been a standard product for 15 years.
CAS Merlin can be used on its own – as a stand-alone solution – or integrated into other solution landscapes such as CRM or ERP solutions. The most extensive integration in the standard version naturally exists for the CRM system CAS genesisWorld. With only a few adjustments, however, deep integrations have also been created in other CRM systems.
Which problem should CAS Merlin solve?
For years, employees in sales, engineering, purchasing and product management have complained that the quotation process is very time-consuming. For example, there are many and tough coordination rounds, several corrections and adjustments, the quotation phase takes a long time and in the end there are still small errors in the transmission.
Once the customer has agreed to the offer, someone discovers that an error has crept in in the details after all. This leads to unnecessary renegotiations, poorer contribution margin, internal discussions on how to deal with it.
So it’s all about standardization and yet flexibility and quality assurance of complex products and services. The goal is: to significantly simplify and shorten the usually lengthy and costly quotation process. The Americans call it the “Configure, Price, Quote” process or CPQ for short.
Who is CAS Merlin suitable for?
CAS Merlin is primarily used in B2B. The product is therefore primarily aimed at users in the mechanical engineering (e.g. agricultural and construction machinery), automotive and aircraft construction, gas and software licensing industries. But Carthago Motorhomes also uses it to support their sales staff – quasi as a digital assistance for the sales representative.
As standard, a user has a choice of basic configurations for products such as a car, sweeper, truck, conveyor belt, robotic arm, bottling plant or IT project. In addition, there are elements and modules for consulting, training and workshops.
Additional combination possibilities and variants are created by contract configurations, e.g. service or supply contracts, license and maintenance contracts, etc. Fields of application are therefore also contracts for internet, software and telecommunication, gas and electricity contracts.
CAS Merlin in use at GekaKonus:
What can a company configure or combine?
Products, product groups, components, vehicles/devices/machines, solutions/systems, services and contract components.
What is the classic process of quotation configuration with CAS Merlin?
Qualification: First profile and then configure.
There is a golden rule within the lead and opportunity management process: the potential customer must be profiled and qualified. This can be done with a simple question-and-answer game. In addition to the questions about the configuration, the first step is to qualify the needs or contact persons. Who is. e.g. in the buying center?
The use of the configurator offers wonderful possibilities for this. Even without the customer having made contact with the supplier, he can “play around” in the configurator. He leaves behind interesting data, because he gets added value for the use. With the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the system learns and can thus individualize even better and prepare the corresponding offer.
The interested party or (potential) customer is not looking for a concrete product, but for variants of a product or an individual solution.
With a configurator, a prospective customer can go on discovery in a first, explorative phase: What is all possible within the scope of the specifications? Which variants are available as standard?
The special thing about the configurator or CPQ module is that it often has a little – and sometimes much more – gamification character. And that is important. Both for winning leads and for retaining interested parties. This greatly increases the chances of recommendation.
This lengthy quotation process can be shortened considerably with configurators such as CAS Merlin. So saving time is an important advantage. A complex calculation can be run through in a short time, without a lengthy inquiry and demand process.
CAS Merlin avoids costly, internal ping-pong games during internal coordination
Standards bring a) clarity, b) certainty in calculation and c) quality in processing within the subsequent value chain. There is no more conflict with purchasing or production. Because only what was previously defined in the configurator and jointly approved can be sold. And by the way, it is ensured that nothing is forgotten.
CAS Configurator Merlin in use at Essemtec AG:
We all know: Pareto.
His 80/20 rule also applies here. With 20 % of the variants, about 80 % of the sales should be able to be handled. The rest has to be rejected or handled as special production outside the standards. A look at the costs of a special production makes the decision “reject or accept” easier.
Using CAS Merlin not only improves lead management, but also the purchasing, production and delivery process!
Another added value of CAS Merlin is an optimal purchasing and production forecast. The configurator provides real-time information to downstream systems for scheduling, warehouse or production. What is currently in the lead pipeline? The order probability percentage comes from the CRM. Ergo: What quantities will be produced or delivered when and with what probability? How are the capacities to be planned?
This requires consistency of processes and data flows right through to the manufacturing and logistics processes. To start with, this is certainly a greater effort. But in the long run, this investment pays off. The approach has only advantages.
All in all, this networking within the company improves planning reliability and quality enormously.
Who are the typical users and target groups for CAS Merlin?
The classic sales representative or technical sales staff as users or key users.
With the solution. “M.Customer”, CAS Merlin offers a slimmed-down version for contact persons on the B2B customer side. This can be the purchasing or product management employee. Rarely is it the private end customer a CAS Merlin user (e.g. customer of a boat manufacturer).
The end users usually start the configuration. However, he usually does not carry it out completely. This is then done by the sales employee, who is also familiar with the complete ERP, CMS, PIM, etc. -etc. data.
CAS Merlin promotes dialog with (potential) customers
As soon as a configuration has been created, the sales employee goes directly into dialog with the customer. Advice via web conference as well as personal consultation are in the foreground. During the configuration process, both the employee and the customer can call up and change the current configuration at any time.
The sales employee does not have to have all products, variants and conditions in his head. Thus, the employee no longer sells only “his or her very special favorites”. He advises and sells “wider and deeper from the assortment, better and also clearly more than before.
The evaluation of CAS Merlin in detail
Look&Feel and display of the configuration:
The product CAS Merlin has a very clear mask layout and menu navigation. Everything is clearly and concisely structured. Everything is – in the best sense – kept simple. In this respect, we attest the product a very pleasant Look&Feel.
The end customer – usually the buyer or product manager, but also the end user – can be delighted with less information, fewer products – to put it simply – in the M.Customer module (end customer configurator). If profiling has been carried out properly in the lead process, the end customer will already find his “first” solution in the M.Customer module. This surprises the end customer positively, binds him as a prospective customer and facilitates the continuation of the sales and configuration process.
All in all, this means a significant reduction in complexity and no excessive demands on both the customer and the employee. Ergo: An outstanding customer and user experience.
A quotation configurator is only impressive when it can map highly complex sets of rules and all possible combinations in a highly flexible and adaptable manner. This is guaranteed with CAS Merlin. The rules in CAS Merlin are easy to create and adapt. Even unfinished configurations can be saved. The configuration is then gradually completed by the end customer or sales representative.
Nevertheless, special requests (by the customer and/or the employee himself) can be added. Within the framework of rules and plausibility checks, which constantly run in the background, almost anything is possible.
Sets of rules automatically control variants: e.g. the country code defines necessary power voltages or legal conditions. Dynamic pricing” is possible via sets of rules. All CRM data is transferred to CAS Merlin. For example, where is the customer based in the region? This region may receive different prices. A price premium or discount can be assigned down to the level of characteristics. Discounts can be controlled for entire shopping baskets.
What you see is what you get!
With the help of images, including image sections, the user and interested parties can immediately see what has been configured. Depending on the configuration, the image in CAS Merlin adapts. For example, if “England” is selected as the country, a picture with right-hand drive is displayed, otherwise a picture with left-hand drive is displayed. If the supply route requires 2 or 4 footrests due to its length, the image shows 2 or 4 footrests in the image.
Many other variants are possible: e.g. Price per Use, Flat Rate, also price comparisons, rent/purchase/financing and much more.
The companies Konica Minolta and “All for One” configure contracts with different durations, variants within the conditions, notice periods, characteristics, service level agreements (SLA), one-time, monthly, quarterly … payments, premium service or hourly service.
In practice, there are thousands of different ways to determine and calculate prices. Virtually any type of pricing or quotation can be mapped and processed in CAS Merlin.
These are then used to create offer or contract documents. The documents are individually compiled from over 100 pages of templates. For example, the corresponding service contracts can be added to a sold machine.
Even a set of rules created (coded) in an external, compatible tool can be imported and used in CAS Merlin.
Comprehensibility/ sales tips, instructions, support for the user:
A complex product is at its best when it is easy to use and offers good help and instructions. In CAS Merlin, the sales representative receives recommendations for the best configuration. A green bar shows what is standard, what is recommended, what is possible. This enables the employee to provide better and more targeted advice. They not only sell their favorite products, but are also guided through the complex world of service and products. This gives new employees in particular security right from the start.
What are the components of an offer in CAS Merlin?
Every company can define the offer or other documents in Word with the company CI. For example, the offer document consists of:
- Cover sheet or overview sheet
- Options or special request
- Detailed view incl. descriptions
- Terms of contract, AGBs
Structure of the offer is for example:
- Basic equipment
- Components 1-x
- Special requests
When the configuration is complete, a quote is generated with one click. This is then immediately available in the CRM. Including a quick overview on the right side of the screen
Analysis, reporting and optimization:
options or variants: To evaluate is everything. What were options? Where did you win? Or did the customer choose differently than suggested?
Connection with CRM:
As discussed above, the configurator performs best when it is fed with information by different systems. From the CMS, the CRM, the ERP and PIM etc.
CAS Merlin also supplies the connected systems. The CRM system receives the respective lead or opportunity directly from CAS Merlin. The finished document can be sent directly from the CRM to the customer without any problems. CAS Merlin creates both standard and detailed quotations. CAS Merlin then sends an initial, simplified overview to the CRM.
Variants are displayed in the CRM accordingly. The CRM then displays the basis, special request and the defined components.
Further integration and interfaces:
Once the quote has been “won”, follow-up processes can be triggered directly from CAS Merlin. This can be the order confirmation, the order, etc.
To all common ERPs (SAP, Microsoft Dynamics Navision, Sage, Infor LN and Infor COM, Abas) but also Swiss ERP exotics (AMS, Merkator) and also some CRM (Aurea, Pisa Sales, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, SAP, SugarCRM and SuperOffice)
ERP or PIM data is imported/synchronized via interface and enriched with additional data/information in CAS Merlin.
In the stand-alone solution, all product knowledge is created and maintained in CAS Merlin.
ERP/CRM processes are then triggered smoothly. All details, orders or parts lists are transferred in detail from CAS Merlin to the downstream systems.
The employee can then have individual analyses displayed. E.g. create reports regarding sales opportunities and sales. Evaluate the presentation of variants in the offer and what was ordered by the customer. What does the employee workload look like?
A glance at the lead list shows which employee has offered which products. Which ones should be offered to whom in the future or enabled for configuration?
What is special about the product? What is the USP compared to the competition?
Especially from the point of view of a CRM user, the deep integration into genesisWorld from CAS. But it makes just as much sense that CAS offers integration into other system landscapes.
The following points add up to a USP: The pictorial representation and adaptation of the configuration, the general, far-reaching flexibility, the extreme time saving (instead of 2 or 3 weeks or even months, you only need 2 – 3 h effort).
The benefit for the user:
First things first: An extreme scaling of process time and costs is for sure, both for sales and other departments – with an appropriate number of offers. And one is significantly faster than the competition with the offer to the customer.
The very flexible rule maintenance that can be customized. The calculations and representations are easy to test. So the team immediately recognizes what makes sense or no sense, before the customer “plays” with it.
If the rules have already been maintained in another system, the source codes can be imported and used directly in CAS Merlin. The set of rules can be created very easily as a basis. It can then be expanded step by step.
This eliminates the repetitive, time-consuming and nerve-wracking discussions between purchasing, production, logistics, fulfillment, technical service and sales.
An example of the time saved: Continental Head-up Display
Continental uses CAS Merlin.
With CAS Merlin, the customer receives an optimal result within 2-3 days. This means a time saving of about 200 hours per offer compared to the old offer process.
Of course, the cooperation between sales and production and other departments is much better. This results in more profitable projects. However, there are no surprisingly unprofitable projects.
CAS Merlin is also an important, fast helper at trade fairs. The trade fair consultant can show what is possible in seconds. This increases the success rate of trade fair discussions.
The use of CAS Merlin is particularly important in multi-level and multi-layered sales organizations, where dealers, partners, own MA are deployed in parallel. A clearly controlled, correct and always identical determination of offers is always carried out. The employee is given the leeway he or she should be given. No more, but also no less. The use of approval procedures (dual control principle) is easy to implement in CAS Merlin or CRM.
Everyone has an immediate view of the margin:
What effect do the discounts have? Can, do we still want to grant this advantage or not anymore? Everything that is adjusted, corrected, entered, is immediately visible, available or testable in advance (with final price or contribution margin).
That means: Mass customizing in perfection with CAS Merlin
In practice, we have very often found that configurators create several positive effects.
An iterative development of the offer configuration leads to better and better offers. Customized offers can sometimes result in significantly higher prices – and thus a higher contribution margin. More offers can be processed in a shorter time. More time is left for support, interactive consulting, cross-selling and sales. Consequently, less time is wasted on administration, coordination and organization.
The standardization already mentioned several times is another advantage. The focus is not only on an employee’s favorite products. The configurator also enables the presentation of the entire service and product portfolio.
If the requirements are the same, the same solution is always offered. The production or logistics department is happy about this.
The playful effect as a contribution to prospective customers or customer loyalty should also not be underestimated. This usually results in better or earlier lead generation (e.g. through non-binding testing, but the potential buyer sees immediately what he gets).
One last advantage, which is always very important to us, is that using a CPQ like CAS Merlin requires a different type of collaboration across silos. Logistics, purchasing or dispatching can immediately see from the lead pipeline what’s coming up, capacity planning, delivery for just-in-time (JiT), combined with historical data, this enables very accurate forecasting. All in all, this also makes it easier to control and manage the entire organization across departmental boundaries.
Modular structure of CAS Merlin
CAS Merlin is a standard product solution that can already be customized by the customer through settings. Our analysis shows that the entire product is extremely flexible and can be used in a single customized solution!
1. Acceleration of the offer preparation and extreme time saving
2. Efficiency in the offer process
3. The proposal based on the pre-qualification: Find the best fitting product, quickly
4. Simple lead generation
5. Simple, well thought out, without frills and gimmicks
6. The consulting process becomes more playful and easier. Selling becomes easier.
7. The Distributor advises differently, because “its preferences” are levered out.
8. Minimal, rough request is enough to start
9. Fun factor for employees and customers
Conclusion and overall assessment
Although there is no general uniqueness, certain features make the product as such very special. (e.g. the graphical rule maintenance, HTML document live generation)
CAS Merlin is – you can feel this in every situation – a very mature product because it has been on the market for a long time. A good portion of fun factor (“playing around” is even possible, even desired) is added.
In the environment of CRM products, the product CAS Merlin definitely has a lighthouse character.
We see a huge market potential for products like CAS Merlin. Many companies can make these CPQs available to their end customers. This can be for reasons such as gamification, self-service, standardization.
Who are references? Who uses it for what?
All references can be found here.
Digression: How do you approach such a project?
First of all: data quality is extremely important and a necessary condition.
In addition to data quality, the rule definitions in advance are of course extremely important. One should approach the perfect solution step by step. The company should start with the most suffering.
Another challenge is the granularization or modularization of products and services. Therefore, transfer one product group after the other to the configurator. It is important to always intensively involve employees and customers.
Tip: For the start-up phase, it is important to provide sufficient staff capacity for the project. During an implementation project, employees should be freed up for rule creation. CAS offers training and workshops for this purpose. During regular operation, changes can be made quickly and easily.
After the initial, successful configuration, you should immediately obtain feedback from the end user, then adjust and optimize. Afterwards, further ideas (features, product groups) are incorporated.
Further videos can be found in the CAS configurator Merlin – Playlist on YouTube.
Note: This is a machine translation. It is neither 100% complete nor 100% correct. We can therefore not guarantee the result.