Variant management

Through the transformation of the market situation and company organization in the last 20 years, companies are increasingly compelled to react fast and flexible to market demands.

Furthermore, the companies’ efforts focus more and more on the customer, which has enormous effects on the products. Customer focused products means designing the products in order to meet the customers’ requests. This applies to investment goods as well as to consumer goods and services. On the other side, this development should not lead to creating a special solution for every customer. In fact, customized products must be created from combining as variable as possible components.

Thus, modular solutions, whose single components are standardized, but still allow for a greater variety of component combinations, are required at a larger scale. The Americans call it mass customization. This principle gains more and more acceptance in companies. And this is exactly where variant management starts.

On the one hand, variant management achieves a great product flexibility, but on the other hand it leads to high requirements in order to control the immense variant variety in all sectors of the company. The sales department in particular cannot list the product variety in conventional catalogs anymore. It is even difficult for electronic catalogs, because usually they do not contain any information about which component combination is right for which application and which combinations are feasible and allowed.

Companies with varied products have been familiar with this for a long time: incomplete or technically not feasible orders can cause time-consuming technical clarifications and high expenses due to special solutions. In order to create quotations for complex products with many variants, sales staff or dealer organizations need increasing support from internal technical departments. Usually they are not able to overlook the entire product range anymore and therefore cannot sell an appropriate solution to the customer. If the customer then prefers to go to the competitor or the distributor prefers the more simple products of the competitor, it is very difficult to win back the customer. Nowadays the competitiveness of a company depends on its response capability to customer requests and its ability to deliver reliable and on schedule. Considering the international competition, a high percentage of customized products has negative effects, too. Generally, customization costs can no longer be transferred to the customer. Therefore, the impetus to tackle these loss-makers was given by the sales departments. In order to achieve higher turnovers, they want to make the entire offer and order process quicker and more effective, and improve the consultation of the costumer. The new rule based configuration systems are developed especially for these sales requirements. Furthermore, a systematic product configuration also has effect on the order processing and streamlines production, which is visible in overall shorter throughput times, low error rates, fewer production of customized solutions, and an adjusted product range.

Together with the VDMA, camos, specialist for variant management software, has contributed to the creation of a “variant management” guideline and brought its experience from over 30 years of variant management to bear. The guideline can be purchased at VDMA:

Variant management guideline

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