Interdisciplinary Variant, Configuration, and Change Management

Coping with increasing product complexity and ever-larger numbers of product variants is one of the main challenges that needs to be addressed within the context of Industry 4.0. The methods used to do this must also be able meet the challenges being faced in the field of Smart Engineering, such as agile processes, short development cycles, rapidly changing market conditions and consistently high demands placed on product quality.

In the age of digitalization, mastering product and process complexity is thus a core competence when it comes to product development.

How can companies master product complexity throughout the entire development process in order to gain a decisive competitive advantage?

Successful complexity management requires a suitable product model comprising a functional view and the product structure. If such a product model is to be made possible, the product architecture must be adapted accordingly and the product model created as a digital master. The digital master permits the efficient monitoring and control of product complexity within the process. This involves mapping not only the product artifacts (engineering data, software, documentation, simulation data) and product characteristics in an appropriate manner but also all the variant information.

With the help of suitable methods and tools [9], the digital master can be used as the basis for an extensive analysis of the consistency of the product description and characteristics and thus ensure quality.

These methods and tools allow product variants to be monitored and controlled throughout the entire process, which significantly shortens the change cycles. In addition, these methods and tools permit flexible change management as the repercussions of changes can be seen immediately.

Mastering complexity is thus of vital importance for a company‘s PLM processes and a prerequisite for the successful implementation of Industry 4.0 initiatives. It requires that product architectures be revised accordingly and that a digital master be implemented in cross-domain development processes in such a way that it maps the system properties for all the variants. At the same time, appropriate process methods and tools must be deployed that allow all those involved in the process to cope with product complexity easily and reliably.