Configuration Rules

Engineering Configuration Rules.

A Product is normally presented to the Market in a multitude of predefined Variants or Options. At least if it is a fairly complex "mechatronic" Product. It is a Configurable Product as opposed to a mass-produced, single function Product. Frequently, the Products are marketed in a Range of Models, within a Product Class, where the type of function, performance or size is the uniting property. Within a Model there may be a lot of Variants or Options offered. The Options (or Variants) are selectable by the customer.

An Option (Variant) is intended for one or several Models. It is designed to be used for one or several Models. A Model may have several Options that are all intended for use with this Model.

Very often, an Option (Variant) is intended for a specific use. The use could for instance be "protecting the engine from extremely dusty operational environment" by offering a special air intake filter. Another could be an Option for "extreme cold conditions" etc. 

When dealing with very complex Products, like in the Automotive or Aerospace industry, the magnitude of Options come in conflict with each other. You will need rules to define how to combine the different Options: what can be allowed and what will have to be prohibited for various reasons.

There are Exclusion Rules to be applied when a customer has chosen a specific Option: When choosing "this Option", he cannot choose one or several other options since they would conflict technically with the first choice.

There are Inclusion Rules to be applied when a customer has chosen the same or another specific Option: When choosing "this Option" , he will have to accept one or several other Options since these are a precondition for the first selected Option to function properly.

These technical constraints will control how the Options (or Variants) may be or may not be combined. This can be handled by functions within the PDM application: Engineering Configuration Rules. The Engineering Configuration Rules as well as rules imposed by the laws and regulations on the different Markets in which you shall sell the Product, will have to be defined by Product Engineering.

Usage.

The Engineering Configuration Rules are also used as input to the Marketing and Sales Configurators where Marketing Rules are added. The Marketing Rules are defining how the company wants to market the different products at different markets based on policy and profit expectations etc.

The variety offered to the customer may not always be enough. There may be something that the customer require that is not predefined from Engineering and perhaps not possible to manufacture with normal lead time. In rare cases it may be necessary to develop special solutions. Within the automotive world I would assume that 98 % or more of the value of what is delivered to customers is predefined. The rest is add-ons like communication equipment, special paint jobs, 3:rd party attachments that fits to predefined interfaces etc. The ratio between the predefined portion of the Configurable Product and what needs to be defined when accepting the customer order may, of course, vary from company to company. A high portion of predefined Options/Variants will reduce manufacturing lead time and will also improve competitiveness.

Different Configurators.

Within an enterprise you may find several Configurators. The base for all Configurators is the Engineering Configuration Rules supplemented with the Marketing Policy Rules. All rules regarding technical and legal restrictions are updated and maintained as part of the Engineering Configuration Rules which should be an integrated sub-system within the PDM application. It is; amongst other things, used to validate the Variants and Variant Combinations presented in the Product Structure.

At the Plants there may also be a Manufacturing Product Configurator which is used in the Order Entry application to verify the Customer Order and to initiate an availability of specified Options and to check for necessary inventory. The Engineering Configuration Rules or are used even here. For this purpose it is practical to have an attribute to the Variant for keeping track of which Variants that are built at which Plant.

The Sales Configurator is based on the Engineering Configuration Rules but supplemented with Marketing Policy Rules. It is often required special Option Packages consisting of a number of Variants packaged at a special "Discount Price" or "Special Offer". The Option Packages should not be part of the PDM documentation since they are just combinations of what is already documented. This type of packaging is not so common on commercial vehicles as on cars etc.

Part of the Marketing Policy Rules are definitions of Variants per Market as "Standard", "Optional" or "Forbidden". Which Variants that are sold on which market should not be part of the Engineering Documentation. Hence, it is not reflected in the Engineering Configuration Rules but is important and useful in the Sales Configurator.

The Sales Configurator should have a price per Variant in order to be able to quote a price for a certain configuration of the Product to the Customer. The most important part of the Sales Configurator is normally housed in a laptop, The Salesman's Tool, together with applications for Financing, Service & Maintenance Packages, Customer Relationship Data.
An adapted version may also be available to the Customers via Internet for direct e-commerce.