Configit Ace®: Enterprise-Wide Configuration Management
Configit Ace® is an enterprise application for authoring all configuration aspects of configurable products, both engineering and market intent, in a single model. Ace supports all phases of the configuration lifecycle, from engineering to sales, sourcing, manufacturing and service, by being the single source of all aspects of the configuration logic.
Configit Ace® is an Essential Part of Seven Key Phases:
During the development of new products, decisions have to be made on how to modularize the product to be amenable to customization. The allowable variants and options must be defined so that the necessary dependent engineering, sourcing and business processes can be initiated. In this phase, the allowable combinations forming the configuration space are being defined. This involves defining legal and technical constraints.
Pricing involves analyzing the cost and market acceptable sales prices and then deducing the expected profit margins. With customizable products this becomes grossly complicated due to the calculations required for the full space of possible configurations and not just predetermined products.
When marketing a customizable product on a global scale there are differences in the offering across geographical markets. These arise as a consequence of local regulations and varying customer preferences. It is necessary to ensure that the offered configurations match the needs of its customers. Sales and Marketing departments often organize the mapping of offerings to markets using large availability matrixes, which in essence, are configuration rules.
The sales process plays a critical role in deciding the specific configuration that will meet customer requirements. Many businesses are faced with multiple choices and need guidance in selections to ensure a satisfactory product at an acceptable price. The result of the sales process is a valid order to be fed into the downstream systems.
Manufacturing of complex products involves using parts and assemblies from sub-suppliers. When the overall product is configurable, the parts and assemblies vary according to the individual configurations. It is, therefore, important to ensure that correctly configured sub-assemblies are delivered in the right sequence for the production line and that configurations are communicated correctly to the suppliers. Other constraints to be considered in production planning are the suppliers’ yearly or monthly capacity.
The building of a product is defined by its configuration. Each product has its own defining configuration used for selecting the correct parts to be mounted. An error in a configuration is very costly. It can result in a useless end product or a stopped production line. Other considerations are build constraints on the production line that reflect known line labor balancing issues and lineside feeding constraints.
After a product is delivered it typically goes through service and maintenance. These activities are dependent upon the configuration of the product and can be changed over time by upgrading sub-systems.
Modeling in Configit Ace®
To support the full configuration lifecycle of configurable products, Configit Ace® has a unique set of modeling capabilities, covering all logical aspects of a product. All rules in Configit Ace® are authored using a global set of features that are maintained in a master feature dictionary.
Effectivity is used to control when rules, features and other elements of the model are in effect, that is, when they are considered part of the model. Instead of using absolute dates to specify effectivity, Configit Ace® uses symbolic dates, called events.
Since many aspects of the configuration logic are related to the market in which the products are sold, Configit Ace® has a built-in concept of the sales region or market, which is used in several specialized rule editors.
Configit Ace® supports several types of rules:
- Pack Rules
- Tabular Rules
- General Purpose Text Rules
Configit Ace® contains powerful test and validation tools to ensure that the configuration logic is correct before it is released to downstream systems, such as global Web sites and ordering portals.
Configit Ace® supports multi-channel deployment of the configuration logic, supporting both internal technical uses and public facing Web sites. The configurators may be part of Web portals or embedded into applications on smartphones and tablets. The content management module of Configit Ace® supports the presentation of features and related information for multiple channels in multiple languages.
Analytics in Configit Ace®
Configit Ace® contains a number of tools for analyzing solution space. The simpler tools may provide sets of valid combinations, potentially presented as a feature tree. If take rates are provided, Configit Ace® can generate probabilities of combinations of features, which is useful for planning and supply chain management.
Having information about complete solution space is essential in optimization problems. For example, in the automotive industry, this can be used for optimizing the wire harnesses in vehicles.
Another important analysis is to validate the bill-of-material (BOM). One check is to verify that BOM is always complete, e.g., every vehicle gets four wheels. Another check ensures that parts/sub-assemblies do not overlap, e.g., two different transmissions selected for the same configuration. Such analyses are performed before the configuration logic and BOM structures are released, therefore catching errors before they reach the manufacturing stage.