Integral Logistics Management — Operations Management and Supply Chain Management Within and Across Companies

Course 7 – The Concept for Product Families and One-of-a-Kind Production

Intended learning outcomes: Produce logistics characteristics of a product variety concept. Explain adaptive and generative techniques in detail. Describe the use of generative and adaptive techniques for engineer-to-order. Differentiate various ways of cooperation between R&D and Engineering in ETO Companies.


In buyers’ markets, customers ask producers to meet their specific requirements with regard to product composition and quality. Customers do not want to have to adapt their own processes to standard products. Instead, they demand adaptation of the product to their own specific requirements. This has given rise to a tendency toward product families and one-of-a-kind production, which requires appropriate product and process concepts as well as logistics concepts. The traditional MRP II concept does not suffice.

The variant-oriented concept does not aim toward reduction of the number of product variants, but instead aims toward mastering a variety of variants.

For many, particularly medium-sized companies, being market driven, that is, fulfilling customer specification, through flexibly offering product families with many variants, is the main market strategy. Globally known examples are turbochargers of ABB Turbo Systems (Baden) or ele­vators of Schindler (Lucerne-Ebikon), both Switzerland-based companies. Service industries show similar tendencies. In the insurance sector, e.g., in addition to mass business that focuses on low costs, “custom” insurance policies are offered with flexible terms and customer design ease. Mass customization is the corresponding production type that emphasi­zes custom products that do not cost more than mass-produced products.

The Lean/JIT concept as presented in Chapter 6 is also useful in the case of production with in­frequent or without order repeti­tion: With short lead times, the (customer) order penetra­tion point (OPP) can be set as far as possible upstream in the supply chain. This reduces the need of forecasting. The Kanban technique, however, cannot be used: it requires pro­duc­tion with frequent or­der repetition. Often, customer order-specific drawings must be completed as early as the bidding phase. In actual produc­tion, the problem to be faced is how to set up the machines rapidly for a new variant. Moreover, variant-specific work documents must also be produced. Here, the variant-oriented concept is required (also compare Figure 4.5.3.1). It is also called product family orientationvariant orientationvariant production, and customer order production. It affects virtually all planning & control tasks (see Figure 5.1.4.2). What stands at the fore is discrete manufacturing, or convergent product structure.



Course sections and their intended learning outcomes

  • Course 7 – The Concept for Product Families and One-of-a-Kind Production

    Intended learning outcomes: Produce logistics characteristics of a product variety concept. Explain adaptive and generative techniques in detail. Describe the use of generative and adaptive techniques for engineer-to-order. Differentiate various ways of cooperation between R&D and Engineering in ETO Companies.

  • 7.1 Logistics Characteristics of a Product Variety Concept

    Intended learning outcomes: Differentiate between high-variety and low-variety manufacturing. Describe different variant-oriented techniques, and the final assembly schedule.

  • 7.2 Adaptive Techniques

    Intended learning outcomes: Explain techniques for standard products with few variants as well as techniques for product families.

  • 7.3 Generative Techniques

    Intended learning outcomes: Disclose the combinatorial aspect and the problem of redundant data. Present variants in bills of material and routing sheets as production rules of a knowledge-based system. Explain the use of production rules in order processing.

  • 7.8 Scenarios and Exercises

    Intended learning outcomes: Apply adaptive techniques for product families. Disclose the use of production rules in order processing. Elaborate the setting the parameters of a product family.

  • 7.9 References

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