Variant management

Increased competition, shorter product life cycles and the increasingly dynamic development of the market mean that for many companies, a product portfolio with many variants is no longer the exception, but the norm. By constantly increasing the number of variants, manufacturers are meeting the demand for individual products and solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of customers. However, flexibility in production is leading to increasingly complex and cost-intensive process design. To reduce this complexity, holistic variant management is essential.

Solutions using software

In an increasingly competitive environment, companies are faced with the challenge of creating profitable and unique purchasing experiences for their customers. At the same time, customers expect products and services that are individually tailored to their needs. A wide range of variants and tailor-made solutions are therefore crucial in order to remain visible on the market among the multitude of providers.

Variants are characterized by changes to a certain basic design. These can result from the addition or omission of individual parts and relate to the shape, properties and characteristics of a product.

Managing complex variant diversity

An increasing number of variants means rising complexity and costs in all areas of the company: From the development and design of new parts to the logistical effort of storage and complex capacity planning through to service; companies are confronted with the challenges and expenses of variant diversity.

This is associated with a large number of questions arising from a high number of variants and an extensive range of variants:

  • How often are certain variants offered with a specific set of characteristics?
  • How often are special products offered and how often standardized products?
  • Which margins are used?
  • Which products are offered and sold particularly frequently? And in which countries does this occur?
  • Which characteristics are combined with each other?
  • Which products generate the most sales?

What is variant management?

Efficient variant management provides answers to these questions and counteracts variant-related complexity. As a holistic approach, variant management starts with the systematic recording of customer requirements and market trends and provides a well-founded decision-making basis for the strategic planning of the product range. By analyzing the variety of variants over the entire product life cycle, optimal product variants can be distinguished from unnecessary ones. This makes it possible to identify variants that are rarely or never required and to remove them from the product range so that no productivity losses occur.

However, simply eliminating variations and thus reducing the product portfolio is not enough. Rather, the aim is to optimize the existing product range and thus reduce both product- and process-driven complexity. Classic variant expenses include, for example, additional production costs, disproportionately high release and development costs and increasing expenses at suppliers due to material costs. In addition, stocks of materials increase and delivery times for variants increase.

The following points should therefore be taken into account when analyzing products with many variants:


By analyzing the variants, it is possible to explore the product life cycle of individual versions in detail and draw conclusions about performance within the product portfolio. The strengths and weaknesses of a product thus become more transparent.

Cost savings

Variants that are rarely ordered often have long storage times. If you offer these variants with longer delivery times and do not store them on call in your own warehouses, you can save on storage costs.

Information gain

If a variant is discounted particularly frequently, this may indicate that it is being offered at too high a price.

Identification of potential savings

Each variant offered incurs costs, for example, in the manufacturing and purchasing processes or in product documentation. A comparison of the fixed costs with the yield generated by the variant indicates which versions are worthwhile.

Strategic variant and complexity management can therefore be used to derive specific recommendations and specifications for production and prevent future complexity in the company. Variant parts lists, in which all the different versions are also recorded, provide a clear tabular representation of the product types.

Individual variant configuration for customer enthusiasm

Integrated variant management thus provides the basis for combining customer-specific variants with sufficiently cost-optimized products and processes. The configuration not only optimally utilizes the company's resources. In fact, offering individual variant configurations creates unique purchasing experiences that inspire customers. If every customer can find a product in the portfolio that is specifically tailored to their needs and requirements or can put it together as required, this offers a decisive competitive advantage on the market.


Many variants - one solution

The wide range of variants and individual offers are also making the quotation, planning and production process increasingly complex. An ever-increasing variety of products and configuration options are faced with the demand for effective production. The solution is standardized interfaces. A large number of versions can be configured from a small number of components that can be combined with each other and only differ in a few details. Such customer-specific offers can be created with the help of a configurator solution for products, also known as a variant configurator, sales configurator, CPQ software or product configurator.

Variant management in production

Variant management software such as the Variant Configurator collects all product-related information centrally, making it a reliable knowledge repository for companies. All product knowledge, including logics and dependencies, is managed in one central location - transparently and intuitively. This creates a clear product structure that provides a basis for a clearly structured portfolio. As a result, entire product worlds can be modularized and structured according to individual requirements using the variant management software - especially in the case of a complex product range.

Another advantage is the automatic logic check, which detects incorrect product combinations. The set of rules can also be easily adapted at any time and new rules can be tested in real time. When it comes to price calculation, variant management software has the advantage that calculations can be customized or price tables can be imported from third-party systems. In addition, article data from third-party systems, such as CRM or ERP systems, can be imported quickly and securely into the modeling software if required. An ERP solution that can be used consistently throughout the entire quotation, planning and production process, such as the VlexPlus ERP software for variant manufacturers, is particularly suitable for manufacturers with a large number of variants.


Consistent sales processes

Such variant configurations not only relieve the burden on order processing, but also on sales staff when preparing quotations. Sales staff in particular require a great deal of product and rule knowledge in order to compile variants correctly and create error-free quotations. The variant software supports the user in preparing quotations and significantly accelerates the entire quotation process.

In just a few steps, you can create error-free quotations that previously took a lot of time and effort. Taking dependencies into account and efficient production also reduces the complaint rate. Variations that cannot be built cannot be created in the first place. All of these factors not only increase customer satisfaction, but also that of everyone involved in the process. This gives companies the opportunity to respond to their customers' requests in the shortest possible time.


Conclusion: Variant-specific configuration with a focus on customer satisfaction

Holistic variant management is largely determined by customer requirements and means more than just transparent and efficient management of variant diversity. A holistic approach to variant management is necessary for the reduction, control and preventative avoidance of complex variations. By intelligently linking the data with the help of variant management software, the entire product world can be mapped within a short space of time and a central knowledge repository can be established within the company. This allows error-free configurations and quotations to be created for products with many variants that are individually tailored to the customer's requirements.

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