I have been active in the Variant Configuration ecosystem since 1995, from a newbie to an implementer to a trainer and consultant.
Did you know that VC models are not created equally? There are good practice approaches and approaches to avoid. This blog is based on LO VC, but the principles apply to the AVC.
Where you are losing thousands in productivity
I will describe one example where productivity is lost when performing what should be a common and simple change.
A common example is filtering applicable colours for a product. However, in some companies, this causes huge ongoing model maintenance problems. I know one company where adding new colours was performed once or twice a year, as it took 2 -3 days to set it up in the VC model. Why is this the case?
Well, VC has two main ways to approach this requirement. Often, if a VC Modeller has not had good training or has learnt from SAP Help, they will use a precondition assigned to each colour value in the characteristic. This can work if there is a small list of colours, say less than 15, and there are few complex criteria for making a colour valid. Even so, for this small number, the maintenance can be laborious to maintain for changes over time.
The issue is that you need to update a precondition for every colour value potentially, and hope you get it right. If you have many colours, then the task grows and grows. Each precondition contains all the business logic, and it is not simple to deconstruct the rules.
How well-trained VC Modellers can save you thousands
I will describe taking the previous example and how this dramatically improved productivity.
This company then used the second approach - the good practice approach. This approach uses constraints and variant tables. Depending on the complexity, there can be more than one constraint, and these may use variant tables in some cases or not in other cases.
Storing relationships centrally in variant tables makes it clear and visible to the VC Modeller how colours are related to other characteristic values. It is possible to have more than one variant table to represent different relationships. Then the constraints are written for each variant table, and the way they work is to find the intersection of colours.
If you recall your days at school, it is represented in a Venn diagram to get the correct filtered list.
For this company the change was huge. Not only did colour maintenance reduce from 2-3 days to around 30 minutes, but it meant new colours could be updated more often, and therefore, the models were more responsive to market demand. Not only was there a huge time saving, but likely increased sales as well.
About training and where to spend $1000
To be blunt, many companies do not always see training as a benefit but as only a cost.
Training can be expensive, and it is not all created equally. Here are the problems I see with available VC training and how risky many offerings can be.
Free can be SAP help and Youtube. SAP help shows snippets of syntax and some explanations and will quickly get a new VC Modeller approaching VC models completely incorrectly. In most cases, you will have models built like the first example.
Using Youtube is even worse, in my opinion. Often it is SAP Consultants who have used SAP help to build examples. Many I have watched make me very scared as they do not understand VC.
In summary - FREE will be expensive
The SAP Variant Configuration Book
This is a popular book available on SAP Press and a good reference. Using it to train yourself in Variant Configuration does not help as it does not cover the good practice approaches. But once you know how to model in VC, it is a good source to clarify missing knowledge. I have heard this comment from many VC modellers.
In summary - use it as a resource once you learn VC.
SAP Training Courses
SAP provides training courses for VC. PLM 145 is the main course, with PLM 146 the follow-up course. These will be more than the $1000 price and, similarly to SAP Help, do not provide a structured good practices approach. I have delivered these courses for SAP and found they were a huge information overload for the learners. They provided too much content for 4-5 days.
In summary - use it to supplement training, but not for learning good practice approaches.
Learning from large consulting companies that are not VC specialists is not a good idea. In fact, check their VC consultants' credentials to be sure they know good practice approaches.
Specialist VC consulting companies do offer VC training in many cases. Often it is a secondary service and their main business model is consulting. However, in general, they know how VC should be designed.
In summary - do not use non-specialist companies for training, but consider specialist VC companies.
Radiant Think - VC Essentials
Hopefully, you have read this far.
For cost-effective, result-orientated and good practice approaches, our VC Essentials course we consider your best solution. Sure, we want to sell it, but we truly believe it is the best option, and many companies worldwide agree and constantly use us as part of their internal training. Even SAP themselves have used it as it provides a business and VC modellers perspective, rather than a software solution.
In summary - We believe that $1000 USD (or 1000 EUR) invested in our training will save you in VC model development and ongoing maintenance costs.
Contact me email@example.com