Variant Configuration and filling a hole in a wall


You would think it is simple to fill a hole in a wall with a window, door, or combinations of these.  What am I talking about?

Well we have just gone live with a VC Project in the Window / Door Industry in Aluminium and Timber.  When I started on this project it required a proof of concept.  Simple enough you would think and to some degree it was.  

Proof of Concepts - important building block

What did the client want to see in the POC.  Well the main requirement was how to manage positional aspects of a window so that it could then be managed through the manufacturing process.  For example - what glass goes in what position, its dimension, type, etc.  

The proof of concept was a success and using multi level BOMs, so BOM numbering tricks etc it demonstrated it can be done.  They were happy but said that it was only about 5% of the design.

As it turned out it was true.....

Making the complex simple

Look at the windows in your house.  What do you see?  A frame, various pieces of glass in different positions, some opening, some not, different styles, colours, different types of glass, single glazing, double glazing, different flashings, reveals etc etc.  What you perhaps dont realize is the rules around this.  We have Australian standards that govern what glass can be used where.  Is it near the floor, near the corner of a building, in a high windload area, bush fire area,  is it a tall and narrow piece of glass or more of a square etc. 

All these factors need to be considered just to work out the correct glass in each position in a window or door.  But you know seemed hard when first looked at, but using variant tables and constraints it became quite simple.  But as always other business decisions then make it harder to implement.  For example is the size of glass keeped in stock, or is it cut from a bigger piece, or is it purchased from a glass supplier who cuts it to size.  Or do we upgrade it to a higher spec imported glass.

Plus we need to know the weight of everything as if a product is over 80 kg you then need to pop parts out and deliver in pieces to assemble on site.  And what you pop is different logic for each product.

Integration is the hard part

We produce about 40 product ranges, manufacture and deliver about 80 to 100 house lots a day so that is a lot of glass, components and coordination to be just in time.

Yes windows and doors seem simple, but the complexity is often how you integrate VC to the processes.  We run direct production, direct procurement, some repetitive manufacturing for components driven from the collection of all the products being ordered, a simple but effective image generation using a function on a button, plus a variety of of other enhancements to enable pricing etc.  But in general, most of the VC is standard for the core models.  We use constraints and variant tables a lot, class items, and a common design structure across all our models.  We may have one precondition I think....

When I get to a conference again, then it maybe an interesting customer story to tell.  Am interested to hear of other projects in this industry.

Phil Martin