Plan for Custom-Configured Product Variants in R/3

  • by Ajay Pande, Senior SAP Consultant, Infosys Technologies Ltd.
  • August 1, 2004
SAP R/3 provides a variant configuration feature that allows you to plan for variations in build-to order products. The author provides tips he has learned from using this feature in a high-tech manufacturing environment, and he outlines the correct process for setting up the variant configuration functionality.
Key Concept
R/3's variant configuration functionality is integrated with other logistics and financial modules in addition to SD, including PP, MM, and CO. It is useful when determining, for example, purchasing needs, production orders, or costing when dealing with a complex, configurable product.

Consider the purchase of a computer. Customers can specify exactly what they want in their computer through an easy custom-configuration and ordering process. This build-to-order process is a win-win situation for both suppliers and buyers. Suppliers don't have to maintain months of aging and expensive inventory and buyers get the best pricing and latest technology for features they really want.

This comes with a price on the logistics side: How do you efficiently plan for all the possible product variants? Computers and other high-tech gadgets typically have a large number of variants. The more factors that influence how a computer is put together, the harder it is to plan possible variants of the product. The two major problems with variants are:

  • The combination of individual product features can lead to a vast number of variants.

  • Dependencies among the individual product features mean that not all theoretically possible feature combinations are allowed due to technical or marketing reasons.

The result is that complex products require complex configuration tasks in sales, production, and distribution. However, a company selling or producing products with variants needs to perform these configuration tasks quickly and accurately. This is why SAP R/3 provides a strong variant configuration feature in the Sales and Distribution (SD) module that you can use to easily configure products. I will explain the basic variant configuration functionality using the computer example mentioned earlier. I will also offer tips based on my experience. This feature is available in all versions of R/3; the screenprints shown here are from R/3 4.7.

Ajay Pande

Ajay Pande is a senior consultant with the Enterprise Solutions Group of Infosys Technologies Ltd. He has experience in SAP implementation, configuration, and project management at Fortune 500 companies. He has also worked on integrating finance and logistics modules. Ajay holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in industrial engineering.

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