Variant Management

What is variant management?

Constantly increasing digitization and a highly networked system landscape are leading to ever higher customer demands. In industry, these lead to great pressure for individualization, especially among producers of consumer goods, which is triggered by the global diversity of variants.

Variant management is an attempt to keep the variety of variants of a product as lean as possible. In the best case, this should be done over its entire life cycle and especially in these areas:

  • Development
  • Procurement
  • Production
  • Distribution
  • Disposal

Variant management is particularly important for products that involve greater complexity as the number of variants increases. These include, for example, cars and electrical appliances.

In the following, you will learn how exactly variant management affects logistics processes.

What influence does variant management have on logistics?

In logistics, variant management has a major impact on the complexity of procurement logistics in particular. Here, the goals are to be able to control the complexity of the logistical processes as well as possible. In the course of variant management, this is also to be achieved by avoiding and reducing companies' own diversity of variants.

For example, variant management is intended to prevent the batch sizes of products from decreasing. If this does not succeed, the complexity of logistics increases:

  • Individual inventories rise
  • Disposition of parts and raw materials becomes more complex
  • More different components lead to more comprehensive incoming goods inspections
  • More components from more manufacturers lead to an increase in the number of transports required

In concrete terms, this means that logistics costs are rising along the entire value chain. In warehouse logistics, the corresponding key figures such as inventory levels and the storage range of goods are deteriorating at the same time.

Variant management can be used to counteract this. For example, reducing the number of variants can limit the number of suppliers and improve inventory ratios. For this purpose, these complexity influencing variables in particular are to be controlled and optimized:

  • Order variance
  • Number of interfaces
  • Degree of organization
  • Quantity variance
  • Process length

Neglecting variant management or performing it poorly can also jeopardize the entire production of a product. Due to a growing number of suppliers, transports, interfaces and handling activities, the risk of damage increases considerably. Misdeliveries and misstorage also increase, which in the worst case can lead to a standstill in production.

Variant management: How it prevents complexity

In order to be able to reduce or even avoid the complexity of logistical processes along the entire value chain, strategies are pursued in variant management:

Avoidance of complexity:

In order to prevent problems from occurring in the first place, an attempt is made to avoid the multiplicity of variants and the accompanying complexity. This can be done, for example, by clearly positioning the company in the market as a specialty supplier. In addition, logistics processes in procurement are optimized and streamlined.

Reduction of complexity:

If complexity already exists, which leads to high logistical costs, this can be reduced with variant management. For example, variants or products can be eliminated or market segments can be abandoned.

Mastering complexity:

Once the desired level of complexity is reached, it must be mastered. This is achieved through targeted market segmentation, the standardization of products or the deployment of personnel in line with variants.


Logistik Lexikon Variantenmanagement

Image: Bro Studio / Shutterstock

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