Variant management

What is variant management?

Ever-increasing digitalization and a highly networked system landscape are leading to ever-increasing customer demands. In the industry, these are leading to great pressure for individualization, particularly among producers of consumer goods, which is triggered by the global diversity of variants.

The aim of variant management is to keep the number of product variants as lean as possible. Ideally, this should take place over the entire life cycle of the product and especially in these areas:

  • Development
  • Procurement
  • Production
  • Distribution
  • Waste disposal

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

Below you will find out exactly how variant management affects logistics processes.

What influence does variant management have on logistics?

In logistics, variant management has a major influence on the complexity of procurement logistics. The aim here is to be able to master the complexity of logistics processes as well as possible. In the course of variant management, this should also be achieved by avoiding and reducing the number of variants produced by companies.

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

  • Individual stocks increase
  • 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 required transportation

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

Variant management can be used to counteract this. By reducing the number of variants, for example, the number of suppliers can be limited and the inventory ratios improved. To this end, 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 poor implementation can also jeopardize the entire production of a product. The growing number of suppliers, transports, interfaces and handling activities significantly increases the risk of damage. Incorrect deliveries and incorrect storage also increase, which in the worst case can lead to production coming to a standstill.

Variant management: how it prevents complexity

Variant management strategies are used to reduce or even avoid the complexity of logistics processes along the entire value chain:

Avoidance of complexity:

To prevent problems from arising in the first place, an attempt is made to avoid the diversity of variants and the associated complexity. This can be achieved, for example, through clear market positioning as a specialist provider. In addition, logistical processes in procurement are being optimized and streamlined.

Reduction of complexity:

If there is already a level of complexity that leads to high logistical costs, this can be reduced with variant management. For example, variants or products can be eliminated or market segments abandoned.

Mastering complexity:

Once the desired level of complexity has been reached, it must be mastered. This is achieved through targeted market segmentation, the standardization of products or the variant-oriented deployment of personnel.


Logistik Lexikon Variantenmanagement

Image: Bro Studio / Shutterstock

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