Target and Mission of the Software

Planning and Mastering Product Variation:
What is possible? What makes Sense?


In most companies, the trend of steadily increasing variant diversity is still ongoing. The market dynamics continue to sustain the vital significance to master the product variance and the hereby related complexity of the processes.

In the past the focus of the analysis often referred to the already existing variant diversity which had to be reduced. In recent years, the need for a consistent planning of the expected future variant diversity has become increasingly important. The question, which variants might become a market requirement for the company, goes hand in hand with the question, which of these variants are generally feasible and finally useful!

It is for sure not possible to answer these questions “ad-hoc” and completely with just one software tool in a very short period of time. Moreover, it needs to be mentioned that the topics of variant and complexity management are an ongoing task, if sustainable effects should be achieved. Doubters of the usefulness of this effort should know that the variant problems of today do not diminish by themselves. Instead they grow by themselves!

The software is based on the obvious and fundamental idea that the considered product variants can mainly be defined by market requirements and can be precisely implemented in form of BOMs. This basically means, the product is described from two perspectives: The market view (external complexity) and the company's view (internal complexity). In other words: The Complexity Manager helps to translate the level of variance required by the client's into the language of the engineers.  The guideline is: "As many product variants as necessary on the market but as few as possible". It is closely linked to the guiding principle of engineering: "As many different parts as necessary and as many carry-over parts as possible"!

Market Perspective

Describing the product based on customer-relevant features and options provides an overview over the number of variants that need to be considered. Here, the central questions are: “What product configuration does the market require?”, “What does the customer really want?” and “What is unnecessary?”. This perspective ensures that the necessary product range for the actual market requirements is examined. It suggests to remove unnecessary ballast (variants) that nobody wanted anyway and which did not contribute to the operating result.

Customer-relevant features, with which the product program is described, are defined independently from technical solutions, as customers hardly refer to the technical implementation of their requests. The desire for a seat heating when buying a car therefore does not necessarily mean it has to be realized by an electrical solution. The decision of the technical realization is left to the manufacturer himself. As long as the requirement of the customer not to sit on cold leather seats during wintertime is met, the customer is indifferent to which technology the manufacturer uses in order to to turn the cold seat into a warm and cozy one.

The same applies to features which are not explicitly requested by the customer but are a result of his place of residence, such as compliance with exhaust emission standards. These are different in the United States, Europe, South America or Asia. In what way the manufacturer and his suppliers technically ensure the compliance with these standards, is irrelevant for the customer. The main point is, that the requirement is met by the manufacturer. The decisive point is to define the market requirements of the product with matching features and specifications without limiting thereby the space for technical solution. The simplified example of an engine shall visualize how such features along with options might look like:

As shown in the figure the market requires three emission standards, three applications, two power rates and the option of a cooling pump. As every option can’t be combined freely with every other option one normally has to consider some combination restrictions derived from market or technical reasons. As a result you see the tree structure (Feature Tree), where every branch shows the concrete chain of options of each variant.

Regarding sales volume of complete product program and the share of options it is possible to calculate the forecast for each variant in advance.


The most decisive points being analyzed and simulated with the Feature Tree are:

  • Similarities: Determine the degree of common and different options of each variant dependent on the feature
  • Examine the change of  the diversity of variants by adding new options, removing old ones or replacing them all together.
    Furthermore, the influence of changing combination rules can be analyzed.
  • Create various "What, if..."-scenarios and evaluate their outcome
  • Determine the impact of changing sales forecasts on the probability of individual variants  (early detection of possible low running variants)
  • Perform an ABC-analysis of actual sales figures (separates the "wheat from the chaff")
  • Guideline to gather all relevant information for planning new variants
  • Create cost and price comparisons
  • Data transfer via Excel and export to SAP

Company View

The market is now sufficiently described with the external point of view. Each product variant has been checked and the subsequent range of products will be actively offered in the market.
Now, in the internal view, we have to analyze, how to manage the required variety as intelligently as possible in engineering and at the production site. This task is supported by the Variant Tree of the Complexity Manager. Here, the guiding principle is "As many different parts as necessary and as many carry-over parts as possible!"

Using Complexity Manager (Variant Tree) the required part variants can be gradually assigned in the order of their installation along the assembly line, according to their component usage. In the shown chart, each assembly, including its part number, is allocated to the matching feature options. Therefore each variant of an assembly is justified by the needs of the market. Since the product variants (types) were quantified in terms of their sales or forecast numbers, the Complexity Manager can also calculate how often each assembly variant is required (column "volume").

In this way it is possible to make accurate statements about the expected number of module variants and their respective quantities already at the beginning of the design and engineering phase. Therefore, estimates about the impending diversity and the quantity of assemblies can be made early, which supports the planning of material requirements, especially in case of new products. The information gained can also help to support the planning for equipment, such as tool investments.

The most decisive points being analyzed and simulated with the Variant Tree are:

  • Evaluate the degree of common and different assemblies / parts of each variant dependent on its Bill od Material (BOM)
  • Analyze the effects of standardized assemblies (integral parts) on the diversity of different semi-finished products along the assembly sequence
  • Examine possible rearrangements of the assembly sequence to find the optimal point of variant generation
  • Support the decision making, to which extent a product should be manufactured in a specific plant if several plants for production have to be considered
  • Observe the impact of the elimination of individual variants or options of the Feature Tree on the parts and product variety in the Variant Tree
  • Find out, which part variant leads to a new tool variant and which part variants can be produced with the same tool.
  • Create cost and price comparisons
  • Data transfer via Excel and export to SAP


By assigning assemblies to the features and options of the market or in other words by coupling the Variant Tree to the Feature Tree concrete statements can be derived very quickly, how market changes affect the diversity of assemblies. If a more powerful engine is desired in the market for example, initially all assemblies are affected whose variance is characterized by the power of the engine. Together with the engineering department it can be determined, whether and, if so, how many new parts need to be designed and whether there is a need for additional tools or other investment.

Get in touch

Michael Friedrich
Schuh & Co. GmbH
Campus Boulevard 57
D-52074 Aachen
Tel: +49 241 51031-0
Fax+49 241 51031-9505


Michael Friedrich

Jörg Starkmann
Schuh Complexity Management, Inc.
3625 Greenside Court
Dacula, GA 30019, USA
Tel: +1 770 614 9384
Fax+1 678 730 2728


Jörg Starkmann


System Requirements:

Operation system: Win 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 (32 or 64 bit)

CPU: multicore CPU

RAM: 4GB or more



We recommend:

CPU: Core i5 or greater

RAM: 8GB or more

Operation system: 64 Bit Version



German, English

License Types:

  • License for testing temporarily
  • License
    • USB-memory chip (no software installation necessary)
    • Activation (Installation of Complexity Manager and activation via Internet)
  • Network License
    • Installation of Complexity Manager on Intranet Server


For more information, please refer to the brochure:

  Broshure Complexity Manager

Legal notice

Schuh & Co. GmbH
Campus-Boulevard 57
D-52074 Aachen
Telefon: +49 241 51031 0
Telefax: +49 241 51031 100

Schuh GmbH
Stephan Krumm, Ph.D.
Norbert Große Entrup
Anno Kremer
Klaus-Dieter Schopf


Executive Board member: 
Stephan Krumm, Ph.D.


Commercial Register no.: HRB 8493, Aachen Local Court 
VAT identification no.: DE 215651063 
Registered at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) Aachen 


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