Product Variant Management

Manage complex variants and configurations at scale.

What is variant management? Why is it important?

Product variants are modifications of a master product, such as differing feature sets, materials, colors, or performance levels. Product variant management is the process of managing variants throughout the product lifecycle. Mature product variant management is essential to modern product companies. It enables organizations to efficiently execute product platform strategies, respond quickly to "oneoff" requests, reduce engineering costs, and maximize revenues by providing a more diverse product portfolio that better meets customer needs.

Embracing product diversity across the product lifecycle

In today's highly competitive global marketplace, the ability to meet diverse customer preferences quickly and efficiently is key to revenue growth. Product variability offers wide-ranging benefits—and added complexity. Without the right tool support, variants can complicate operational efficiency and processes, invite potential errors, and increase quality costs. Advanced PLM and ALM capabilities provide broad coverage for product variant management, enabling manufacturers to engineer by choice. Product geometry, embedded software, bills of information, and configurable logic can all be executed with a single source of data.

Benefits of variant management

Greater Market Share

Product variant management is key to customer segmentation strategies that maximize market share and profitability.

Reduced Engineering Costs

Variant management maximizes reuse of trusted engineering artifacts throughout the product lifecycle, reducing overall engineering costs.

Strategic Flexibility

The ability to quickly swap in lower-cost materials, rapidly create a customer special, or respond promptly to competitive threats all require advanced variant management capabilities.

Improved Product Quality

Variant management enables organizations to focus their quality processes on shared parts and platforms, reducing the overall cost of delivering high-quality products.

Faster Time to Market

Maximize reuse and bring new products to market in a fraction of the time otherwise required.

Grow market share with product variant management to meet customer needs

Traditional approaches to manufacturing make the production of variants and configurations more complex. Product diversity breeds increased inventories, reduced economies of scale, service inefficiencies, manufacturing errors, and increased risk of non-compliance.

With PTC's product variant management solution, time to market is dramatically reduced as developers reuse previous designs. Manufacturing performance becomes seamless with configuration-specific process plans and work instructions. First-time fix rates increase with engineering, providing product-specific information to technicians. Taken together, PTC's product variant management capabilities enable manufacturers to more efficiently pursue new market opportunities while lowering overall lifecycle costs.

Managing controls, platform modules, and configurations

Platform strategies begin once a decision is made to define products in a new or different way. They are built from a base product platform containing the key features and functionality common to all planned variants.

With product variant management from PTC, you can strategically design, create, manage, and validate product variants. Platform options, choices, logic, and configuration rules are directly linked to the bill of material (BOM), 3D visualization, and CAD data to deliver a robust modular solution. Platform information can be fully lifecycle-managed, making it easily available to validate the product and share it with other enterprise tools such as ERP and CPQ.

Key product features

Option pool/option set: Provide enterprise management and visibility to options and logic, removing the need for spreadsheets

Advanced logic: Describe more complex variable logic for configure-to-order needs with range-based variables, case tables, and more

Product family matrix: Quickly see how configurations are planned and make updates as needed

Independent assigned expressions: Update customer offerings without requiring engineering to make logic-only updates to BOMs

Rules logic: Create logic containing a variety of rules that define how products can be configured. Create and tie together engineering and marketing logic

Multiple development streams: Manage multiple parallel development branches. Gain full control over merged changes to maintain high product quality

Change management: Synchronize changes from design through to plant-specific production information managed in ERP systems with local and global rule effectivity management

Configure variant BOM: Create configurations for order specific variants or use these to describe stock offerings based off a common platform

Customer stories

See examples of how your peers are using PLM for product variant management.

Groupe Beneteau logo

Groupe Beneteau — Engineering for Choice

See how Groupe Beneteau uses product variant management to enable mass customization of its boats, resulting in increased market share. Watch the Video

Volvo CE: Unifying Development Efforts

Read how Volvo CE enabled enterprise collaboration across five product lines, 270 models, 18,000+ options, and 11 factories. Learn More



Windchill Windchill is a PLM solution designed to support enterprises in ensuring operational efficiency. This comprehensive solution has been deployed across the world, helping more than 1.5 million users access their organizations' digital thread. See how Windchill transforms the way global teams manage product variability at scale to customize multiple product lines. Codebeamer Codebeamer is an ALM platform for advanced product and software development. The open platform extends ALM functionalities with product line configuration capabilities and provides unique configurability for complex processes.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between product options and product variants?

Product options and variants are closely related, yet distinct, capabilities. Product options are simply variants selected by the customer at time of purchase. Choosing the fabric for a sofa, adding an entertainment package to an automobile, or specifying business class seating on an airplane are all examples of product options. In contrast, product variants are pre-selected and produced by the manufacturer, and customers choose to buy one or the other. For example, manufacturing both 3-speed and 8-speed blenders is a product variant decision. Both product options and variants require advanced variant management capabilities.

What is a product platform strategy?

Product platforms are a widely adopted strategy that can maximize market share, quality, and affordability. Product platforms are simply product portfolios built from inception with variability in mind. A base product platform identifies key features and functionality common to all planned variants. By designing a series of products around a shared set of fixed and variable components, organizations reduce engineering effort and extend production capacity. Product platforms require advanced variant management capabilities, including product family management, the ability to reuse components while minimizing data redundancy, and the ability to manage upstream and downstream product data.