Product Configuration Management in ICT Companies: The Practitioners’ Perspective
Hanna Kropsu-Vehkapera, Harri Haapasalo, Olli Jaaskelainen, Kongkiti Phusavat
DOI: 10.4236/ti.2011.24028   PDF    HTML     6,064 Downloads   11,052 Views   Citations


This article studies practical challenges experienced by ICT (Information and Communication Technology) companies when managing product configuration under the circumstances of various customer requirements, different product portfolios, and extensive product complexity. The analysis from interview results concentrates on the prioritised issues and how to ensure effective product configuration from practitioners’ perspective. The results of this study indicate that typical challenges for product configuration formalisation include fuzzy product offering, lack of configuration strategy, mechanisms, and general product structure. This research highlights the need for industrial managers to adapt a top-down approach starting from business and strategy, instead of focusing on the challenges of single products when formalising product configuration. Companies need systematic configuration logic over their entire product portfolio and not to focus only single product variant options. Consequently, they need to define a generic product structure to support product configurations that covers all product types such as hardware, software and services. This study also highlights the need for better formalization of service products since they have become an integral part of ICT products. These findings are derived from actual business circumstances and their current difficulties.

Share and Cite:

H. Kropsu-Vehkapera, H. Haapasalo, O. Jaaskelainen and K. Phusavat, "Product Configuration Management in ICT Companies: The Practitioners’ Perspective," Technology and Investment, Vol. 2 No. 4, 2011, pp. 273-285. doi: 10.4236/ti.2011.24028.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Y. Huang, H. Liu, W. K. Ng, W. Lu, B. Song and X. Li, “Automating Knowledge Acquisition for Constraint-Based Product Configuration,” Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 19, No. 6, 2008, pp. 744-754. doi:10.1108/17410380810888120
[2] C. Forza and F. Salvador, “Product Information Management for Mass Customization,” Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, 2007.
[3] M. Kratochvíl and C. Carson, “Growing Modular: Mass Customization of Complex Products, Services and Software,” Springer, Berlin, 2005.
[4] D. Sabin and R. Weigel, “Product Configuration Frameworks—A Survey,” IEEE Intelligent Systems and their Applications, Vol. 13, No. 4, 1998, pp. 42-49.
[5] T. S. Baines, H. W. Lightfoot, O. Benedettini and J. M. Kay, “The Servitization of Manufacturing: A Review of Literature and Reflection on Future Challenges,” Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 20, No. 5, 2009, pp. 547-567. doi:10.1108/17410380910960984
[6] H. Gebauer, E. Fleisch and T. Friedli, “Overcoming the Service Paradox in Manufacturing Companies,” European Management Journal, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2005, pp.14-26. doi:10.1016/j.emj.2004.12.006
[7] S. C. J. Lim, Y. Liu and W. B. Lee, “A Methodology for Building a Semantically Annotated Multi-Faceted Ontology for Product Family Modelling,” Advanced Engineering Informatics, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2011, pp. 147-161. doi:10.1016/j.aei.2010.07.005
[8] M. Aldanondo and E. Vareilles, “Configuration for Mass Customization: How to Extend Product Configuration towards Requirements and Process Configuration,” Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, Vol. 19, No. 5, 2008, pp. 521-535. doi:10.1007/s10845-008-0135-z
[9] B. J. Pine, “Mass Customization: The New Frontier In Business Competition,” Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1999.
[10] L. Hvam, N.-H. Mortensen and J. Riis, “Product Customization,” Springer, New York, 2008.
[11] B. Zhu, Z. Wang, H. Yang, R. Mo and Y. Zhao, “Applying Fuzzy Multiple Attributes Decision Making for Product Configuration,” Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, Vol. 19, No. 5, 2008, pp. 591-598. doi:10.1007/s10845-008-0132-2
[12] A. Saaksvuori and A. Immonen, “Product Lifecycle Management,” Springer, Berlin, 2008. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-78172-1
[13] J. Tiihonen, T. Soininen, T. M?nnist? and R. Sulonen, “Configurable Products—Lessons Learned from the Finnish Industry,” Proceedings of 2nd International Conference on Engineering Design and Automation, Integrated Technology Systems, Goshen, 1998.
[14] B. Anderson, C. Hagen, J. Reifel and E. Settler, “Complexity: Customization’s Evil Twin,” Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 34, No. 5, 2006, pp. 19-27. doi:10.1108/10878570610684801
[15] M. E. McGrath, “Product Strategy for High-Technology Companies: Accelerating your Business to Web Speed,” McGraw-Hill, New York, 2011.
[16] J. Jiao, L. Zhang and K. Prasanna, “Process Variety Modeling for Process Configuration in Mass Customization: An Approach Based,” The International Journal of Flexible Manufacturing Systems, Vol. 16, No. 4, 2004, pp. 335-361. doi:10.1007/s10696-005-5171-9
[17] P. T. Helo, “Product Configuration Analysis with Design Structure Matrix,” Industrial Management and Data Systems, Vol. 106, No. 7, 2006, pp. 997-1001. doi:10.1108/02635570610688896
[18] X. Jin, L. Koskela and T. M. King, “Towards an Integrated Enterprise Model: Combining Product Life Cycle Support with Project Management,” International Journal of Product Lifecycle Management, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2007, pp. 50-63. doi:10.1504/IJPLM.2007.012874
[19] J. Stark, “Product Lifecycle Management: 21st Century Paradigm for Product Realisation,” Springer, New York, 2005.
[20] D. M. Giménez, M. Vegetti, H. P. Leone and G. P. Henning, “Product Ontology: Defining Product-Related Concepts for Logistics Planning Activities,” Computers in Industry, Vol. 59, No. 2-3, 2008, pp. 231-241. doi:10.1016/j.compind.2007.06.019
[21] F. Ameri and D. Dutta, “Product Lifecycle Management: Closing the Knowledge Loops,” Computer-Aided Design & Applications, Vol. 2, No. 5, 2005, pp. 577-590.
[22] H.-E. Tseng, C.-C. Chang and S.-H. Chang, “Applying Case-Based Reasoning for Product Configuration in Mass Customization Environments,” Expert Systems with Applications, Vol. 29, No. 4, 2005, pp. 913-925. doi:10.1016/j.eswa.2005.06.026
[23] R. Kumar and P. S. Midha, “An Intelligent Web-Based Expert System for Analysing a Company’s Strategic PDM Requirement,” International Journal of Product Lifecycle Management, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2006, pp. 230-248. doi:10.1504/IJPLM.2006.009404
[24] G. Hong, L. Hu, D. Xue, Y. L. Tu and Y. L. Xiong, “Identification of the Optimal Product Configuration and Parameters Based on Individual Customer Requirements on Performance and Costs in One-of-a-Kind Production,” International Journal of Production Research, Vol. 46, No. 12, 2008, pp. 3297-3326.
[25] J. Jiao, T. W. Simpson and Z. Siddique, “Product Family Design and Platform-Based Product Development: A State-of-the-Art Review,” Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2007, pp. 5-29. doi:10.1007/s10845-007-0003-2
[26] Z. Siddique and J. A. Ninan, “Modeling of Modularity and Scaling for Integration of Customer in Design of Engineer-to-Order Products,” Integrated Computer-Aided Engineering, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2006, pp. 133-148.
[27] J. Tiihonen, T. Lehtonen, T. Soininen, A. Pulkkinen, R. Sulonen and A. Riitahuhta, “Modeling Configurable Product Families,” 4th WDK Workshop on Product Structuring, Delft, 22-23 October 1998.
[28] E. R. Deciu, E. Ostrosia, M. Ferneya and M. Gheorghe, “Configurable Product Design Using Multiple Fuzzy Models,” Journal of Engineering Design, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2005, pp. 209-235. doi:10.1080/09544820500031526
[29] A. Pulkkinen, “Product Configuration in Projecting Company: The Meeting of Configurable Product Families and Sales-Delivery Process,” Ph.D. Thesis, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, 2007.
[30] Z. Cheng and L. Wang, “Responsive Consistency Restoration in Interactive Product Configuration by Content-Addressable Memory,” Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2009, pp. 463-479. doi:10.1007/s10845-008-0149-6
[31] A. McKay, F. Erens and M. S. Bloor, “Relating Product Definition and Product Variety,” Research in Engineering Design, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1996, pp. 63-80. doi:10.1007/BF01607862
[32] B. Westfechtel, B. P. Munch and R. Conradi, “A Layered Architecture for Uniform Version Management,” IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Vol. 27, No. 12, 2001, pp. 1111-1133. doi:10.1109/32.988710
[33] L. O. Wilson and J. A. Norton, “Optimal Entry Timing for Product Line Extension,” Marketing Science, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1989, pp. 1-17. doi:10.1287/mksc.8.1.1
[34] M. H. Meyer and A. P. Lehnerd, “The Power of Product Platforms: Building Value and Cost Leadership,” The Free Press, New York, 1997.
[35] L. T.-S. Lee, “The Effects of Team Reflexivity and Innovativeness on New Product Development Performance,” Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 108, No. 4, 2008, pp. 548-569.
[36] F. Erens and K. Verhulst, “Architectures for Product Families,” Computers in Industry, Vol. 33, No. 2-3, 1997, pp. 165-178.doi:10.1016/S0166-3615(97)00022-5
[37] T. Kaski, “Product Structure Metrics as an Indicator of Demand-Supply Chain Efficiency: Case Study in the Cellular Network Industry,” Ph.D. Thesis, Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki, 2002.
[38] F. Salvador, C. Forza and M. Rungtusanatham, “Modularity, Product Variety, Production Volume, and Component Sourcing: Theorizing beyond Generic Prescriptions,” Journal of Operations Management, Vol. 20, No. 5, 2002, pp. 549-575. doi:10.1016/S0272-6963(02)00027-X
[39] K. Ulrich and K. Tung, “Fundamentals of Product Modularity,” Proceedings of the 1991 ASME Winter Annual Meet- ing Symposium on Issues in Design/Manufacturing Integration, Atlanta, 1991, pp. 73-45.
[40] X. Luo, Y. Tu, J. Tang and C. K. Kwong, “Optimizing Customer’s Selection for Configurable Product in B2C E-Commerce Application,” Computers in Industry, Vol. 59, No. 8, 2008, pp. 767-776. doi:10.1016/j.compind.2008.03.003
[41] A. Bask, M. Lipponen, M. Rajahonka and M. Tinnila, “The Concept of Modularity: Diffusion from Manufacturing to Service Production,” Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 21, No. 3, 2009, pp. 355-375. doi:10.1108/17410381011024331
[42] M. Howard and B. Squire, “Modularization and the Impact on Supply Relationship,” International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Vol. 27, No. 11, 2007, pp. 1192-1212. doi:10.1108/01443570710830593
[43] C. Y. Baldwin and K. B. Clark, “Design Rules, Vol. 1: The Power of Modularity,” MIT Press, Cambridge, 2000.
[44] A. K. W. Lau, R. C. M. Yam and E. P. Y. Tang, “Supply Chain Integration and Product Modularity: An Empirical Study of Product Performance for Selected Hong Kong Manufacturing Industries,” International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2010, pp. 20-56. doi:10.1108/01443571011012361
[45] J. Mikkola, “Modularity, Component Sourcing, and Inter-Firm Learning,” R&D Management, Vol. 33, No. 4, 2003, pp. 439-454. doi:10.1111/1467-9310.00309
[46] T. J. Sturgeon, “Modular Production Networks: A New American Model of Industrial Organization,” Industrial and Corporate Change, Vol. 11, No. 3, 2002, pp. 451-496. doi:10.1093/icc/11.3.451
[47] M. Schilling, “Toward a General Modular Systems Theory and Its Application to Interfirm Product Modularity,” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2000, pp. 312-334.
[48] B. Blanchard, “Systems Engineering and Management,” John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, 2008.
[49] B. Blanchard and W. Fabrycky, “Systems Engineering and Analysis,” Prentice Hall International, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2002.
[50] A. Tidstam and J. Malmqvist, “Information Modelling for Automotive Configuration,” In: A. Dagman and R. S?derberg, Eds., Proceedings of NordDesign 2010, the 8th International NordDesign Conference, G?teborg, 25-27 August 2010, pp. 275-288.
[51] A. Haug, “A Software Systems to Support the Development and Maintenance of Complex Product Configurators,” International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Vol. 49, No. 1-4, 2010, pp. 393-406. doi:10.1007/s00170-009-2396-x
[52] H. Kropsu-Vehkapera, H. Haapasalo, J. Harkonen and R. Silvola, “Product Data Management Practices in High Tech Companies,” Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 109, No. 6, 2009, pp. 758-774. doi:10.1108/02635570910968027
[53] S. Zhang, W. Shen and H. Ghenniwa, “A Review of Internet-Based Product Information Sharing and Visualization,” Computers in Industry, Vol. 54, No. 1, 2004, pp. 1-15. doi:10.1016/j.compind.2003.09.002
[54] Q. Shu and Ch. Wang, “Information Modeling for Product Lifecycle Management,” In: P. Bernus and M. Fox, Eds., Knowledge Sharing in the Integrated Enterprise: Interoperability Strategies for the Enterprise Architect (IFIP International Federation for Information Processing), Springer, New York, 2005, pp. 409-416.
[55] D. Svensson and J. Malmqvist, “Strategies for Product Structure Management in Manufacturing Firms,” Journal of Computing and Information Science in Engineering, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2002, pp. 50-58. doi:10.1115/1.1471356
[56] M. M. Andreasen, C. T. Hansen and N. H. Mortensen, “The Structuring of Products and Product Programmes,” Proceedings of the 2nd WDK Workshop on Product Structuring, Delft, 3-4 June 1996, pp. 15-43.
[57] V. K. Janardanan, M. Adithan and P. Radhakrishnan, “Collaborative Product Structure Management for Assembly Modelling,” Computers in Industry, Vol. 59, No. 8, 2008, pp. 820-832. doi:10.1016/j.compind.2008.06.005
[58] C. Forza and F. Salvador, “Managing for Variety in the Order Acquisition and Fulfillment Process: The Contribution of Product Configuration Systems,” International Journal of Production Economics, Vol. 76, No. 1, 2002, pp. 87-98. doi:10.1016/S0925-5273(01)00157-8
[59] K. A. J?rgensen, “Product Modeling on Multiple Abstraction Levels,” In: T. Blecker and G. Friedrich, Eds., Mass Customization: Challenges and Solutions, Springer, New York, 2006, pp. 63-84.
[60] I. Crnkovic, U. Asklund and A. Persson Dahlqvist, “Implementing and Integrating Product Data Management and Software Configuration,” Artech House, Boston, 2003.
[61] A. Haug, L. Hvam and N. H. Mortensen, “A Layout Technique for Class Diagrams to Be Used in Product Configuration Projects,” Computers in Industry, Vol. 61, No. 5, 2010, pp. 409-418. doi:10.1016/j.compind.2009.10.002
[62] F. Colace, M. De Santo and P. Napoletano, “Product Configurator: An Ontological Approach,” Ninth International Conference on Intelligent Systems Design and Applications, Pisa, 30 November - 2 December, 2009, pp. 908-912.
[63] EU Commission, “SME Definition,” 8 March 2009.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.