The new Advance Variant Configuration is available from SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1808/On-Premise 1809 releases. What’s in it for you?
Purpose of Variant Configuration
SAP Variant configuration is intended for the manufacturing of complex products with many variants. During the order processing, you change the existing product designs. It’s all about responding quickly to customer requirements.
The customer determines the features of the product. Think about buying a car, for example. You choose from a long list of options and combination possibilities, turning your car into a unique piece of value. For true car lovers, these are the days of glory!
Many industries use SAP Variant configuration: manufacturers of automobiles, hydraulic elevators, PCs, pumps, furniture, chemical adhesives, and so on.
Variant configuration helps the customer and the salesperson to obtain the correct price for the configured product. It also ensures that the product is manufacturable and does not contain impossible combinations.
Features of Variant Configuration
With Variant Configuration, you don’t need to create a separate material for each variant. You use one configurable material that covers all possible variants. One super bill of material (BOM) and a super routing contain all the components and operations that you need to produce all variants.
The features of the configurable material are converted into characteristics with different values in the SAP system.
The customer can choose from different options (values) for each characteristic. The only limitations are combinations of features that are not possible for technical or marketing reasons. With dependencies, you control these limitations. Each configurable object must have a configuration profile. This ensures that the configuration process when creating a sales order is correct.
In some cases, the price of a variant depends on the chosen characteristic values. SAP Variant configuration covers this by using variant conditions to define surcharges and discounts for a variant.
What’s New in Advanced Variant Configuration in S/4HANA
S/4HANA incorporates the clever functionality of R/3 and adds some excellent extra features.
An interesting new feature in S/4HANA is that it offers you an alternative way to process your configuration: Advanced Variant Configuration. This ‘engine’ gives new possibilities in high-level configuration.
You choose between two processing modes: the well-known Logistics General-Variant Configuration (LO-VC) or the new Advanced Variant Configuration (AVC).
The decision is made via a new data object ‘processing mode’ that you specify in the configuration profile, dependencies, constraint nets and constraints. The processing mode of the constraint will be inherited from the constraint net.
If you select Classic mode, the good old LO-VC engine will process the data model.
With Advanced mode, the new AVC engine will.
A small remark: if you need object dependency for the super BOM and super routing in your low-level configuration, you still need to use the Classic processing mode. Selection condition to select BOM items or routing operations still uses the LO-VC processing mode. BOM items and routing operations are part of the low-level configuration. The new Advanced processing mode is used in the Product Variant Configurator for high-level configuration.
New Fiori app – Variant Configuration overview
One of the new AVC features is the new overview page, only available in Fiori. As a product modeler, you can view and change all objects that are relevant for you.
With AVC, you can now use negative expressions to restrict domains. In the LO-VC engine, the concept of truth is important. A statement always needs to be true before it is processed. The LO-VC engine uses the Truth Maintenance System (TMS) for this purpose. The AVC engine does not use that system. TMS has been replaced by a new constraint solver and mathematical formulas. Therefore the truth principal is no longer critical.
In LO-VC, you have to list all values for which a certain condition is possible. In AVC you can now exclude the value for which the condition is not possible.
Also, the interference section is no longer needed in AVC: all characteristics will always be inferred, while in LO-VC you need to indicate which characteristics are inferred.
Actions have been removed
A long time ago, SAP announced that the dependency type ‘Actions’ was outdated. It was recommended to convert them into dependencies of type ‘Procedure’.
In S/4HANA, the dependency type ‘Actions’ has been removed. Existing actions will still work, but you can’t create new ones as a user.
Multiple Characteristics can be restricted
In the LO-VC set-up, you had to flag all the characteristics you wanted to use in constraints as ‘restrictable’. For multiple value characteristics, however, this is impossible. The only way to create restrictions on multiple value characteristics is by using preconditions.
In AVC ALL characteristics are considered ‘restrictable’. You can now restrict multiple value characteristics by using them in constraints.
If you still want to use preconditions on values, this still works in AVC, but you need to check the configuration result via the simulation apps. I have read that users have experience issues, especially when using the SPECIFIED statement. This is because AVC handles preconditions as constraints. As a result, it is no longer possible to control the order in which they are executed.
In order to keep a clear overview off all characteristics of a configurable material in the configurator, you can group them on several tab pages in LO-VC. The prerequisite is that you specify an interface design name in the configuration profile.
In AVC, a new master data object, ‘Characteristics Groups’, is available to achieve this. This makes it easier to design a user interface.
In a new Fiori application, you can create new groups or assign existing groups. You determine how to group the characteristics, and how you want to sort them within the group.
A characteristic group can be reused in multiple configuration profiles (materials). You can sort the assigned characteristics and change the order in which the user gets to see them.
The upcoming SAP releases will definitely bring other improvements and make it even easier to handle complex configurations. New Fiori apps make sure that, as a user, you can keep an overview and process changes more easily. I am looking forward to new features coming up!