Automatic Identification of Similarities Across Products to Improve the Configuration Process in ETO Companies
Sara Shafiee, Katrin Kristjansdottirm, Lars Hvam
Engineer-To-Order (ETO) companies making complex products face the challenge of delivering highly customised products with high quality, affordable price and a short delivery time. To respond to these challenges, ETO companies strive to increase the commonality between different projects and to reuse product-related information. Therfore, ETO companies need to retrieve data about previously designed products and identify parts of the design that can be reused to improve the configuration process. This allows companies to reduce complexity in the product portfolio, decrease engineering hours and improve the accuracy of the product specifications. This article proposes a framework to identify and compare products’ similarities. The framework (1) identifies the most important product variables available in the Product Configuration System (PCS), (2) retrieves data of previously designed products in an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, (3) identifies a method to compare products based on the main products variables and (4) sets up an IT system (database) with data of the previously designed products to integrate with the PCS. The proposed approach (the framework and the IT system) is tested in an ETO company to evaluate the application of the framework and the IT system. We retrieved the needed data from the ERP system at the case company and developed the IT system in Microsoft Excel, which is integrated with the PCS.