Mass Customization

Organisation profile

Product Configuration is the process of defining a specific product variant from a predefined variety. The set of possible individual configurations is termed the product family and, in order to support a configuration process, some kind of overview or model of the product family is significantly important. Hence, much research is focused on developing and utilisation of product family models.

An important enabler behind this development is information technology. The ability to create more advanced support systems for product data management and product life cycle management provides the means for creating lean and agile sales and manufacturing systems. Information modelling is essential for creating an integral view on technical and administrative data, necessary for performing efficient and effective processes. By implementation of the basic principles behind product configuration in advanced supporting IT systems, it is possible to reach new markets, especially in a world-wide perspective. Therefore, web based technologies have made it possible for many enterprises to take advantage of globalisation by opening up the whole world as their market place.

Motivation

Great research potentials are related to detailed product family models because they can automate many expensive traditional operations. Not only in the sales process but also in the manufacturing processes, a large amount of resources can be saved by generation of planning and control data directly based on the product family model when specific end products have been defined and specified.
New research is also needed regarding the possibilities for user-driven and user-performed configuration of products, i.e. in mechatronic and electronic products with embedded computers and software.

The mission in the research area is to make novel contributions comparable with other similar research world wide. It is the immediate goal that the research activities are performed on a high international level and result in a leading status on the national level. This relates first of all to quality of the achieved research outcome but it also relates to publications, collaboration with members of other international research areas and external funding.
The ultimate vision regarding the usability of the research is that

  • Customers can specify individually configured products by use of advanced product configurators support tools
  • Customers can get substantial amount of information about configured products during configuration process and before purchase decisions must be made
  • Individually configured products can be manufactured automatically on the basis of models generated as result of configuration

This vision implies that product family models are essential in all aspects but it also requires that the components of the product family are well prepared for configuration and the manufacturing set-up comply with the customer requirements.

Research and Competences

Product Configuration includes a range of issues, which can be integrated with the following identified basic research disciplines:

Strategic aspects: Mass customisation, customisation levels, market trends, globalisation, sustainability, technologies, business re-engineering, B2B, B2C, etc.

Product types: Mechanical products, mechatronic products and electronic products, re-configurable manufacturing systems, buildings and building products, virtual products, software, etc.

Product technologies and architecture: Design/re-design for customisation, modularisation, platforms, configuration, re-configuration, functionalities and performance, mechatronics, etc

Business processes: The complete value chain, engineering, cost estimation, tendering, order management, inventory, manufacturing, postponement, change management, etc.

Modelling: Product families, methodologies, information models, development approaches, etc.

IT support tools: Product family modelling tools, product configurators, system architectures, functionalities, user interfaces, data models, etc.

Knowledge handling: Knowledge acquisition, knowledge representation, rules versus constraints, inference engines, product life cycle information

Projects regarding product configuration can be focused on rather isolated disciplines but they will typically be formed as balanced mixtures of these issues across the domains. An example of more basic research is the results about customisation levels, where a conceptual model with four customisation levels is created. The newly finished PhD project is an example of basic research about information modelling combined with special business requirements like globalisation, standardisation and modularisation can lead to a new approach for order management.

The issues presented above can also be applied to various application areas. Examples of application areas which are currently being addressed in the group include the building industry, engineer to order production of manufacturing equipment, design and manufacturing of mechatronic products. Furthermore the group has identified that the core issues can be utilised to develop and produce more sustainable products, and this application will be made a research topic in near future.
It is the aim to continue to produce international highly ranked research in this research area.

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