Product descriptions as Programs: a Case Study
Keywords: bill of material (BOM), generic bill of material (GBOM), programming language, usability
AbstractThe company in this case study manufactures furniture for ships. This business sector is characterized by a high degree of customization. One way of handling the various products is to have a separate product description for each variant. Experience shows that this results in a large number of different product descriptions, in one company as many as 40,000. As the number of different descriptions increases, it becomes easier to create a new description than it is to search for an existing description, thus exacerbating the problem. Therefore, the company in the case study placed great importance on keeping the product descriptions to a minimum, but without limiting the variability. We were able to offer a solution. Based on previous research, we have implemented a system for the company whereby product structures are described by means of computer programs instead of using the traditional bill of material structure. This method of defining generic product descriptions makes it possible to handle variability without increasing the number of descriptions. In theory, this highly structured method should offer a better solution if the users manage to program the product descriptions. The idea of this research was to see if the more complex solution also worked in practice.