BigLever Software Takes Product Line Engineering to the Next Level with Feature-based Product Line Family Management

Gears 7.2 Delivers Breakthrough Multistage Configuration Capabilities for Managing Product Family Trees and Automating Production Based on Product Line Features

AUSTIN, Texas – August 19, 2013 BigLever Software™, the leading provider of systems and software product line engineering (PLE) solutions, announced today the release of Gears 7.2, the latest version of the company's industry-standard PLE Lifecycle Framework. Gears 7.2 delivers the breakthrough multistage configuration capabilities needed for engineering organizations to create, deliver, maintain and evolve their entire "product family tree" based on product line features. This new feature-based product line family management capability is changing the way companies, across a spectrum of industries, evolve and compete with their product lines.

In successful commercial product line organizations, the number and diversity of products delivered can grow to be extremely large, partially due to the efficiencies made available by the latest generation of PLE tools and methods. In market segments ranging from automobiles to industrial systems, it is not unusual for companies to manufacture millions of products every year, in thousands of different "flavors". This extreme product line diversity creates major challenges for engineers implementing the product line, product marketers defining the space of available products, and customers selecting from the array of available products. To provide order and clarity about their product groupings and offerings within this type of complex product space, companies often organize their products into a product family tree, thereby enabling customers to more easily navigate among the huge number of product offerings.

BigLever's Gears solution dramatically reduces engineering complexity by enabling companies to establish a feature-based product line factory that uses feature profiles and systems and software assets – from across the engineering lifecycle and the entire product line portfolio – to automatically configure and produce their many product flavors. (Click image to enlarge.) Multistage configuration extends this product line factory approach by allowing product line managers and marketers to better comprehend, organize and manage highly complex family trees based on product line features.

"Multistage configuration is especially powerful because it shortens the lead time required to translate new feature concepts and combinations into product implementation," said Dr. Charles Krueger, CEO of BigLever Software. "With Gears 7.2, product marketers can gain a cohesive big picture view into the product family tree, and the subfamlies within their purview, to take strategic advantage of product feature commonalities and diversity within the product space. As a result, businesses can leverage a feature-based product line management approach to efficiently expand and evolve their product line portfolio to meet customer need and market demand."

"Dealing with this kind of complexity is a challenge that hits hard in the systems engineering arena, where the disparate worlds of software and hardware come together," said Tony Baer, Principal Analyst, Ovum. "As ALM (application lifecycle management) and PLM (product lifecycle management) technologies begin to converge, much of the industry's focus is on integrating the tools, rather than integrating the business across these two critical functions. BigLever's feature-based product family management approach can play a key role in helping engineering and product management establish a common vision for the product line."

About Product Line Engineering

The emergence of PLE as mainstream practice in the systems and software engineering industry is due in large part to the latest generation of pragmatic, full-lifecycle PLE tools and methods. First generation PLE approaches enable the improved reuse of software assets; however, they tend to focus on techniques for enhancing variation management within a single tool, a single asset type, or at an individual stage in the lifecycle. Second generation PLE (2GPLE) is centered on the featured-based product line factory paradigm. With 2GPLE the entire product line portfolio is engineered, managed, delivered and evolved as a single, feature-based, automated production system – as opposed to a multitude of separate products.

BigLever's Gears PLE Lifecycle Framework is the only PLE solution that allows organizations to create a supply chain of product line assets that self-configure based on features, automatically assemble these self-configuring assets from across the lifecycle, and produce the product line family with the push of a single button.

About Gears 7.2 and Multistage Configuration

Gears 7.2 supports the engineering, deployment and maintenance of complex product family trees by enabling feature selections and "downselections" (features removed from consideration) to be incrementally staged throughout the nodes in a product family tree. Feature decisions made at any node are inherited by all descendants of that node, thereby defining a product family subtree. For example, an automotive manufacturer might structure their product line portfolio into a family tree with 5 levels:

  • Platform: A family of vehicles of similar size and structure that can be manufactured in the same assembly plant. (Examples might include pickup trucks, large sedans, and small coupes.)
  • Program: A subfamily of vehicles within a single platform, known by consumers as the "model".
  • Regional program: A subfamily of vehicles within a single program, manufactured for the legislative, geographic, climate, cultural, and marketing characteristics of a particular country.
  • Trim level: A subfamily of vehicles within a single regional program, representing different tiers of capabilities, accessories, and associated cost using terms such as base, standard, and luxury.
  • Vehicle instance: A subfamily member within a single regional program trim level, as determined by the consumer-selectable options available on a particular trim level.

This patent pending multistage configuration technology has been adopted by the world's leading automotive manufacturer to streamline and simplify the engineering, delivery and evolution of one of the most complex product lines in the world. In addition to the automotive industry, companies in other sectors are leveraging this approach to deliver complex product families, such as a portfolio of industrial pump systems.