Smart Manufacturing Offers More Choice

If you follow our research on smart manufacturing and product lifecycle management, you know that manufacturers today have more ability than ever before to develop and bring to market exciting new product variants. You have also seen our work on collaborative work managementproject portfolio management, and accelerating product delivery with agile methodology that starts to change the underlying culture and operating models of manufacturers.

But Choice Carries A (Customer Service) Cost

Just because you can offer a never-ending stream of product variants doesn’t mean you should. Thinking back over my career in manufacturing, I remember the desperate struggle in most manufacturing companies to rationalize our product portfolio. Complex bills of materials with many features and options incur complexity. You have to manage more vendors, more components, and subassemblies. Product variants increase production setup time. Features and options also need configure-to-order assembly operations. But on the other hand, no one really wants to reduce the product range just in case the next customer requests the line you dropped!

Our real reason for rationalizing our product offerings was to focus effort on better service to customers for a core assortment.

Our top leaders would spend time with strategy consultants like Bain and McKinsey to define our core mission and vision. They would try to tune our portfolio of products to best fulfill the mission. I often prepared data for Boston Consulting Group matrices so that our senior leaders could debate which products were dogs, stars, cash cows, and so on. We often based our work on relative market share data, customer order history, and profit volume analysis based on product routings and production center fixed and variable costs. These days, you can use solutions like Productfolio or Smartsheet to define and present such aggregate variables.

Effective Product Portfolio Rationalization Needs Bill-Of-Material Analysis

But what we really missed was the ability to base our product portfolio analysis on bill-of-material detail and on the artificial intelligence analysis that retailers routinely use for assortment planning. As analysts, we’re always keen to align our research to evolving client needs.

This is why we are asking you today: Are Forrester’s manufacturing clients eager to learn more about product portfolio rationalization? Are they interested in solutions from vendors such as Planview, ProductPlan, Siemens Digital Industries Software, Technical University of Munich spin-off Soley, and others?

We would love to hear your point of view. Feel free to reach out to us at and