188/4 E-Commerce Group
Institute of Software Technology and Interactive Systems
Vienna University of Technology
Favoritenstrasse 9-11/188, A-1040 Vienna, Austria

Knowledge-based Configuration and Distribution of Products in different E-Commerce Scenarios

Master Thesis
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Dorn, J.
In general, the term "knowledge-based configuration" deals with the task of building something (new) out of other already existing components given certain restrictions or constraints. Therefore it provides the users the possibility to engineer something in a certain solution space, considering their specific needs. The result might be a product due to the fact that product configuration is a main application field of knowledge-based configuration and it continously gains more and more importance in the modern (mass) customizable world. This can be seen in the fact that a lot of different industrial sectors adopted this product configuration/mass customization approach already like the automobile sector (car configurators) or the computer sector. This master thesis picks up on the topic of rising demands in product individualization of business-to-business (B2B) customers in the manufacturing industry. Many companies are seeking appropriate solutions in flexible (customer) product configuration, combined with suitable order procedures and processes, integrated into various internal and external systems or platforms. At this point, the Internet and e-commerce technologies provide significant higher benefits in offering customers product configuration and ordering possibilities, than standard offline configurators (e.g. CD/DVD standalone configurators) or sales staff configuration. The main question in this thesis is therefore, how flexible product configuration in order processes can be integrated and/or combined with customers, systems and platforms. To evaluate on possible solution strategies, an analysis of existing approaches from companies out of the manufacturing industry in the form of case studies is presented, general product configuration and configurator requirements are derived, and possible general product configuration and ordering interaction strategies proposed. To applicate and verify the proposed general strategies onto a business case, the cooperating company Mettler Toledo is analyzed, its requirements and approaches are evaluated, and a solution is recommended. The result of this master thesis is a framework of literature and industry derived requirements and interaction strategies onto product configuration and ordering, and the evaluation example onto a certain business case. The evaluation showed that the configuration and ordering over e-commerce interaction sales channels results in high benefits for the customers and the serving companies if the basic product configuration strategy is applied properly in the company. Furthermore, certain problems are addressed in this work regarding the representation and transportation of configured products in and over different media. The presented new e-commerce technologies like e-procurement platforms and their solutions regarding product configuration emphasize the future electronic B2B procurement of configurable products.
Jan 2011