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Shorter time to market for software-intensive products

Many companies that integrate software into their products wrestle with the question how many new variants of a product they should bring to market and also how they can efficiently manage such innovations. Sirris joined no fewer than 23 partners from 7 countries in addressing this complex issue in a European research project, called VARIES. In this project, Belgium is the country with the largest number of participating organisations, led by Barco.

The challenge | Efficiently updating and customising software-intensive products

To keep up with the breakneck speed at which technologies are developing, manufacturers of ‘software-intensive’ products need to update and customise their systems almost all the time, as users expect an up-to-date system that specifically serves their purposes. The only thing is that an in-depth impact assessment is needed before any software upgrade, since in the case of critical components or certified systems audits are required when any changes, however small, are made to ensure they comply with safety requirements, standards and legislation.

As a result, the development of software variants can quickly lead to complex, expensive research projects. It was with this in mind that Sirris launched a European call for projects in 2012.

The solution | Launch of the VARIES research project

The VARIES research project was launched in May 2012, with a total of 23 European partners from 7 countries taking part, including four Belgian companies: Softkinetic Sensors, Macq, Spicer and Barco. Barco decided to manage the project, with the aid of Sirris. The collaboration of Flanders' Mechatronics Technology Centre (FMTC) and Vlerick Business School in this venture as well immediately made the Belgian consortium of participants the largest of those involved.

First, to take properly thought-through decisions about new variants, parameters or ‘variability drivers’ were defined. The participants then developed a variability architecture and approach, with a view to achieving continuous integrated variability management throughout a product’s life cycle. Seven work packages, with clearly delineated expectations for the various partners, aimed to meet these requirements, which were encapsulated in three objectives.

The result | Lessons for big and small players

Promising insights have been provided by the project. Barco has learnt lessons from the experience allowing it to optimise its supply chain and efficiently manage its wide range of products and components in various segments, and the project is also coming up with practical solutions for the smaller players and other members of Sirris. In this way, VARIES is helping companies to proactively achieve a shorter time to market and higher productivity levels.