Big Lever Software, Inc.


Second Generation Product Line Engineering for Systems and Software (Part 1)

Greetings from Dr. Charles Krueger, BigLever CEO:

Welcome to part 1 of my newsletter series spotlighting the latest advances in the field of Systems and Software Product Line Engineering (PLE). In this special series, I will describe how Second Generation Product Line Engineering (2G PLE) is fueling the widespread adoption of PLE practice and impacting the fundamentals of how companies design, develop, deliver and compete with their product lines.


For businesses to be competitive, today's product development organizations must deliver a product line – a portfolio of similar products or systems with variations in features and functions – rather than just an individual product. PLE is an innovative approach that enables organizations to develop, deliver and evolve an entire product line portfolio, through each stage of the engineering lifecycle, with much higher degrees of efficiency than have been possible before.

Companies across a diverse range of industries – including aerospace, defense, automotive, medical, consumer electronics, computer systems, alternative energy, telecommunications, software applications, e-commerce and industrial automation systems – have successfully employed 2G PLE approaches to more efficiently extend and evolve their product line portfolios, achieving new levels of competitiveness and profitability.

The characteristic that distinguishes this PLE approach from previous efforts is when an organization invests in a means of production that enables it to efficiently create a product line of similar systems from a consolidated set of assets such as requirements, designs, source code and test cases. Manufacturers of hard goods have long employed analogous engineering methods to create a product line of similar systems using a common factory that assembles and configures parts from a supply chain designed to be reused across the product line.

2G PLE can provide your organization the infrastructure, tools, best practices and methods needed to create an advanced and efficient means of production for your product line. Companies that invest in a more efficient means of production for PLE, as illustrated in this graphic (click image to enlarge), can experience a discontinuous jump in productivity, quality, time to market and product line scalability.

Product lines and profitability

In the world of hard goods, a product line refers to the variations on a common theme, where multiple similar products are combined into one product line that offers different sizes, colors, features and functions, with a common goal of filling customer need for a particular kind of item. Economy of scale is a key aspect of the product line concept, where greater profitability is achieved by investing in an efficient means of production that can be used to deploy different “flavors” of a product.

As product differentiation and innovation expands from simple physical attributes to complex systems and software features – such as automotive cruise control that adapts to ambient traffic conditions, ships that can shoot down an errant satellite, wind turbines optimized for different environments and mobile phones that guide you back to where you parked your car – economy of scale and profitability become dependent on an efficient means of production for different “flavors” of products and the soft assets from which they are engineered, such as requirements, designs, source code and test cases.

In development organizations today, virtually all systems and software engineering is performed in the context of a product line. Nobody builds just one. Systems and software product lines can be found in every industry across the spectrum. They can be found in every business model, including retail products, government contractors, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), business-to-business, value-added resellers and custom product development.

As businesses everywhere strive to gain competitive advantage and achieve greater profitability, the need for an efficient means of production for systems and software product lines has become universal.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this newsletter series to learn more about the latest PLE approaches that have enabled a diverse range of companies to more efficiently extend and evolve their product line portfolios.

Best Regards,

Charles W. Krueger
BigLever Software CEO

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