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Journal of Intelligent Information Systems

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 59–86

Practical compression and fast evaluation of variant tablesFirst Online: 11 October 2016Received: 15 November 2015Revised: 07 July 2016Accepted: 09 September 2016


A product variant table is a table that lists legal combinations of product features. Variant tables can be used to constrain the variability offered for a personalized product. The concept of such a table is easy to understand. Hence, variant tables are natural to use when ensuring the completeness and correctness of a quote-order for a customizable product. They are also used to filter out inadmissible choices for features in an interactive specification configuration process. Variant tables can be maintained as relational database tables, using spreadsheets, or in proprietary ways offered by the product modeling environment. Variant tables can become quite large. A way of compressing them is then sought that supports a space-efficient representation and a time-efficient evaluation. The motivation of this work is to develop a simple approach to compress-compile a variant table into an easy to read, but possibly hard to write form that can be deployed in a business setting at acceptable cost and risk in a similar manner as a database. The main result is a simple compression and evaluation scheme for an individual variant table called a Variant Decomposition Diagram VDD. A VDD supports efficient consistency checks, the filtering of inadmissible features, and iteration over the table. A simple static heuristic for decomposition order is proposed that suggests itself from a -column oriented viewpoint-. This heuristic is not always optimal, but it has the advantage of allowing fast compilation of a variant table into a VDD. Compression results for a publicly available model of a Renault Megane are given. With the proposed heuristic the VDD is a specialization of a Zero-suppressed binary Decision Diagram ZDD Knuth 2011 and also maps to a Multi-valued Decision Diagram MDD Andersen et al. 2007; Berndt et al. 2012.

KeywordsVariant tables Arc consistency Decision diagrams Table compression Column-oriented decomposition VDD ZDD BDD MDD I want to thank the reviewers and my daughter Laura for substantial constructive criticism of the original manuscript, all of which I have tried to incorporate here. Any remaining shortcomings are my own. Disclaimer: While the motivation for this work lies in my past at SAP and experiences with its product configurators Blumöhr et al. 2012; Haag 2014, all work on this article and its precursors Haag 2015a, b was performed privately after transition into partial retirement without a work obligation at SAP. The implementation is not related to SAP software in any way. It is neither endorsed by SAP nor does it reflect ongoing SAP development.

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Autor: Albert Haag


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