SAP S/4HANA Advanced Variant Configuration

By Stijn Willems

The new Advance Variant Configuration is available from SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1808/On-Premise 1809 releases. With Variant Configuration, there’s no need to create a separate material for each variant; instead, you can use one configurable material that covers all possible variants. Advanced Variant Configuration offers new possibilities in high-level configuration and features a new processing mode, a new Fiori app, negative expressions to restrict domains, and more.


Purpose of Variant Configuration 

SAP Variant Configuration is intended for the manufacturing of complex products with many variants. During order processing, you change the existing product designs. It’s all about responding quickly to customer requirements. 

The customer determines the features of the product. Think about buying a car, for example. You can choose from a long list of options and combination possibilities to turn your car into something unique and valuable. For true car lovers, these are the glory days! 

Many manufacturing industries use SAP Variant Configuration for everything from automobiles, hydraulic elevators and PCs to pumps, furniture, chemical adhesives, and more. 

Variant Configuration helps the customer and the salesperson determine the correct price for the configured product. It also ensures that the product is manufacturable and does not contain impossible combinations.

Figure 1: Purpose of variant configuration

Features of Variant Configuration 

With Variant Configuration, there’s no need to create a separate material for each variant. You can use one configurable material that covers all possible variants. One super bill of material (BOM) and a super routing contain all the components and operations you need to produce all variants.

The features of the configurable material are converted into characteristics with different values in the SAP system. 

Figure 2: Features of variant configuration

The customer can choose from different options (values) for each characteristic. The only limitations are combinations of features that are not possible for technical or marketing reasons. With dependencies, you control these limitations. Each configurable object must have a configuration profile. This ensures a correct configuration process when creating a sales order.

In some cases, the price of a variant depends on the chosen characteristic values. SAP Variant Configuration covers this by using variant conditions to define surcharges and discounts for a variant. 

Figure 3: Variant tables & functions

What’s New in Advanced Variant Configuration in S/4HANA 

S/4HANA incorporates the clever functionality of R/3 and adds some excellent extra features: 

Processing mode 

An interesting new feature in S/4HANA is that it offers you an alternative way to process your configuration: Advanced Variant Configuration. This ‘engine’ provides new possibilities in high-level configuration. 

You can choose between two processing modes: the well-known Logistics General-Variant Configuration (LO-VC) and the new Advanced Variant Configuration (AVC). 

You can make your decision in the new data object ‘processing mode’, which you can specify in the configuration profile, dependencies, constraint nets and constraints. The processing mode of the constraint is inherited from the constraint net. 

Figure 6: Variant configuration screen(2)


If you select Classic mode, the familiar LO-VC engine will process the data model. With Advanced mode, the new AVC engine will process it. 

Note: if you need object dependency for the super BOM and super routing in your low-level configuration, you still need to use the Classic processing mode. The selection condition to select BOM items and routing operations still uses the LO-VC processing mode. BOM items and routing operations are part of the low-level configuration. The new Advanced processing mode is used in the Product Variant Configurator for high-level configuration.


New Fiori app – Variant Configuration overview 

One of the new AVC features is the overview page, only available in Fiori. As a product modeler, you can view and change all objects that are relevant for you. 

Figure 6: New Fiori app

Negative expressions 

With AVC, you can now use negative expressions to restrict domains. In the LO-VC engine, the concept of truth is important. A statement always needs to be true before it is processed. The LO-VC engine uses the Truth Maintenance System (TMS) for this purpose. The AVC engine does not use this system. TMS has been replaced with a new constraint solver and mathematical formulas. As a result, the truth principal is no longer critical. 

In LO-VC, you must list all values for which a certain condition is possible. In AVC you can now exclude the value for which the condition is not possible. 

Also, the interference section is no longer needed in AVC: all characteristics will always be inferred, while in LO-VC you need to indicate which characteristics are inferred. 

Figure 7: Negative expressions

Actions have been removed 

A long time ago, SAP announced that the dependency type ‘Actions’ was outdated and recommended converting them into ‘Procedure’ dependencies. 

In S/4HANA, the dependency type ‘Actions’ has been removed. Existing actions will still work, but you can’t create new ones as a user. 

Figure 8: Actions have been removed

Multiple characteristics can be restricted 

In the LO-VC set-up, you had to flag all the characteristics you wanted to use in constraints as ‘restrictable’. For multiple value characteristics, however, this is impossible. The only way to create restrictions on multiple value characteristics is by using preconditions. 

Figure 9: Multiple characteristics can be restricted

In AVC ALL characteristics are considered ‘restrictable’. You can now restrict multiple value characteristics by using them in constraints. 

If you still want to use preconditions on values, this still works in AVC, but you need to check the configuration result via the simulation apps. I have read that users have experienced issues, especially when using the SPECIFIED statement. This is because AVC handles preconditions as constraints. As a result, it is no longer possible to control the order in which they are executed. 

Characteristic Groups 

In order to keep a clear overview off all characteristics of a configurable material in the configurator, you can group them on several tab pages in LO-VC. The prerequisite is that you have to specify an interface design name in the configuration profile. 

In AVC, a new master data object (‘Characteristics Groups’) is available to achieve this. This makes it easier to design a user interface. 

Figure 10: Characteristic groups

In a new Fiori application, you can create new groups or assign existing groups. You determine how to group the characteristics and how you want to sort them within the group. 

Figure 11: Create/ assign groups

Figure 12: sort characteristics in group

A characteristic group can be reused in multiple configuration profiles (materials). You can sort the assigned characteristics and change the order in which the user sees them. 


The upcoming SAP releases will definitely bring other improvements and make it even easier to handle complex configurations. New Fiori apps make sure that, as a user, you can keep an overview and process changes more easily. I look forward to new the features coming up!