Products are configured as model variants of brands and families. This mass customerisation allows the product line to appeal to a wider range of customers and build up the production volume to achieve economy of scale. This poses the challenge for the assembly line planning and design community to arrive at a final assembly line specification that can manufacture all the variants. The corresponding requirement is for the configuration management and product modelling system to maintain and manage the information that represents the different models of the product. The advance of parametric/variation CAD system facilitates the re-use of geometric product design. The systems to manage the relationship of complete product life cycle are still difficult and expensive. A unified product modelling representation for all variant in the product family will facilitate assembly line design, material purchase and production management.
Product modelling for family of product has been attracting interest in the research and application development community. Various extensions to the STEP model are reported and experimental systems are built. There is, however, no systematic definition of terms in the research community. This paper reviews recent research addressing the definition of product family and description methods. A set of general requirements for product family description is proposed.