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A better world through a systems approach

Welcome to the Product Line Engineering International Working Group!

What is Product Line Engineering?

In the world of business and marketing, a product line is a family of related products that are usually sold by the same company, are priced differently, and vary from each other in ways that are noticeable to the customer.  Product lines offer the opportunity to achieve economies of scope offered by the products’ similarities.  Economies of scope refers to the savings possible when the same production processes can produce multiple products more cheaply in combination than separately.  

The systems and software engineering fields have embraced these concepts, creating the discipline of Product Line Engineering.  In this world, a product line refers to a family of similar systems that vary from each other in features and functions.  Product Line Engineering is the approach for engineering a portfolio of related products in an efficient manner, taking advantage of products’ similarities while managing their differences. Engineering includes all the activities involved in planning, producing, delivering, deploying, sustaining, and even retiring products.  

A basic tenet of product line engineering is that it is extremely beneficial to consider the product line as the thing being produced, rather than the individual products.  By exploiting product commonality while managing variation, engineering organizations can achieve improvements in effort, time, and quality. This enables a unified, automated approach across the entire life cycle – including engineering and operations disciplines; software, electrical, and mechanical domains; and tool ecosystems.

As PLE grew and matured, a specialized and highly efficient form emerged called Feature-based Product Line Engineering.  Feature-based PLE relies on a managed set of features to describe the distinguishing characteristics that set the products in the product line apart from each other.  A specialized software tool called a configurator applies the features that describe a particular product to the product line’s engineering artifacts (requirements, designs, tests, documentation, models, and so forth) and produces the artifacts specific to that product.  Maintaining the shared assets for the product line, as opposed to each individual product, results in massive savings, as evidenced by numerous real-world case studies of applying the approach in some of the world’s most challenging domains and industries.

Tell me more!

Managing Variation: An Industrial Perspective on Product Line Engineering - In this video, Dr. Paul Clements introduces Product Line Engineering (PLE), various techniques that have been used for PLE, and how PLE concepts are being applied in industry today.

Feature-based Systems and Software Product Line Engineering: A Primer - This (free) booklet was developed by this working group as an introductory companion to upcoming ISO standard 26580 on Feature-based Product Line Engineering.  It serves as a fantastic introduction to Feature-based PLE for Systems and it's impact on engineering assets, economic impacts, and organizational changes.

Mission & Objectives


  • Promote PLE (Product Line Engineering) and related SE (Systems Engineering) best practices
  • Coordinate activities around PLE at INCOSE level and share results


  • Help our members acquire Know‐How:
    • Compare to the State‐of‐Art
    • Share concerns, experiences, good practices, and traps to avoid
  • Provide guidelines to set up and evolve PLE in organizations


  • All types of Systems, Markets, & Organizations
  • All the SE Processes (needs, requirements, architecture, integration and tests, …)
  • All maturity levels of PLE, from opportunistic to completely Integrated and anticipated strategies

Our group charter is available online here.


Co-chairs Hugo-Guillermo CHALÉ GÓNGORA (Thales)
Rowland Darbin (General Dynamics)
Work products Drew Stovall (BigLever)
Outreach Paul Clements (BigLever)
ISO committee
Charlie Krueger (BigLever)
INCOSE Liaisons


 Jean-Luc Garnier (THALES)
 Agile Systems & SE   H.G. Chalé (THALES)
Raul Mazo (UP1-Sorbonne)
 Automotive  Bill Bolander (Method Park)
 Configuration Management  Drew Stovall (BigLever)
 Critical Infrastructure  H.G. Chalé (THALES)
Raul Mazo (UP1-Sorbonne)
 MBSE Matthew Hause (SSI)
Arnaud Durantin (Dassault Systèmes)
 MBSE Patterns Charles Krueger (BigLever)
H.G. Chalé G (THALES)
 Measurement Rowland Darbin (General Dynamics)
 Requirements Tracy Scott-Parry (Northrop Grumman)
Arnaud Durantin (Dassault Systèmes)
 Systems of Systems Beth Wilson (Retired)
Judd Cheatwood (General Dynamics)
 System Security Engineering Beth Wilson (Retired)
 Transportation Matthew Hause (SSI)
Events open               
IT & Services H.G. Chalé G (THALES) acting

Working Group Products

Current Activities / Work Product Leaders

Current Projects

Work Product Lead
ISO 26580 Standard - Methods and Tools for the Feature-Based Approach to Systems and Software Product Line Engineering Charlie Krueger (BigLever)
Wikipedia Updates
Technical Report Series: "PLE in Context" Drew Stovall (BigLever)
INSIGHT Magazine June/July 2020 Issue: "System Security in Product Line Engineering" Beth Wilson
INSIGHT Magazine December 2020 Issue: "Product Line Engineering" Drew Stovall (BigLever)
INCOSE SEBoK Updates Drew Stovall (BigLever)

Recent Projects

Work Product Lead
INCOSE Feature-Based Product Line Engineering Primer Paul Clements (BigLever)
INSIGHT Magazine June 2019 Issue : "Product Line Engineering"
Drew Stovall (BigLever)

Planned Working Sessions at the Next Events

INCOSE International Symposium 2020

  • Dates: July 18-23, 2020
  • Location: Cape Town, South Africa

INCOSE International Workshop 2021

  • Dates: January 29-31, 2021
  • Location: Seville - Spain

Planned Presentations at the Next Events

Product Line Engineering Track

Do Product Lines Have Sweet Spots?

Andrew Pickard, Keith Harper (Rolls-Royce Corporation)
Session: 5.3.1 - Product Line Engineering
Tuesday, July 21 : 12:30-13:10

Patterns for Success in the Adoption and Execution of Feature-based Product Line Engineering: A Report from Practitioners

Susan Gregg (Lockheed Martin); David Hartley (General Dynamic Mission Systems); Morgan McAfee (General Dynamics Mission Systems); Randy Pitz (Boeing); James Teaff (Raytheon); Paul Clements (BigLever Software, Inc.)
Session: 5.3.2 - Product Line Engineering
Tuesday, July 21 : 13:15-13:55

Digital Product-Service Systems meet Product Line Systems Engineering – The Cart before the Horse?

Hugo Guillermo Chalé Gongora, Pierre-Olivier Robic (Thales); Danilo Beuche (Pure-Systems)
Session: 5.3.3 - Product Line Engineering
Tuesday, July 21 : 14:00-14:40

Other Tracks

Applying Systems Thinking to Frame and Explore a Test System for Product Verification; a Case Study in Large Defence ProjectsRune Andre Haugen (Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace AS); Mo Mansouri (University of South-eastern Norway)
Session 1.3.3: Verification/Validation
Monday, July 20 : 11:30-12:10

Addressing Challenges of the Circular Economy using Model-Based Co-Creation and Systems Design
Jan Hendrik Roodt (Stone To Stars Ltd); Clemens Dempers (Polar Analytics Oy)
Session 2.3.2: Systems Architecture/Design Definition
Monday, July 20 13:15-13:55

PLE Conferences and Events

Conferences focused on product families and variability subjects

VaMoS 2021: 15th International Working Conference on Variability Modelling of Software-Intensive Systems

  • Dates: February 09 - 11, 2021
  • Location: Krems, Austria

SAE World Congress

  • Dates: 13-15 April, 2021 
  • Location: Detroit, Michigan, USA

BigLever Momentum 2021 Virtual Symposium

  • Dates: 11-12 May, 2021 
  • Location: Virtual

Smart Variant.Con

  • Dates: 21-22 June 2021
  • Location: Berlin, Germany
IEEE/NDIA/INCOSE Systems Security Symposium
  • Dates: July 1 – August 1, 2020 ; ?? 2021
  • Location: (Virtual) Arlington, Virginia, USA

MCPC2021 : World Mass Customization & Personalization Conference

  • Dates: 1-2 November, 2021
  • Location: Aalborg, Denmark

ConfWS 20 : Workshop on Configuration

  • Dates: 10-21 September, 2020 ; ?? 2021
  • Location: (Virtual) Italy

SPLC 2021 : 25th ACM International Systems and Software Product Line Conference

  • Dates: 6-11 September, 2021
  • Location: Leicester, United Kingdom
23rd Annual Systems and Mission Engineering Conference
  • Dates: 19-22 October, 2020 ; ?? 2021
  • Location: Orlando, Florida, USA
I/ITSEC 2020: The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference
  • Dates: 29 November - 3 December, 2021
  • Location: Orlando, Florida, USA

How To Participate

Our PLE group is growing fast. We invite you to join us!

Membership in the PLE IWG is open to any INCOSE member. To join the group:
  • Log into your INCOSE account
  • Go to your Profile Page, and scroll to the bottom left section titled "My Committees and Working Groups"
  • Click the link for "Browse / Join a Working Group"
  • Find the Product Lines group and click on View to see roster; the Join option is at the bottom of the page

Shared working documents, meeting minutes and presentation material are available in our CONNECT page.
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