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How do you manage your assembly variants?

Mark Laing

Mark Laing

Posted May 8, 2013
1 Comment

Hi there

This week I would like to ask for input on assembly variants. For the context of this post I would like to state that an assembly variant is one where the base bare PCB is common to all assembly variants and that the variation is through the presence and absence of parts including part substitution of functionally different parts. Therefore using an Approved Vendor List (AVL) to substitute functionally identical parts would not be considered an assembly variant.

I am aware of customers who create assembly variants through placing or not placed a part on the board. I am also aware of customers who additionally swap similar parts out for others, such as replacing a 10K resistor for a 1K resistor. This is commonly done to localize a product for different markets around the world with different standards. I have also heard though in some cases where a resistor has been replaced with a capacitor, which would change the schematic symbol and not just the value on an electrical component. What scenarios do you use in your manufacturing environment?

My second question is related to how you manage the different data sets. Do you create a product data set for each product variant as a self-contained package or manage all variants for a common bare PCB together? There are advantages and disadvantages of both approaches so I am interested to hear how you all manage it.

Lastly, how are assembly variants managed with regard to your design environments or design customer in the case of contract manufacturers? Does the design data include the variant data directly or is it managed separately through the Bill Of Materials (BOM) file?

I hope you can share your thoughts on this subject. I believe a lot of you take advantage of assembly variants today and so I am interested in your feedback.



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I have worked / work for several Companies . Here is how a perhaps representative 2 work. 1. High Volume Gate / Garage Door Automation Electronics. Internal Manufacturing Design Variants controlled using Variant Manager in Expedition PCB. Output for Manufacturing :Bills of Material and Parts Lists created from Variant Manager and input into MRP / ERP system. Assembly drawings including variants and Fit / Do not fit created using the information in Variant Manager. Exported to DXF and further work performed in Autocad. Approved Vendor List Maintained in Excel. Bespoke part created normally in AutoCad saved and linked to the Approved Vendor List. Product Specifications / Test Specifications ( Production and Design Test Specifications ) Created in Word saved and linked to the design information. Note Bespoke parts would normally include Packing material. ( Pallets. Boxes, Leaflets, User Manuals, Special Electronics components, Plastics / Metal or other enclosures, Harnesses ) Note: Non BOM items are itemised but not quantified in the BOM eg glue, solder, sellotape. A full set of information is created for each variant. After the product is first released revisions updates are no longer maintained in the original CAD / Variant Manager. Instead controlled using the ECO system 2. Low volume smaller company. Hand Arm Vibration Monitoring Systems. No internal Manufacturing Uses Cadence Allegro / Orcad. Internally uses Orcad and for complex designs uses external consultants using Allegro. The ability to upgrade and downgrade the designs from Orcad to Allegro and vice versa is really very useful. No internal manufacturing. Variants and Fit / Do not fit controlled using Excel sheets. One master Excel document lists all the documents required to manufacture the product. List as follows Bill of Materials Excel Assembly Drawing pdf Manufacturing Instructions Word / pdf Bespoke parts Autocad / pdf Leaflets / user Documents Word / pdf Packing drawings Autocad / pdf Test Requirements Word / pdf A complete set of information is created for each variant. Some variants in this case are strictly controlled (ATEX equipment) and changes to other variants must not affect them. Again after the first initial release revisions are controlled by ECO and not updated in the CAD system

Tom O' Connell
12:38 PM May 20, 2013

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