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.