Product Variants is Part 5 of the blog series Designing for Compliance, outlining the benefits, procedures, risks, etc. of designing a product with compliance regulations in the design forefront, rather than the typical afterthought.
Identification of product variants may initially seem straightforward; however, if multiple vendors manufacture critical components within your product, the process becomes more complicated. This is especially true if multiple locations are used for the manufacturing of the same product.
First and foremost, it is important to identify the number of different vendors supplying critical subsystems or components (e.g., transceivers). While each should, in theory, be designed to the same specifications, one cannot be sure without thorough testing. If different materials are used, or they’re constructed in slightly different manners, they could behave differently in conjunction with other portions of your system. Electromagnetic interference and signal interruption are fickle byproducts, and even the smallest of differences can produce vastly different results. It’s crucial to be thorough and perform additional testing on any components that may have come from different locations or manufacturing facilities.
Once you are satisfied that all possible configurations of your product are ready for testing, you must then provide the number of variants (technical differences) and test candidates to your testing facility. This will enable the lab to perform the appropriate testing on the entire product range, ensuring that all configurations will perform as-tested when placed on the market. It is important to have the identified variants registered in a formal test report for complete traceability purposes.
Note: not all variants require complete compliance testing; partial testing can be accepted provided that a solid rationale is well documented.
The concept of identifying and thoroughly vetting product variants may seem nit-picky and unnecessary, but overlooking any potential roadblocks during compliance testing can result in failed tests, wasted money, and production delays.