Simplifying high-mix, low-volume assemblies with process variant feature

How do manufacturers manage work instructions for their high-mix, low-volume product assemblies? It’s highly likely that manufacturers producing multiple variations of the same end product without any sort of automation capability struggle to keep their processes separated and organized. 

That’s why we created a process variant feature in our work instructions capability.


Steve Wishau, Head of Product at Pico MES, walks through how to set up and manage process variants.


What are process variants?

Process variants (also referred to as configurations or options) describe any assembly process that produces a series of SKUs that tie back to a common product line. An example of this might be an engine that is available in different configurations.

The processes used by operators to build these product variations mostly stay true to an original process (a template) but include deviations on select steps. For an assembly process that aims to produce a dozen different SKUs, you might end up with a dozen different sets of work instructions that all follow the same basic template.

Managing these work instructions separately can quickly become a headache for manufacturing engineers as making one change to the template means making the same change in several other places. Whether work instructions are managed digitally or on paper, the challenge remains the same - updating work instructions for process variants is a repetitive and time-consuming task that leaves factories at risk for errors.


Our solution

The Pico MES process variant feature makes managing similar sets of work instructions easy by leveraging a template/ variant structure with linked and unlinked steps. Here’s how it works:

  1. A template process is created for the base model of the product.

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  2. Variants are introduced by creating a copy of the template at the click of a button.

    Copy template
  3. Individual steps or parameters that deviate from the template process are unlinked and modified as needed. All other steps remain linked to the template process.

Individual steps

That’s it! If a change is made to the template process, it will be applied to all linked steps across all variants of that process. Any deviations in the process variants remain unchanged to reflect the differences in end product configuration.

Want to try it for yourself? Check out our self-guided demo.

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How can variants be used?

There are several use cases for process variants. Here are some examples from our existing customers:

  • Creating basic changes to the text, image, or video in a select step that differs from the template work instructions.
  • Changing how tools are programmed depending on which part number is being used.
  • Products requiring different power supply configurations depending on which country a unit is being shipped to.
  • Products with components that may need a different number of bolts, different torquing action, etc.
  • Translating work instructions into another language.


The takeaway

Our solution to managing a challenging environment of process variants is unique in that it makes updating work instructions easy, instantaneous, and non-repetitive. The feature is native to our digital work instructions function, whereas alternative solutions might rely on highly customized and complex logic streams that require greater skill and understanding to set up. 

We’re on a mission to help American factories digitize their assembly processes, and we believe having an organized and streamlined way to manage process variants will help get our customers one step closer to an error-proofed factory.

Want to learn more? Check out these additional resources:

  • How much does Pico MES cost? Find out in this video.
  • Read this blog post about how our customer used variants to translate their work instructions into Spanish.
  • Schedule a personalized demo with our team!

Gain access to hundreds of solutions from a single platform

Step into the future of factory operations with Pico MES. Start your journey toward a more efficient, error-proof factory floor today.

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