The ideal when designing a product is to get the design right the first time, eliminating the need to make changes. However, changes due to wrong decisions and changes in customer requirements are unavoidable. If employees have made an undesired design decision, they need to manage product data in a controlled fashion using change management approach.
In fact, employees can consider either of the 2 an engineering change;
- Alterations made in the functional, maintenance, performance, or physical characteristics of a product or a system
- Alterations made to a bill of materials by
- Adding or deleting an item
- Substituting an item with another
- Changing the usage of an item
What is Engineering Change Management?
As markets accelerate, so does the pace of change. New technologies and evolving customer demands increase the pressure on engineering to make component adjustments to accommodate changes. They also need to maintain or improve efficiencies and profitability.
Engineering change management is a systematic approach to the documentation of changes from the identification of the required change, through the planning and implementation of the change, and culminating with the closure of the issue
Importance of Engineering Change Management:
By introducing Engineering Change Management, employees can
- Clearly indicate running changes (preventing repetitive work going forward)
- Identify models and parts that the change affects so the workflow incorporates the effect on other items
- Eliminate the use of paper routers and the inherent slowness of paper
- Increase visibility of progress, at any stage, to all workflow participants, as well as managers
- Ensure the most current versions of documents and drawings are in use
- Access revision histories easily to permit understanding of the historical changes as well as create an electronic audit trail for review
- Permit changes to the workflow and associated schedule, with appropriate notifications so they can expediate the workflows and modify it to include new information, or just cancel
- Improve the accuracy of the workflow by including more data (e.g., assembly and parts drawings) and the ability to markup and attach drawings and documents within the process.
Engineering Change Management Process:
The engineering change process is at least a 4-step process that begins when a customer, manufacturing partner, or internal employee raises an issue or problem with a product. Then, manufacturers, operators, engineers, and others discuss the problem and determine the course of action. The group members then agree that a change is necessary. They then must agree upon a solution and then drive the implementation.
Engineering Change Request:
Regardless of the scope of a change, decision making is the major part of any change, for this we need to look at the impact of the change, the costs, the risks involved, safety issues, short term vs long term, and stop shipments.
Then there is the question of who gets to vote and what authority is needed on which type of change, for this there are usually 3 types of changes:
If it is a change that has a big financial impact e.g., product recall, the top management needs to be involved and have authority on this
If the change affects the organization but to a certain amount of financial impact, the directors would have authority and their signoff would be required for such a change
A change that has minimum or no affect on functionality, is financially low impact does not require the top management or director’s signoff and can be completed with the engineers or manager signoff only e.g. typos in printing
Engineering Change Notice:
Engineering Change Notice communicates the details of an approved change to someone who needs to know about the change. It often authorizes a notice recipient to make a change to the design or process, which may include purchasing new materials.
A detailed description and an explanation of the change should be captured on the ECN form. The form must contain the list of the items impacted and how to disposition each of them. It should also reference the approved ECO.
Engineering Change Order:
An engineering change order (ECO) specifies either new product design details or proposed changes to existing products. ECOs provide a list of all the components, assemblies, and other documents that they affect. All key stakeholders (change control board or “CCB”) including engineers, quality and procurement experts, manufacturers, and external design teams or supply chain partners receive the engineering change order in many cases. Every CCB member is responsible to determine the impact of the change order. He must also determine whether he can implement the ECO as planned and on time. CCB members will approve or reject the change and once all CCB members approve ECO, then they will act on it.
Engineering Change Verification:
Engineering Change Verification determines whether we were able to do what we told everyone to do, did we get what was expected? The change process could have been initiated to achieve financial benefits like Cost Reduction or improvements in Quality and the ECV is to verify whether the percentage results we hoped for are achieved or not.
Engineering Change Verification also determines whether this change can be reused, or if a part of this process is reusable. If results of the change are not as expected, this can be done again.
Engineering Change Management Approaches:
Simple Change Process:
The recommendation is to have a
- Balanced process depending on the business requirements and industry
- If process requires, the best practice is to utilize ECR/ECO with notifications and signoffs
The Engineering Change Management Workflow:
Each change has a lifecycle, from origination through completion. Engineering change workflow is the process of moving a change along a path, from one lifecycle state to the next.
Roles in Engineering Change Management:
is the role that requests a change due to problems encountered or new functionality requirements; this can be a person or an organizational entity and can be in- or external to the company that will implement the change.
is the owner of the project that the CHANGE REQUEST concerns. In some cases, there is a distinct change manager, who in that case takes on this role.
decides whether a Change Request will be implemented or not. Sometimes project managers perform this task as well.
The change analyst is the person who plans and implements the change; Then, project manager takes upon the planning component.
Engineering Change Management and PLM
The essence of product lifecycle management (PLM) is to engage with the life of your product throughout its entire lifecycle – from conceptualization to development, from prototype to production, through maintenance and ultimately obsolescence
Types of changes in PLM:
An engineering change request tells the users to change certain items. ECR can be requested against any revision of an item
An engineering change order tells users that they need to make changes to specific items, and go ahead and do the work
A manufacturer change order tells users the changes need to be made to the manufacturing data of items
A stop ship alerts users to stop shipping or using an item. Stop ships do not allow any redlining
A deviation is used to deviate from a process or specification for a specific time period. Deviations do not allow any redlining
Components of a PLM Engineering Change
An engineering change process leads up to the critical event: an item (part or document) becomes formally accepted for its intended use. Agile PLM solution then releases items using a change form commonly known as Engineering Change Notice (ECN) or Engineering change Order (ECO).
When users approve the Change Form, it will change the release status of the affected item revisions from Pending to Released, or from Released to Canceled.
- A description of the problem encountered
- The reason there is a need for change
- A proposed change (optional)
- The part number(s) affected by the problem
- The part descriptions
- The request originator’s name
- The change request submission date
- The key stakeholders’ names and roles like change analyst, reviewers
- The disposition action required to resolve the original issue
Practices for Engineering Change Management:
Each change requires a unique identifier. It requires a manual identifier assignment process so that multiple requests don’t combine into a single order, or split a single request into multiple orders.
Change number source
Use a single identifier sequence for all change types. You’ll eliminate any confusion between, for instance, ECO 1234 and ECR 1234. Users can simply work with the change number without having to explicitly state the change type.
Proactive Change Management
Employees can make multiple changes in the product lifecycle where they are very inexpensive.
Incomplete but accurate product design data
Employees can do productive work on product and process definition information that are accurate but not complete. Retaining definition information until the design is complete reduces the enterprise agility.
Identify owners responsible for changes to data
All product and process definition information has owners who are responsible for understanding the impact off change on the data elements they own, these owners must understand how their data elements are related to other product definition information.
Owners as approvers
Users or owners of the item undergoing change should approve. Also, managers should not necessarily be approving items every time.
More than 3 or 4 approvers typically not required
Typically, once all key approvers sign off, other approvers should follow. And if employees need to know the change, they should use notifications.
Communicating product changes
Employees must communicate product changes throughout enterprise and extend enterprise participants as required. And they should communicate the proposed and approved changes at the right time, to the right people.
Holistic approach to change management
You should take a holistic approach to change management. It further allows you to better understand the impact of change in all forms.