Engineering Change Management Is Hard. 3 Steps To Organize Scalable ECO Process

Oleg Shilovitsky
Oleg Shilovitsky
20 February, 2023 | 4 min for reading
Engineering Change Management Is Hard. 3 Steps To Organize Scalable ECO Process

Engineering change management (ECM) is no easy task. From improving processes and managing the change processes, to monitoring changes and following up regulations, and mitigating risks. Change Management requires tons of activities to help companies to manage data and processes. Many organizations are looking at how to improve the change management process and struggling to organize it in an efficient way. So if your organization is struggling with this issue – don’t worry; you’re not alone – but thankfully there are ways to help simplify engineering change management so even those with limited technical expertise can successfully navigate their way through these changes.

The history of the change management process goes back many years and has its own ups and downs. These days I can see the challenges of companies lays in the way they need to organize the information and move from document management to information management. This is where most companies are really struggling. The main reason is total document/file data organization and limitation to getting easy access to the information.

The importance and Challenges of the Change Management Process

In a nutshell, you would like to organize a process of controlling changes made to product information over time. This process is crucial in ensuring that any modifications made to the design, materials, or production processes of a product are carefully evaluated, documented, and implemented in a controlled manner. The goal of Change Management is to minimize the risks associated with changes and ensure that the product continues to meet customer expectations and regulatory requirements.

While the benefits of ECM are clear, the process itself can be complex and challenging to implement. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Multiple stakeholders: ECM involves multiple stakeholders, including engineers, designers, quality control personnel, project managers, and regulatory authorities. Each stakeholder has their own perspective and priorities, making it challenging to achieve consensus on the scope and nature of the changes.
  2. Documentation overload: ECM requires extensive documentation, including change requests, impact assessments, design specifications, and testing protocols. Managing this documentation can be time-consuming and overwhelming.
  3. The complexity of modern products: Modern products are becoming increasingly complex, incorporating multiple technologies and materials. This complexity makes it more challenging to identify the potential impact of changes on the overall product.

From Documents to Data Lifecycle

Document management has been the traditional approach to managing engineering changes. This approach involves creating and storing physical or electronic documents that detail the product design, production processes, and quality control measures. The documents are typically organized into folders and subfolders based on their type and date, making it challenging to access the most relevant information quickly.

While document management has served engineering organizations well for many years, it is becoming increasingly inadequate for modern products. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Complexity: As products become more complex, the number and types of documents required to manage engineering changes also increase. It makes it very difficult to access product information and not overwrite what was done before.
  2. Collaboration: Document management does not lend itself well to collaboration between stakeholders. For example, if an engineer needs input from a quality control specialist, they may have to send multiple emails and documents back and forth, resulting in version control issues and delays.
  3. Real-time access: Document management often requires individuals to physically access a file or folder to access information. This approach is becoming less feasible as engineering organizations become more global and remote work becomes more common.

A Simple Change Management Process

The existing document management paradigm is the main reason why companies are struggling with the organization of reliable and simple (as much as possible) change management processes.

Here are three important steps to organize a simple change management process:

  1. Isolate design document (or design data) change management in a separate process. It will allow you to control design changes (eg. CAD file versions or modern cloud documents)
  2. Organize Item records collecting meta-data and attached files (eg. CAD files, derivatives such as PDFs, tech specs, regulatory documents, and others)
  3. Manage change approval workflow to include revision process for items with all information and to control sign-offs of people and notifications.

The following picture gives you an idea of this process.

The process described above gives you many benefits such as granular data access, independence between design data and product structure, and its lifecycle. Unlike old fashion document management process which mixes CAD document changes and other information updates, Item driven process can organize information and separate design and engineering BOM changes.

Conclusion:

Change management requires a structured approach to data organization. It includes design changes (versions) and items (including BOMs and ECO processes). Such a process allows for organizing a multi-disciplinary design change process that brings together design changes from multiple design teams (mechanical, electrical, PCB, software) in a single cohesive item and product structure with a clear process to manage changes and organize approval mechanisms.

REGISTER FOR FREE to check how OpenBOM can help you with organizational change processes. Start a free 14-day trial today.

Best, Oleg 

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