Why The Engineering Change Order Process Is So Critical

The primary interface between Engineering and the rest of the manufacturing enterprise lies in your company’s Engineering Change Order (ECO) process.

If the underlying process is sound, your company’s business execution will be sound.

Conversely, if the underlying process is weak, the value-add of this critical business process is greatly diminished.

All of the part and product information in your ERP system is predicated on information that flows from Engineering via your product release and change process. Everything!

A document control system is nothing more than a structured communication process
setting definitive expectations for how business will be conducted through the process.

  • An ECO system does far more than authorize the update of the engineering documentation.
  • It addresses the technical, business (cost and timing), and coordination of activities related to the management of change across the enterprise.

Most document control systems are home-grown and evolve to some point. There is often disagreement over how the system works or doesn’t work.

What’s a Lean, Effective ECO Process

Effective: A well-designed, coherent process enables a company to focus on the important business issues rather than the irregularities in the business process and process definitions.

Lean: Lean simply means “eliminating waste” in the process—making a process as smooth, seamless with as little wasted energy or time delays as possible. A process that has as many steps as are inherent in a change management system certainly has the opportunity for “leaning.”

  • Request
  • Analysis
  • Change Preparation (should include modeling/validating the change)
  • Change Approval
  • Change Incorporation
  • Change Implementation

A company goes through this process hundreds of times per year—it’s a daily part of a company’s infrastructure. Yet, how much investment does the process receive?

The 3 critical elements of an effective configuration management process

Part Identification—part numbering system

Change Management—Engineering change request/change order process—should include the ability to release parts/products and issue deviations for parts/products

Status Accounting—identify the status of parts, history of change requests, change orders and deviations as well pending change requests and change orders–engineering’s work-in-process

Most existing systems I’ve been asked to analyze have had significant weaknesses in each of the 3 areas enumerated above that have undermined the efficacy of each area. This is tantamount to building a home on a shabby foundation.

You are going to drive your business on this road every day. Isn’t it important to make an investment in this critical infrastructure to carry you forward effectively for years to come?

Thought for the week:

“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” – Peter Drucker


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