Engineering Change Management

As an engineer, the change management process of parts and products is a very important part of the daily work load, and often this can be
both time consuming and frustrating to do. In the electronic industry we usually see 4 different types of changes:

  1. ECR - Engineering Change Request
  2. ECO - Engineering Change Order
  3. MCO - Manufacturer Change Order
  4. DCO - Document Change Order

We often see that the engineer has to do a lot of work togather all the information needed to do a proper impact analysis of the proposed change and even after all this work they are still not confident that the analysis is sufficient.

The change process is often initiated and completed in a different system than where the product data is kept, and this means that when the change has been processed the product data and documentation have to be manually updated. This prolongs the process and increase the risk of errors being made.

In a PLM system like the Electronic-PLM, the engineers have all the relevant information available in the same system that the Change is executed in, and this makes the analysis phase of the change much easier,  less time consuming, and more reliable. In the PLM system all the product data and documentation will automatically be updated when the change is released, making the new data instantly available and without any manual updates.

Another thing we often come across is that all changes are being done in the same process, and that there is no differentiation to it whether it is a Change Request or a Change Order, if it is a product being changed or a document, or the approved manufacturers list. There should be a difference between the two processes, so that when you view them together they form a complete change process.  One of the most common differences between the two is that the ECR usually can be initiated by anyone with access to the system, whereas the creation of an ECO is limited to certain people within the company. The reason for this is that it is important to capture all ideas and issues related to a product (ECR) and then to review these suggestions/issues, and aggregate the ones that should be
implemented on one change order that drives the actual change to the product (ECO).

In the Electronic-PLM solution, an Impact Analysis is automatically made when a part or a product is added to an ECO, providing the user with a complete overview of the impact the change will have across the product range, and based on what the user chooses to be the impact of a change, the analyst will either stop or continue the analysis. This functionality saves the engineer many hours, if not days, of work to find the impact.

Another important aspect of Change Management in the electronic industry is changes to the approved manufacturers list (AML). Changing this information, (adding/removing) manufacturers and manufacturer parts is done on a Manufacturer Change Order (MCO). The MCO does not create a new revision of the part for which the AML is being changed. If a manufacturer change was to drive a revision change to the part, an electronic company would have a very large amount of revision changes to its parts and products, and changing the AML is not a change to the part or a product, it is just adding or removing references to another part that fulfills the specifications for the part. Therefore, a revision change is not needed.

Having control over documentation is of course essential for everyone who designs and/or manufactures products, and not only the specific document but also the relationship the documentation has to parts and products. In order to have documentation under change control and to have complete traceability and change history of documentation, the Electronic-PLM solution has a Document Change Order (DCO) to handle changes to any document object in the system.

In a standard PLM solution, a product, part can be either in preliminary or released state. Our experience from the electronic industry is that this is not enough; there is a need to have the parts/products/documents released for something, for example there is a need to have a product released for Prototype, Volume Production, Phase Out etc. and to have the ability to make iterations/revisions of these. Therefore, Minerva has introduced the concept of Production States in the Electronic-PLM solution, so that products can be released to a state that describes what part of the lifecycle the part or the product is released for.