It’s been a little more than a month since our webinar on Strengthening Your Digital Thread with MBE, but I wanted to keep the topic alive and thought I’d share some additional ideas. If you weren’t able to attend the webinar, please remember that you can view On Demand. I’d like to pick up on one of the concepts discussed during the presentation to give you more practical food for thought about your current PDM/PLM/digital thread systems. The topic is change control and configuration management, often called ECx (Engineering Change Request, Engineering Change Order, Engineering Change Notice, etc.).

Analyze your Change Process

One of the most practical and frequent uses of the digital thread is for reference during events when your product is released or changed. When was the last time you analyzed your change and/or release processes and the information that supports the decisions that you make during those processes? For most people, the decision-making process during change/release approvals is so intuitive, they don’t think about it. It’s like breathing. They are so focused on the decision itself – “is this change appropriate?” and “should we make this change or delay it?” – that they don’t give any thought to how they come to the decision. Did they make their decision based on outdated information because it was too hard to get the current data? Did they make their decision based on a gut feel because there is no data? If they needed a conversation with a colleague to make the decision, was that content captured as part of the change/release process or will that critical thought be forever lost in a sea of emails or IM chats?

Configuration Management Considerations

Let’s take a look at this from another angle. When you think about CM (Configuration Management) processes like change and release, do you have the right number of people and roles involved? Are there too many people (redundancy, delegation, lack of authority) but just the right number of roles? Are there roles missing from the process (“Quality it always left out!” or “Why wasn’t Sales informed?”)? I’ll offer another, more insidious problem I’ve seen more than once: The right roles are involved, and they even all have accounts in the workflow system that is routing the change for approval. But the attached drawings are in a format that Sales can’t view, or the Field Service person only has an iPad or phone to access the process. Therefore, these people are second-class citizens in the process and lose the will to participate and collaborate. Markup and detailed feedback are hard, so they give up.

Next Steps in Change/Release Process

There are lots of potential challenges facing release and change processes, even when those processes are automated or managed in a good system like PLM.

When you analyze your change/release process, which steps are hard/laborious and which parts are easy/efficient? Are there steps that are missing? Would model-based approaches help some of these issues, or do you have even more fundamental steps you need to take BEFORE thinking about how model-based ideas might help?

Contact us if you want help reviewing your change/release processes, or if you need to benchmark your process against industry best practices.

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