Engineering Change Management
PLM is about collaboration and using a “single source of truth” to streamline operations. However, this idea is challenged by the inherent changes that get made to products and designs along the way to market. Changes will always be necessary; it is how the organization manages change that can be improved. When manufacturers turn their manual change management processes into a digital workflow, it becomes faster and quicker to track, manage, and delivers more accurate information. Razorleaf has helped hundreds of companies automate their engineering change management, with remarkable results.
Even in companies with systems in place for managing CAD data and engineering requirements, change management has been relegated to spreadsheets, forcing it to be a manual, time-consuming task to maintain the information and to share it when needed. Such manual processing provides no visibility into the process for the organization, and no automation for alerting departments and specific stakeholders. The more visible change management becomes, the more productive manufacturing becomes.
Wasted Time, Lost Opportunity
Change management is an essential aspect of modern manufacturing. One fundamental design may have a wide variety of variations depending on customer requirements or innovations. Without a modern, fully digital change management system in place, manufacturing moves at the pace of the data search. The independent research team of Terwiesch & Loch* conducted a survey on engineering change orders (ECOs) and found engineering changes consume between one-third and one-half of total engineering capacity and represent between 20% and 50% of total tool costs in manufacturing. Given the need for speed to market and rapid innovation turns, such high statistics for handling ECOs should be unacceptable no matter the size of the company.
Fully realized, change management can accomplish more than saving time searching for information. It can become the tool of effective product evolution, by evaluating cause and effect relationships in change orders. What seems like an inexpensive change to designers could cause a complete retooling in manufacturing, or it requires a shifting of company resources. Only when change management is an integral part of the engineering data workflow can these kinds of problems be spotted quickly and solved efficiently.
Updating Change Management at Inphi
IT equipment manufacturer Inphi used a variety of software products to work with internal data, but realized its processes for change management were not affected. The lack of communication between departments and systems forced employees throughout the company to spend time manually searching for needed data. Using Razorleaf as its integration partner, Inphi conducted an internal discovery process to determine the data points and business processes that would need to be integrated. The goal was not only to pass data from one system to another, but to ensure the processes were effective for the people involved. “With the integration, Salesforce is constantly updated with new information,” says Robb Johnson, director of technology at Inphi. “Our customer response time, overall customer satisfaction, and sales team efficiency have all improved.” Razorleaf also helped Inphi connect its change management to Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle, Autodesk Vault, and the company’s Oracle-based e-business systems.
No aspect of product development is immune to the request for an audit, including the change management process. With change management integrated into your PLM, all change requests and orders are fully traceable. A complete history of a product’s change requests can be created on demand, complete with comments recorded at the time the change was initiated.
The ability to track change history can be made even more valuable with the addition of digital signatures at specific process workflow stages. Digital sign-off adds another layer of security during the process, and an extra layer of open accountability should an audit ever be required. Similar tracking can be applied to third-party involvement, with the same benefits.
Razorleaf supports change management solutions from all the leading PLM vendors. Specific features vary, but all allow users to configure their Engineering Change Request and Engineering Change Order workflows to suit the company’s needs. Procedures can be formal or fast-track. How a specific change relates to design assemblies can be a one-click inquiry. Team members who have supervisory or adjacent roles can subscribe to change order processes, staying informed of progress without having to make specific inquiries. Manufacturers who use the Change Control Board process can make sure all team members are kept informed as change requests are generated.
*Terwiesch, C. and Loch, C.H., Managing the process of engineering change orders: the case of the climate control system in automobile development, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Volume 16, Issue 2, March 1999, pages 160-172