One of the core functionalities in PLM Practice is efficiently managing changes a product undergoes in its lifecycle. The amount of strict discipline to be followed in this process is inevitable. Changes to a product cannot be made on the fly, and it is vital that the person responsible for implementing the change should have an in-depth knowledge of the relationship between various components that the product is made of. A timely response from the stakeholders is the key for an effective change management process. Any delays that are caused during this process can result in huge tangible loss to the organization, in terms of losing market share, or higher lead time in releasing new products to the field.
A Change management not only relates to implementing the change to a product, but also includes other factors, such as adapting to the new change, controlling the change so that it does not exceed the prescribed change margins and effecting the change.
Standard definition of Engineering Change Management: The Engineering Change Management process in systems engineering is the process of requesting, determining attainability, planning, implementing, and evaluating of changes to a system (Source: Wiki).
The process of change management is focused mainly on two primary goals. They are – supporting the processing of changes and enabling the traceability of changes implemented. The later should be possible through proper execution of a defined process.
Although various businesses refer to their change process by various acronyms, it is important to understand that all the processes have a common goal in mind, i.e. implementing the changes in controlled and traceable fashion. Few terms that are widely used by organizations in defining change process are listed below:
- ECR: Engineering Change Request
- ECO: Engineering Change Order
- ECN: Engineering Change Notice
Change management process is never new to any organization. They have been existing since the inception of the organization, however they are always striving to improve. Few limitations include,
- Still sticking to paper works
- Cycle time is too long
- No defined process to measure KPIs and in few cases not defining the KPIs itself
- No proper history of changes implemented
- No efficient electronic system implemented
- If any electronic system exists, it is not fully integrated with extended supply chain systems such as ERP, EAM.
To overcome these limitations, various groups such as CMII etc. defined standard ways of doing change management in an organization. Various electronic systems and PLM tools are available in the market to efficiently implement these defined ways of change management. However, the aim of an engineering change management should not to be limited to shoehorn an existing process into an electronic system. The way to request a change and implement a change varies from industry to industry. For example, Medical industries must adhere to strict rules defined by FDA, Aviation industry requires adherence to rules defined by NAA and so on.
Hence well-organized PLM practice and PLM tools play a concrete role in efficient change management process and helps organization easily manage and track back in time various changes that a product underwent in its lifecycle.