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Some of you following my blog this year might not feel so connected with the content I have written many posts related to digitization and the future needs for model-driven approaches, not so much about topics that might keep you awake at this time.

When I look in my blog statistics, the most popular post is ECO/ECR for Dummies, leading with more than 30.000 views since I wrote this post in 2010. You can read the original post here: ECR/ECO for Dummies (2010)

Meanwhile, in most companies, the scope of PLM has broadened, and instead of a change process within the engineering department, it will be part of enterprise change management, connecting all options for change. Therefore, in this post, I will explain the basics of a modern enterprise change process.

It can start with an Issue

Already 10 years ago I was promoting the Issue-object in a PLM data model as this could be the starting point for many activities in the enterprise, product-related, technology-related, customer-related and more.

My definition of an Issue is that it is something happening that was not expected and requires follow-up. In our day-to-day life, we solve many issues by sending an e-mail or picking up the phone, and someone down the chain will resolve the issue (or make it disappear).

The disadvantage of this approach is that there is no collective learning for the organization. Imagine that you could see in your PLM-system how many issues there were with a project, can you learn from that and improve it for the future. Or when you notice you have had several costly issues during manufacturing, but you were never aware of them, because it happened in another country and it was solved there.

By creating issues in the PLM-system related to the object(s), it concerns (a product, a part, a customer, a manufacturing process, an installation, …..) you will create traceability and visibility based on global facts. By classifying the issues, you can run real-time reports on what is happening and what has happened unforeseen in your enterprise.

The challenge is to find a user-interface that can compete with e-mail as an entry point. So far PLM-system providers haven’t invested in highly user-friendly Issue management, leaving the email path possible. PLM Vendors – there is work to do!

Next, depending on the Issue various follow-up processes can start en some of them will be connected. See the diagram below and forgive me my graphical talent.

In this post we will focus only on the ECR and ECO path, leaving the other processes above open for next time.

The Engineering Change Request-process

The term ECR, meaning Engineering Change Request, might not be correct anymore for requested changes in an enterprise. Therefore, sometimes, you might also see the term CR only, without the reference to Engineering. For example, in the software world, you will not follow the same process as used for the hardware world, due to the different lifecycle, speed, and cost involved with software changes.  I will focus only on the ECR here.

As the picture above shows, there are two entry points for an engineering change request. Either someone in the enterprise has an issue that leads to an ECR, or someone in the enterprise has an idea to improve the products and sends it in as a request.

The next steps are quite standard for a typical ECR-process:

Analysis

In the Analysis step assigned individuals will evaluate the request. If it is well understood. Potential solution paths will be evaluated and rated. In case it is a change on a running product, what is the impact of performing this change on current products, current, and future manufacturing, finance, etc. In the analysis-phase there will be no detail design, it is more a feasibility study. In companies already having a well-structured PLM and ERP infrastructure, many of the impact analysis can be done rather fast, as for example the “Where Used” capability is a standard in every PLM-system.

CCB

The abbreviation stands for Change Control Board, a term also used in the software industry. In the case of hardware products, the CCB usually consists of engineering, manufacturing, purchasing, finance and potentially sales, based on the context of the ECR. This group of people decides what will be the next step of the ECR. They have four options:

  1. Ask for further analysis – a decision is not possible.
  2. Mandate the proposed change to be planned immediately by promoting it to an Engineering Change Order, which means the change is going to be executed as needed (Immediate for example in case of a product stop/customer issue – Longer Term when old stock needs to be consumed first)
  3. The proposed change can become a Candidate for the next product release/upgrade and put on hold to be implemented together with other candidates for a release.
  4. The ECR can also be Cancelled meaning the proposed change will potential not create business benefits for the company. Implementing the change might create more complexity as desired.

Engineering Change Order

The image above is an illustration of a possible flow for an ECO. When an ECO is launched a first analysis and planning is required. The ECO can be based on multiple ECRs, or the ECO can be depending on other ECO’s that need to be coordinated.

The ECO process is quite similar to a release process. There will be multidisciplinary collaboration (mechanical/electrical/ …) leading to a complete engineering definition (based on the EBOM). Next Manufacturing Preparation and Planning can be done, where the implementation at the manufacturing plant(s) will be depending on the ECO context.

Note: When only a change in manufacturing will be implemented, for example when certain parts/materials are not available or affordable, we do not name it an ECO but an MCO instead. MCO stands for Manufacturing Change Order and assumes the engineering specification will remain the same.

Conclusion

The ECR/ECO-process is slowly changing due to digitization and a broader implementation scope for PLM – it is no longer a mechanical engineering change process. The availability of digital connected information will offer a base for algorithms in the future, speeding up the process and reducing the effort for a CCB during the ECR-process.

Will these processes still be there in 2025?

 

 

 

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