In our ever-changing business world, the ability to adapt and manage change effectively is critical. This applies to companies on a large scale as well as to the products themselves on a "small" scale.
Change management encompasses all tasks, measures and activities that are intended to bring about a comprehensive, cross-divisional and far-reaching change in an organization - e.g., to implement new strategies, structures, systems, processes or behaviors. Thus, particularly in the context of product lifecycle management (PLM), digital transformation and Industry 4.0, dealing with change requires a targeted and structured approach to ensure that companies can continuously improve their products and processes.
The art of change? Well, much like the unfolding of a work of art, change management in the PLM context requires the fine balance between creativity and structure. It is a challenge to harmonize the various elements of change to ultimately achieve an impressive result.
What is ECM?
Technical change management, also called engineering change management (ECM) or simply change management, aims to enable a fast and efficient response to notifications or requests for technical changes.
Technical changes to the product and the associated adjustments to the design and bill of materials of a product may become necessary due to legal regulations, changing market requirements, competitive decisions, or for a variety of reasons. However, companies are also subject to changes in documentation, for example.
Successful change management also takes into account all adjacent processes in the company. For example, seemingly banal, this means that designs must be adapted according to the new requirements and taken into account by the development team. This also applies if the changes are only minor - but nevertheless have an impact on the entire technical context. It sometimes also means that referenced documents, for example, must be considered again in a workflow - and updated if necessary, such as product documentation. Validities need to be reset to reliably communicate to manufacturing when a new revision of a part or assembly is relevant to production. Finally, it is also important to meet target deadlines.
Furthermore, every manufacturer, especially those with complex and configurable products, must manage the impact of each individual change not only within the technical area, but company-wide. Sometimes immediate and accurate updates for inventory management, for example, are essential. Consequently, technical changes are communicated to all stakeholders in real time.
Phases of the ECM
The term technical change management describes a range of processes and specific disciplines. The CMII standard was created as a framework that structures technical change management, along with other aspects, into three essential phases:
The first phase for initiating a change is the change request (also Problem Report, 1). The Engineering Change Notice (2) is then triggered in accordance with the "pure doctrine". The final phase is the implementation phase (Engineering Change Order, 3).
- A Change Request/Problem Report can be either an improvement to an existing design, or a response to a Problem Report, and contains the information necessary to make or cancel that proposed change.
- An Engineering Change Notice (ECN) is used to formally announce, document, and communicate changes to a product's design or manufacturing processes to ensure that all relevant stakeholders are aware of the changes and can implement them accordingly. It acts as an official means of communication to ensure clear and consistent understanding of the changes and to control potential impacts.
- An Engineering Change Order (ECO) is a formal instruction that mandates changes to an engineering product or system. It contains detailed information about the nature of the changes, their rationale, the scope of the adjustments, and the steps required to implement the changes. The ECO is used to ensure an orderly process for implementing changes and to ensure documentation and communication throughout the change process.
Essential elements of a change management implementation are also based on the following aspects: