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The Engineering Change Order: The Key To A Flexible Bill Of Materials

Javier has just starting working as an engineer at a company that manufactures ergonomic chairs for offices and classrooms. He considers the job an upgrade of sorts—while he’s at the same pay grade and doing much the same work, he’s found that his new company has much more sophisticated product development lifecycle systems, both in the processes and the technical backends that make them possible.Not long into the job, Javier notices that the armrests have been not been designed to accommodate their analysis of the average American body width—they’re a hair too narrow. He wants to make the change, but it’s going to affect not only the metal framework for the armrests, but also the chair’s back and legs.

Javier’s old company used paper engineering change requests (ECR) and engineering change orders (ECOs), but this new company uses a product development lifecycle (PLM) system that tracks all those details in a digital form. It’s slightly more complex to get a handle on straightaway, but Javier is a quick learner.

At his old job, he made a paper ECR, which was copied by an administrative assistant and sent off to each of the stakeholders. Sometimes, those papers got lost before the stakeholder got a chance to view it, and other times they got lost after the approval signature was secured. Once they could finally get everyone together and approve the revision, he had to do the exact same thing with an ECO.

With the PLM system, Javier uses predefined workflows for creating both his ECR and ECO. He’s able to connect his required changes directly to the BOM, so that there’s visibility into exactly what parts will be changed, and how, and how that affects the full product. He’s able to identify key stakeholders that will need to submit their approval via an electronic signature, and they can all access the same information from a single repository he’s created.

Smooth sailing so far. Javier’s ECR got approved in record speed and he’s ready to move into the ECO, which will actually deliver all the information about his requested change.

Previously, he needed to create a massive paper document outlining his changes—one that included all the documents, drawings, CAD files, and more—which was a hassle to share around to all the key players. When he had trouble keeping ECRs from getting lost, it was even harder to make sure an ECO landed where it needed to without missing any of the important documentation. Because such a giant file was daunting for those people, they often put it off until the last minute, creating bottlenecks. When he had to make additional edits to the ECO, it meant distributing entirely new paper packets, adding to the complexity.

At the new job, Javier sees his ECO trickle down into the PLM system, and sees those stakeholders responding immediately to his needs. The PLM allows them to comment directly on the ECO and how it relates to the overall BOM, and allows all stakeholders to see that message, meaning these people can collaborate in real-time toward the final version of the.Any changes Javier might make are automatically available, so there’s no need to re-distribute, and it doesn’t even matter that one of

the stakeholders is out of the office for a long weekend—he can access the PLM remotely. All those changes are made available as part of the overall revision history for the product, providing a comprehensive story.

After a little back and forth—Javier wanted to move the armrests out 24mm, but the group settled on 20mm so as to not affect other parts too heavily—he’s ready to start gathering approvals.

Previously, that most often meant the difficult work of individually tracking down stakeholders for their approvals, or setting up a meeting in which they can all finalize the ECO. If they weren’t in the same office, that meant compiling information from disparate sources and locations—never easy for such complex documentation.

With the PLM, Javier watches as electronic signatures are used to capture approval for the ECO, and he’s able to track who has—and hasn’t—done their work. There’s no need to get everyone in the same room, since all the details are available online, and are connected to the BOM itself. The ECO review process is whittled down to a matter of days, not weeks, and there’s less administrative overhead in managing the entire process. Since everyone is on the same page, communication is more efficient. 20mm it is.

The truth of the matter is that the ECO and the BOM need to be intimately connected throughout the product development lifecycle for the most efficiency, accuracy, and collaborative energy.One can only imagine the possible miscommunications that could have occurred without the electronic ECO, even for a relatively minor revision—it might have meant mismatched components, supply chain snafus, or even a faulty chair that doesn’t behave the way it’s supposed to.

And now, instead of dreading change, Javier is eager to find it,and stomp it out.Can you say the same for your engineers?

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