Engineering change management is one of the most critical processes in product engineering and manufacturing organizations. It has a direct impact on the speed with which products are released to the market, efficient inventory management, product safety and product quality. It is also one of the few processes that is truly multi-functional and requires coordination and cooperation between engineering, manufacturing quality, logistics and supply chain. Finally, engineering change management also happens to be one of the processes that is regulated (often through quality standards such as ISO 9000, QS 9000, FDA gMP, etc.) to obtain predictable and traceable results.
Considering that most companies have geographically distributed groups for engineering and manufacturing and often have suppliers and customers that are geographically separated from engineering and manufacturing, the complexity of effective coordination of engineering change management processes tends to be quite high. Additionally, the engineering change process needs to be integrated with design processes (controlled by CAD/CAE/PDM systems) on one end and manufacturing/logistics/supply chain planning processes (ERP/MRP/SCM) on the other end for effective coordination.
Z PLM is a state-of-the-art product lifecycle process management solution that is built to address cross-functional engineering change management process. Zesati is based on sophisticated product lifecycle management (revision, multi-user change management, etc.) and process management principles that are easy to adopt and use. Z PLM works seamlessly with existing engineering data management systems (PTC Windchill, TeamCenter) and ERP/Supply Chain systems (SAP, JDA, Infor) and is designed for cloud computing deployment and operations (Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform).
Cross-functional product information
Core to Z PLM is the lifecycle management of cross-functional product information (design data, Bill of Material (BOM), manufacturing process, quality specifications, cost, FMEA, logistics, customer service, sales channel and supply chain data). Z PLM is usually integrated with design and engineering centric systems for initial design/engineering centric product data. Users across functions and organizations use Z PLM to collaborate, analyze and enrich product data for manufacturing, supply chain and sales readiness.
The Engineering Change process model
The engineering change process model typically begins with a user from design/engineering/manufacturing/customer service or a supplier or customer initiating a new product introduction (NPI), change request (ECR) or Non-conformance report (NCR) or a Corrective Action Request (CAR). When an NPI/ECA/NCR/CAR is approved, the system allows creation of engineering change order(s) that can address the change request. The change is executed through the engineering change orders. All approved engineering change orders are in turn distributed via one or more engineering change notices to all the people who need to be notified. The following picture shows graphically one possible engineering change process model.
Administrators of Z PLM set up process templates on how an NPI/ECR/NCR/CAR can be initiated and how it is routed among appropriate users for approval and completion. The process template supports ad hoc workflows to sophisticated network oriented automated workflows that include activities such as review, approvals, external updates and notifications. Additionally administrators can also assign resources (users/system) to complete workflow activities as part of the template definition.
ECR/NCR/CAR process template
Creating an NPI/ECR/NCR/CAR process
Users use the process template to create ECR/NCR/CAR process objects. After the ECR/NCR/CAR object is created the initiator starts the process and the system takes the process object through the workflow activities. The system automatically routes the object to appropriate resources (users) for review/approval and notifications that are defined in the process template.
Appropriate users can add affected parts in the process data section. The system allows users to include existing part/assembly items as affected items to the ECR/NCR/CAR.
NPI/ECR/NCR/CAR workflow and activities
Once the ECR/NCR/CAR is created the creator of the process initiates the workflow steps defined in the process template. It routes the process object to all the appropriate users so that they can complete the activities (review/approval/preparation) from the main process UI.
Appropriate users can get the current process status under the workflow tab of the process UI
Once appropriate users complete all the workflow activities and the ECR/NCR/CAR is approved, appropriate users can then create Engineering Change Orders (ECO) that are used to actually execute the changes. An ECR/NCR/CAR can result in multiple ECOs addressing changes to affected parts and objects.
Engineering change orders (ECO)
The engineering change order is the main process object that is used to execute the change on affected items. Executing the change involves editing part/assembly items, editing BOMs, revising part/assembly items and changing lifecycle status of part/assembly items.
As part of executing an ECO appropriate users create new part/assembly items and/or edit existing part/assembly items.
Integration with team PDM systems
The part/assembly items that are included in the ECO can be edited (attributes, product structures, neutral files, etc.) by making calls to team PDM systems such as Pro/INTRALINK and Engineering Data Management systems such as PTC Windchill and TeamCenter.
Workflow for review/approval
Once all the items are edited/created as part of completing the ECO, the ECO object follows the workflow that is defined in the process template (ECO process template). That may include review, approvals and notifications as defined in the process workflow.
Engineering Change Notice/Authorization (ECN/ECA)
The final step of the engineering change process is the creation of engineering change notices/authorizations that can be initiated after engineering change orders are approved. These engineering change notices can be automatically created from approved engineering change orders.
Selecting correct versions/baselines of part/assembly items
Although engineering change notices/authorizations are automatically created from approved engineering change orders and consequently select the right revisions of part/assembly items, sometimes it may be necessary to add and select right versions of part/assembly items. In addition, the system also allows users to select a particular baseline (snapshot) of assembly/part items.
The process template allows a workflow activity of type notification. This activity is completed by the system. The system sends emails with appropriate URLs (that have a link to the appropriate process UI) to all the groups and individual users that are selected for notification.
Integration with ERP, Supply Chain Systems and Sales Channels
One of the workflow activity that is part of the NPI/ECN/ECA process is integration with an external system, typically an ERP, logistics, sales channel and supply chain systems, including SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, JDA, Manhattan Associates, Amazon, eBay and Google Product listings.
Z PLM provides a structured approach for implementing engineering change management. Z PLM’s process management proactively involves users and groups across the supply chain as part of the engineering change process. Since Zesati is integrated with design and engineering systems it seamlessly extends the design data to the rest of the organization and supply chain as part of the engineering change process. The resulting benefits to engineering/manufacturing organizations are as follows:
- Speed to market
- Reduced cost of coordination for the engineering change management process
- ISO 9000/QS 9000/FDA GMP compliant ECM reporting and traceability
- Better integration of engineering systems with the rest of the value chain