Manufacturers Gain a Competitive Edge with Integrated Engineering Change Management

Manufacturing companies need to be able to adapt quickly in today’s constantly changing environment, and often that means making changes to their products. Engineers make modifications during development and production with the intent of adding functionality, improving manufacturing performance or addressing the availability of a particular part. To make sure proposed changes are appropriately reviewed, a solid process is critical—especially if members of your product team are scattered across multiple locations.

Companies that implement strong engineering change management practices gain a competitive edge. In fact, according to an Aberdeen Group study, 63 percent of surveyed executives from manufacturing industries felt that reducing time to market was one of the top drivers for changing core product engineering processes.  Improving the effectiveness of engineering change management processes by reducing non-value-added work will enable companies to produce more new products sooner, resulting in greater revenue at higher margins.

Despite the fact that efficient engineering change processes can reduce typical product development cycles by 33 percent, the fact remains that a high percentage of manufacturing companies lack automation and a single repository for reviewing, analyzing, approving, and tracking engineering.

If this sounds familiar and your organization is experiencing some of the following challenges, then it may be time to review your engineering change management strategies:

  • Unnecessary labor requirements to manage tasks related to research and control of required changes which creates a large amount of non-value add activities to your company’s process.
  • Bottlenecks and timeline delays due to over-reliance on different departments collaborating across the processes.
  • Excessive paper documentation due to home grown and manual systems often used to manage and communicate the change.
  • Inability to control product versions and traceability because there’s a lack of integration with your ERP/production system creating confusion between what version the engineering team expects to be built versus what the production team has implemented.
  • Unacceptable processing time for changes creating slow and unwieldy processes.

Engineering Change Management – The Solution

It is difficult to engineer and build products without an effective change management process. A solid and formalized way to manage product changes leads to less scrap and rework, better inventory planning and less conflict between teams. For example, the ColumbusADM solution with our RapidValue business process modeling tool will allow a company to create an end-to- end solution that handles the three main functional areas of engineering change in a manufacturing environment.

  • Engineering Change Request (ECR)
  • Engineering Change Order (ECO)
  • Production Change Notification (PCN)
The key feature of having an integrated engineering change management system within the ERP is to be able to merge the functions of ECO and PCN.


The ColumbusADM module allows the user to generate an ECR from the following areas of the ERP:

  • Sales Order
  • Project
  • Purchase Order
  • Production Order
  • Product Master
  • Item Master (Released Product)
  • Standalone Change

This flexibility also allows the engineer to see the impacted order type and have more information about the root cause of the change request.

The key feature of having an integrated engineering change management system within the ERP is to be able to merge the functions of ECO and PCN.  By defining an approval workflow structure that meets your specific business requirements, you are able to create a process that mandates that the operations side of the house is working on collaboration with engineering, and vice versa.  Making sure all required areas of the company are involved in change is critical to the successful adoption of the change.  In addition to the manufacturing focus, this is also useful in keeping Sales, Marketing, Product Management, Finance and other departments updated and aware of design changes to the products.

Watch how effective engineering change management solutions are helping manufacturers or read more about engineering change management and other way manufacturers are enhancing their business.

By Norman Carmichael, Manufacturing Practice Director at Columbus. Columbus is an award-winning Microsoft Dynamics ERP Partner, serving companies around the globe in the food, retail and manufacturing sectors.

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