Great ECO Engineering Change Orders

Engineering Change Order processes (ECO) are packets of data detailing changes necessary to products or parts during the engineering process. The scope of this data includes the details of the required change as outlined in drawings, blueprints or reviews. As well as assisting with summarizing and finalizing all required approvals associated with the pending change.

Typically, this process is shared with a change review board made up of company stakeholders, and invested parties. This type of process is especially beneficial in the manufacturing industry. You may be asking yourself, what are the benefits of using an ECO process, and are they difficult to implement?

These processes can be difficult to implement as it can be challenging to obtain information from various sources,and to keep all relevant stakeholders in the loop. Many leaders view the idea of an ECO as another form of paperwork to cause further delay. However, with proper implementation an ECO can make a world of difference within the manufacturing process.

ECO systems can be managed both in a manual format with paper documentation, or by electronic systems such as business process management software (BPM). The partnership between these systems creates a resource truly beneficial to manufacturers both large and small. Often when a manufacturer elects to use a digital system they can partner their ECO process with an ERP or Enterprise resource planning software. This software serves as a network within the organization in which members can access necessary data and company information as needed. When paired with an ERP this grants the ability for members of the organization to view ECO data in real time, and make changes as necessary for continued operation limiting downtime and associated costs.

Many ECO systems are presently designed around the issue for which they have been created to remedy. This can range from correcting simple mistakes, to fine tuning a product that is presently in production. Therefore, having a multi-faceted program works best when consolidating the overall system of operations.The ability to define all aspects of these operations is crucial to the development and creation of a well worked ECO. This includes creating proper parts lists, inventories and creating drawings or blueprints of product specifications. In addition to these drawings, the production process must be detailed in order to track the product from creation to completion. This “tracking” is necessary in order to identify issues as they arise so they can best be resolved. Mistakes can vary widely within the manufacturing process whether they be related to incorrect formatting of machinery, poor materials quality or mistakes with the design of the product.

Commonly in manufacturing operations there are often changes to product specifications this can be related to parts needed for proper machinery maintenance or materials related to the finished product. In the event a specification was to change the outcome of the finished product it is imperative these changes be noted and adapted as early as possible in order to eliminate the risk of costly mistakes. These mistakes can range from delays in production, product defects and failing to meet client specifications resulting in wasted product. So how can these mistakes be avoided by implementing an ECO process?

When an organization adapts a properly formatted ECO process there are key steps taken at all levels of the manufacturing process. These steps begin with identification and impact. Identifying the issue as it affects the overall process and final product and determining the impact these changes will have on both.

Next an ECR or Engineering change request would be created and analyzed. This request summarized the change in detail and determines the overall costs effects on parts, production and product. Typically, this request is placed in front of a change review board consisting of stakeholder, and others who will be directly affected by these changes and open for discussion and revision as necessary. Once the board approves the request and ECO will then be created. This ECO will provide current documentation, inventories, files, and other relevant instructions as needed to implement the selected changes. The ECO at this stage works as a summary of the desired changes and a guideline for how these changes will take place. At his time the ECO will make its way back to the review board for final approval.

Once approved an ECN or Engineering change notice will then be created and distributed to all relevant departments or individuals. This notice informs those affect of the change and detailing a specific deadline for which the change must be completed. These steps reduce the
likelihood that incorrect products will be distributed to the client while also ensuring that production equipment is operating according to guidelines.

So, what defines a great ECO process? Simply put, organization and teamwork define a great ECO process. Allowing involvement from members at every level of production and organizing their input provides a thorough view of the overall process. Organization not only ensures the required changes are completed efficiently but also that they meet specification guidelines reducing the need for further changes. Deadlines can be met with lower times for reworking or maintenance, quotas are met when less product is rejected or fails to pass through quality control. Not only are overall operations improved but the organization can also gain confidence. This confidence comes from a sense of preparedness and the ability to tackle future issues as they arise.

Not only does the ECO provide the steps and information needed for changes, but it also logs a history of past events. This history provides a record of parts, action logs and directions that can be reused if need be. The information can be reused for future changes, and or used as educational material. Studying past specifications, issues and resolutions can make continued growth for the future more efficient. ECOs give a platform to team members from various departments, and a voice to those with experience on the ground. Giving the ability to all employees, stakeholders and invested parties to be an asset to the team