Handling Engineering Change Order (ECO)


Introduction to Engineering Change Order (ECO):

In the previous post we discussed about Engineering Change Request (ECR), in which a problem is identified  and a change is initiated. We discussed on how a change control board (CCB) participates in steering committee meetings, to approve or reject an ECR. Once the ECR is approved, the next step is creation of an Engineering Change Order (ECO). ECOs are nothing more than a document bundle that highlights the changes to be made, list down the various parts that needs to be modified to implement the change. It also includes documents such as CAD drawings to be updated etc and goes through the approval workflow with the responsible individuals.

One of the major challenge that discrete manufacturing companies face is to efficiently manage the ECOs. It is a common scenario a single ECR can result in 10, 50 or even more than 100 ECOs when a new product is designed. In these situations, there will be multiple changes to product design such as raw materials, quality control, changes to manufacturing process and much more. Traditional methods of managing ECOs such as through emails, or in-house local databases have proven ineffective, resulting in costly mistakes. These methods have also been ineffective in terms of feedback management and effectively handling the approval process. During the recent times, most organizations both small and large scale have started implementing modern PLM systems to manage ECOs efficiently.

Teams involved and responsibilities:

A number of change orders can be issued over the life of the product. An ECO process involves multiple individuals during the review and implementation lifecycle. The team involved and responsibilities of each individual varies from one organization to another depending on its operating style.

ECO team

Engineering Director:

An Engineering Director acts a s single point of contact for managing the ECO. An Engineering Director will be involved through out the ECO cycle, from its inception till the change is released to manufacturing for implementation. In few organizations, the engineering director will also be responsible for scheduling and to oversee ECO review meetings.

Component Engineer:

A Component Engineer should have an detailed knowledge of the relationships between various parts used in the product. The component engineering team will also be responsible for verifying the ECO technical content, provides estimates, evaluates costs involved, material disposition etc. In  most organizations, it is the primary role of the component engineer to ensure that the change implemented adheres to industry compliance, and make sure propert methods and procedures and in place to incorporate the changes in production.

Program or Planning Manager:

A Program Manager is involved to analyze the overall impact on schedules and verify the effective date entered on the ECO. During this process, the program manager also develop an effective implementation plan which includes various factors such as material usage, procurement planning etc. They will also also responsible for advising Purchasing and Sales of changes which will affect open purchase orders and open sales orders.

Shop-floor Operations:

The operations support team is responsible for ensuring that the technical aspects of the ECO are incorporated in the production process. The manufacturing process can be carried out either in a shop-floor within the organizations or in few cases at supplier facilities. The support team also ensures that no compromise on quality control  or reliability occurs as result of implementing the change in the product.

Document Management:

In few organizations, an individual document management team operates to issue approved ECOs and author or watch the update of all production documents. This team also makes sure that the updated documents are distributed to all affected stake holders.

To Conclude, Engineering change order, or ECOs, are written orders for changes in a product or process’s components, specifications, or documentation. ECOs deal with documenting changes so there’s a record of it. Implementing changes to a product is a costly time-consuming and subject to errors without efficient ECOs in place. For example, it is important for a purchasing department to be notified of a part that has been switched out of the development process of a particular product. Without ECO, the purchasing department may not be aware of this change and continue ordering the old component. This results in delay in the manufacturing process, and reordering the correct part may result in extra cost to the company due to rush charges. ECOs help to avoid these situations and help to implement a change in a most operative way.

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