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How to Avoid the Engineering Change Order Trap

Engineers expect change. Whether a parts vendor alters the equipment’s design or customer use reveals areas of improvement in performance, engineering change orders (ECOs) are an essential part of the product development process. One ECO management report showed that 40 percent of them are critical to overall project and product success.

But while continuous revision improves product development, it simultaneously impedes the process. First of all, cost becomes a concern. The same report found that engineering changes occupy nearly a third of total R&D capacity. And ECOs aren’t just a drain on monetary resources—they also consume the valuable time of testing, engineering, and operations managers, taking them away from higher-value activities.

Fortunately, there’s more than one way engineers can reduce costs and cycle times.

Streamline the engineering change order process

Engineering change order management can be split into two main principles: engineering-driven (preventing unnecessary changes, detecting problems early, reducing the impact of ECOs) and process-driven (managing and coordinating complex decision and support processes, speeding up the flow). Let’s focus on the latter.

The longer it takes to implement a change, the bigger the negative impact on the project. So, the best approach is to address the high-level handling of engineering change order management. For example, you could:

  • Establish a structure for approval, implementation, and execution of the process
  • Support the process with adequate resources, ensuring enough decision support
  • Reduce the number of people involved to reduce propensity for error
  • Communicate between departments: manufacturing, customer support, and purchasing
  • Create a culture that recognizes the importance of engineering changes
  • Listen to the customer and incorporate their feedback

Eliminate the excess

A solid process is critical, especially if team members are scattered across continents. But effective implementation of these strategies isn’t possible without a certain degree of organizational change. The reality is, most teams just don’t have the bandwidth or appropriate expertise of ECO management. Things get especially difficult when the organization relies on manually intensive tools.

In recent years, this has prompted organizations to evaluate their workflows and figure out what can be outsourced.

lionbridge-avoid-change-order-trap-chart-imageBy outsourcing, engineers can reduce potential design, manufacturing, and inventory errors or delays, making the above objectives more achievable while keeping stakeholders in the loop. A sophisticated third-party solution can support the entire engineering change order process and technical data revision from start to finish. It’s been known to reduce costs and turnaround times by as much as 50 percent, allowing engineers to spend more time actually engineering. That way, they can adapt quickly in today’s rapidly changing global environment.

Learn more about accelerating the engineering change order process here.

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