PLM Essentials - 6. Engineering Change Management (ECM)

QR_ Insights: original thinking from our SMEs and curated ‘recommended reads’ from industry commentators. The home of Lio Grealou’s Industry Reflections column, the PLM Essentials series, and topically pertinent thoughts from across the QR_ business.

PLM Essentials - 6. Engineering Change Management (ECM)

PLM Essentials explores how to create processes and systems that will help your organisation deliver the innovation it requires to thrive in an ever more competitive marketplace. The sixth instalment explores one of the most significant topics coved in the series - engineering change management (ECM). This overview looks at the activity and objectives involved and what goes into the creation of a robust system to track changes and approvals, using a small but prominent EV manufacturer as a case study.

Published 26 Oct 2021

2 min read

Engineering Change Management (ECM) is critical to successful programme outcomes and the mitigation of development risks. The sixth instalment of our 'PLM Essentials' series covers the motivation behind ECM, the activity and objectives involved and what goes into the creation of a robust system to track changes and approvals.

You may also be interested in the areas we have covered previously: Part 1 – Part Numbering Systems, Part 2 – Attributes, Part 3 – Part Nomenclature, Part 4 - BoM Setup and Part 5 – Engineering Structures.

What is Engineering Change Management?

Engineering programmes in advanced industries are often incredibly complex. With so many different stakeholders and competing objectives, tracking and approving any and all design changes is essential. Engineering Change Management (ECM) is a process used to manage changes to physical parts, systems and associated documents. It is used to support the business case for a design change, providing insight to all stakeholders and informing their decisions on whether or not a change should be implemented.

Once a design change is understood, agreed, documented and released, then the ECM process is complete and the Change Control process handles the workstreams and change implementation. ECM encompasses:

  • Configuration Management
  • Change Control
  • Change Register
  • Software Change Management

Developing the right ECM

The type of ECM required by an organisation varies greatly between industries, projects and programmes, but each is a trade-off between speed, workload and quality. The overall cost of the ECM must be well understood, including the resource draw on all relevant business areas. The more regulated the industry (e.g. aerospace), the more stringent the processes and approvals will be.

It is important to recognise that a well-functioning ECM will involve all areas of the business, including:

  • Engineering
  • Production/manufacturing
  • Purchasing
  • Logistics
  • Homologation
  • Styling/concept
  • Research & development
  • Finance
  • Suppliers
  • Quality 

Engineering Change Management in action

The overview below explains the purpose and processes of ECM, highlighting risks and important factors in successful implementation. This has been demonstrated using a customer case study – a small but notable electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer. 

Read on to learn about Engineering Change Management and its vital role within PLM, reducing the risk of design conflict and the successful delivery of commercial outcomes.

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