Engineering Change Management

Engineering Change Management in The Automotive Industry

AEHQ Core Automotive Knowledge & Principles 2 Comments

Have you ever gone to a party you thought was supposed to be informal and arrived to see everyone in tuxedos? Or have you shown up for a dinner party only to learn it was moved to a day earlier? When everyone in the party is not included in key changes then you will miss the party or not have the correct appearance for the event. Changes are inevitable throughout the automotive development process and it’s imperative that these changes be managed effectively with a cross-functional team of automotive engineering experts to avoid wasting time, money and resources on incorrect parts. Engineering Change Management is a crucial role in the automotive industry that helps to maintain order during the flurry of changes that occur in a vehicle’s life cycle.

Importance of Engineering Change Management in the automotive industry

Chaging a Drawing by ManagementIt doesn’t matter how big or seemingly insignificant the change is; proper change management is imperative in the automotive industry where even one malfunction in an automobile can trigger a chain reaction of failures within the automobile that could result in the death of the vehicle’s occupants. Change could be anything from a software upgrade, change in materials, design change to hardware and even manufacturing processes that change how the form, fit or function of the final product. Every change must be properly assessed by all the automotive engineering and quality teams to determine the impact of the change and actions required to properly implement the change and notify the customers. Change management within automotive engineering provides the discipline process to implement a change properly and with the least amount of disruption.

Role of the engineering change request

An engineering change request play the leading role in managing changes within the automotive engineering development process. The engineering change request or engineering change order is a compilation of information in one package that will outline what change is being proposed, what programs or products it impacts, the teams that will be coordinating the change, the timeline for the change and the qualification that must be completed to approve the change. Additionally, if the change is being made due to a quality issue in production there will also be quarantine information and screening for the production process to ensure bad quality products do not get in the field as well as information for managing customer returns, warranty or recall related issues.

The engineering change process steps

There are very clear steps in the engineering change process that the automotive engineering team will go through as they implement changes. Each step will have a varying amount of activity depending on what type of change the team is managing but in each case it is important to follow all the steps to ensure the change is implemented correctly and thoroughly.

  1. Identify the issue and scope of the problem: The first step in the change management process is identifying the issue that requires a change to be made, this could be a production process change to eliminate a quality problem or it could be a design change to improve the safety of the vehicle. Along with identifying the problem the problem owner will begin to scope out the impact of the problem.
  2. Create the engineering change request: The engineering change request is created that will begin to solidify the need for the change and the parts, components, documentation and resources, both people and costs, that will be needed to implement a change.
  3. Review the Engineering change request: After the change request has been documented it is reviewed by a team of stakeholders. Many large organizations have a standing change request team with representatives from all key organizations within the company that reviews all incoming engineering change requests and then routes them to the appropriate organization for additional review as necessary.
  4. Initiate the change request: When the team and necessary experts have reviewed and approved the change, then a plan is put in place to implement the change. In some organizations an engineering change order is used to document the plan for implementing the change. The plan is also reviewed and approved by the team before work begins.
  5. Implement the change: When the plan is reviewed and approved then it is time to implement the change. Depending on the size of the change a team may be formed to manage and coordinate the entire process.
  6. Post-mortem: After the change has been implemented the team will close out the change request and then perform a “post mortem” to document as to why the change was required and the process involved in implementing the change. By documenting and archiving the key lessons learned, the information is available for future engineers if a similar problem is identified in the future.

Change in automotive engineering happens quite frequently and when managed correctly helps to improve the functionality, safety and efficiency of the process and end product.

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