You may hear of Engineering Change Request (ECR), Engineering Change Order (ECO), or Engineering Change Notice (ECN) used somewhat interchangeably. They are all related and part of the same process, but with some differences.
First, an engineering change request begins the process, as it is a form submitted to report a problem or a suggested product improvement in manufacturing. The ECR form can be on paper or digital, and it includes a description of the issue, reason for the change, details about the necessary parts, and any recommended solutions. This would trigger the next stage of the process, which includes planning and implementing the necessary changes.
Next, an engineering change order covers everything required to make the change requested by the ECR. This involves a thorough review of other processes and components that may be affected, reference documents, technical drawings, and even the approvals needed to implement the change. ECO is essential to making changes because it provides checks and balances to ensure compatibility with the rest of the systems or processes.
Finally, the engineering change notice is the step where you notify employees of the final approved plan of action and their tasks to implement the plan.
Who or What Can Generate an Engineering Change Request?
Think of the ECR as the suggestion box, and the ECO as the process of reading and pursuing the suggestions. You can collect an ECR in many ways:
- Anyone within your organization who notices a problem or need for change
- Customer complaint
- Field technicians who spot non-conforming materials
- Process-related failure codes
- Regular process, product, or system audit
- Facility condition assessment
- Discussions during team meetings
Alternatively, the engineering change order is typically performed by an individual assigned that role. They need the oversight and expertise to complete a review and approval process.
How to Know When an ECO/ECN is Needed
Not every change will require an in-depth review or approval. So, it is important to note the variety of changes that may show up on an ECR and what your process will be to handle them. These are some examples:
- Manufacturer Change – An employee or your procurement officer may recommend changing suppliers to improve lead time or reduce cost. Your ECO will need to confirm that the specs of the part do not change, as that would potentially impact other components.
- Spelling Change – If an employee reports a product typo on an ECR, then you won’t need an extensive review. Correcting spelling will not impact other components or the overall system or process.
- Replacement of Discontinued Components – This would absolutely require a thorough ECO. You would need to review the new component for compatibility.
- Design or Process Change – This change has the greatest potential to impact other parts of the process or components. However, it is worth the extensive ECO because it typically results in a large improvement to the current process.
A Culture for Change
Developing your engineering change process is beneficial for your business. It creates a culture that is open to suggestions and focused on improving your product or processes. Furthermore, management doesn’t have to carry all the weight of growing and evolving the company. Your employees have valuable insights to contribute from their daily hands-on experience with your product and processes. Additionally, capturing and tracking ECR, ECO, and ECN data in a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software will further streamline your ECR process. This allows the data to be conveniently accessible to everyone that needs it. Also, it offers digital form collection to make your ECR “suggestion box” more efficient. Establishing an ECR process and implementing software to track it ensures that your business will adapt to change and continually improve with time.