The Engineering Change Order (ECO) is the documentation outlining the proposed change to the design, lists the product or parts affected, and requests review and approval from the manufacturers. The ECO is used to make modifications to material, assemblies and subassemblies and other types of product information.An ECO is issued when an error is found and corrective action is taken. It is also common for an ECO to be issued in technology manufacturing when an electronic component becomes obsolete or reaches the end of its life cycle.An ECO may also be issued to reduce production costs when more affordable materials or components become available to be used in manufacturing after the initial production cycle.
What is an Engineering Change Order (ECO)?
An Engineering Change Order (ECO) is a critical document and process within the realm of engineering change management, particularly in product development and product lifecycle management (PLM). Also known as an Engineering Change Request (ECR) or Engineering Change Notice (ECN), the ECO serves as a formal mechanism for proposing and implementing changes to a product's design, components, or associated processes. ECOs are instrumental in ensuring that product changes, whether due to revisions, improvements, or regulatory requirements, are systematically evaluated, approved, and integrated into the product development process, design process, and manufacturing process.
Key Elements of the Engineering Change Order Process
- Description of Proposed Change: At the heart of every ECO is a comprehensive description of the requested change, which includes details of the scope, purpose, and specific aspects of the product, process, or documentation that will be affected.
- Bill of Materials (BOM): ECOs often entail updates or modifications to the product's BOM, specifying alterations to components, parts, or materials used in its construction.
- Supporting Documentation: To facilitate validation and implementation, ECOs may include supporting documents such as engineering drawings, schematics, technical specifications, or any other relevant materials. These may require document change processes themselves.
- Workflow and Routing: Many organizations leverage workflow automation systems to streamline the ECO process. This allows for the real-time tracking of the ECO's progress through steps of an approval process and ensures that it is routed to the appropriate stakeholders for review and decision-making.
- Change Control Board (CCB): The CCB plays a crucial role in the ECO process by assessing the feasibility and impact of proposed changes, making informed decisions, and approving or rejecting ECOs.
The ECO Process in Product Development and Manufacturing
- Product Development: ECOs are fundamental during the development of new products. They enable design changes and improvements to be systematically integrated to meet evolving requirements or address design errors.
- Supply Chain Impact: Changes to components, materials, or specifications may have implications for procurement, inventory management, and supplier relationships within the supply chain.
- Medical Device Industry: In highly regulated industries like medical devices, ECOs are instrumental in ensuring that products adhere to stringent quality standards and regulatory requirements.
Real-Time Collaboration and Traceability
ECOs foster real-time communication and collaboration among key stakeholders, including engineers, designers, procurement teams, and manufacturing personnel. This ensures that all parties are informed of the proposed change and the impact of a change, reducing miscommunications, preventing design errors, and promoting traceability throughout the process.
Streamlining Change Management
While ECO processes can be time-consuming, their use of automation and workflow routing streamlines and expedites the approval and implementation of changes, reducing the potential for disruptions and errors in the overall engineering change management processes.
Quality Control and Regulatory Compliance
ECOs play a pivotal role in maintaining quality control standards and adherence to regulatory requirements when its time to implement changes, which is especially critical in industries with stringent regulatory frameworks, such as ISO standards for quality management.
In conclusion, an Engineering Change Order (ECO) is a pivotal document and process that underpins effective engineering change management within product development and manufacturing. By providing a comprehensive description of proposed changes, involving supporting documentation, and adhering to a structured workflow with a Change Control Board (CCB), ECOs enable organizations to adapt to changing requirements, enhance product quality, and ensure compliance with regulatory standards. The systematic use of ECOs contributes to efficient communication and collaboration among stakeholders, preventing design errors, and promoting traceability, ultimately resulting in products that meet evolving customer needs and industry standards.