The Advantages of Managing ECM in PLM

It’s not uncommon for changes to occur in the manufacturing of products. Sometimes these changes stem from part availability, updating performance characteristics, streamlining production processes, or quality issues. 

Tracking the changes in an organization can become an expansive project. On these occasions manufacturers tend to turn to structured processes to manage those aspects. While the processes may start with spreadsheets, eventually a firm will need to transition to dedicated tracking systems, like Engineering Change Management (ECM).

Engineering change management in manufacturing is a structured process that involves identifying, evaluating, approving, and implementing changes to product designs and associated processes. It includes thorough evaluation of the proposed change’s impact, collaborative decision-making by stakeholders, and the implementation of necessary updates while employing effective change control mechanisms to ensure proper documentation and minimize errors.

Managing change in PLM

While there are standalone software suites to track changes, managing ECM processes within Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software provides a number of benefits for small and medium sized manufacturers. These tend to develop from what functionality PLM systems inherently provide.

Aligni PLM screen showing ECOs and ECRs in process

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems like Aligni PLM provide a comprehensive approach that encompasses the management of a product throughout its entire lifecycle, from development to production – including tracking changes to the product over time. Typically, these systems provide the integration of people, data, processes, and systems. This helps firms effectively plan, design, develop, produce, distribute, and support a product. PLM also ensures data integrity, collaboration, and traceability across various departments and stakeholders.

How ECM fits into PLM

We’ve outlined five areas where manufacturers can find efficiencies in their manufacturing process when PLM and ECM are combined:

1. Improved Collaboration

By managing ECM activities in PLM, all stakeholders in the organization can have visibility into change requests, change orders, and related documents. This helps ensure that everyone is working with the same information, reducing the risk of miscommunication and errors.

2. Increased Efficiency

PLM software can automate many of the tasks associated with ECM, such as routing change requests and orders for review and approval. This reduces the time and effort required to manage changes, allowing organizations to move more quickly and efficiently through the product development and manufacturing process.

3. Improved Quality

By providing a framework for managing change requests, change orders, and related activities, PLM software can help ensure that all changes are properly reviewed, approved, and implemented. This can help reduce the risk of errors and inconsistencies, improving product quality and reducing the likelihood of costly rework.

4. Better Visibility

PLM software provides a centralized repository, the item master database, for all product-related data, including ECM-related activities. This enables stakeholders to easily track the status of change requests and orders, and to access related documents. This reduces the risk of delays and enabling organizations to better manage their products and processes.

5. Regulatory Compliance

PLM software can help organizations comply with regulatory requirements. It provides a framework for managing change-related activities. This includes ensuring that all changes are properly documented and tracked, and that all stakeholders are informed of the changes.

Bringing it all together

These five aspects are just an introduction to the value found in managing ECM activities within a PLM software platform, but they’re not the only benefits manufacturers can experience. The integration can help organizations improve collaboration. It also increases efficiency, improve quality, better visibility, and ensure regulatory compliance. This ultimately leads to better products and more efficient processes in a number of other ways, as well.

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