What Is an Engineering Change Notice?

Written by: Jeff Zemsky

Read Time: 6 min

For discrete manufacturers today, the dynamics of market, supply chain, regulatory and technological change are evolving at higher velocity, and with more complexity, than ever before. Only by managing this change with efficiency can manufacturers remain competitive. To execute on a coherent, effective and efficient change management vision, manufacturing leaders should seek three high-priority outcomes: highly scalable change processes, improvements in productivity and planning, and enhancements in the quality and reliability of decision-making.

As evolving requirements generated by these priorities and change dynamics filter down to the production level, accurate and actionable change documentation processes are mission critical. The engineering change notice (ECN) documents the inception of the change management process, laying a foundation for successful results in the manufactured product.

What is an engineering change notice (ECN)?

The ECN, normally created by the engineering department, is a document that captures and details proposed changes to the design or manufacture of a product, or an update to the manufacturing processes themselves. It is normally issued in response to an engineering change request (or ECR).

What are the key elements of an engineering change notice?

Refocusing our attention on the ECN as the intermediate change management step “between” the ECR and the engineering change order (or ECO), four components are generally included in an effective ECN.

Description of the change

Once a problem or opportunity is identified, its “symptoms” are clearly documented, evaluated by appropriate personnel, and a formal decision is made about whether to investigate the symptoms, or explore the suggested enhancement. Through investigation of the documented issues, the root cause is identified. This work will include the identification of relevant design modifications, parts, or documents.

Supporting documents

Those key documents are then aggregated and assembled to best communicate the implications of the proposed change to affected stakeholders. Drawings, CAD files, work instructions, cost and resource analyses, and more are carried forward from the ECR stage and supplemented according to findings and inputs gathered up to that point.

Workflow automation

Mapping and automation of the workflows defined (or redefined) by the ECN is crucial to properly inform the ECO and subsequent approval process. The new workflow will encompass all critical elements of the production process—employees, their tasks, required decision gates and approvals, as well as process status and history. Accurate implementation at this stage is a critical step in managing complex changes, and the ways in which those changes propagate through an organization.

Change configuration

Properly configuring all the changes that result from this ECN process, including but not limited to those affecting workflow automation, is fundamental to final change execution. Sound configuration not only gets the manufactured product and manufacturing process where it needs to be, according to carefully managed feedback and approval processes, but also yields positive business results enterprise wide.

What’s the purpose of an engineering change notice?

The purpose of an ECN is to communicate the proposed changes to all stakeholders potentially affected within the manufacturing enterprise and, if appropriate, to customers and other external parties like supply chain partners. It comprises a formal request for those stakeholders to review the issue, consider the proposed change, assess its implications, and approve according to the results of that assessment.

During this stage, departments like manufacturing, purchasing, quality control, and even sales and marketing can collaborate to consider the rationale and various impacts of the proposed change.

What’s the difference between ECN and ECO?

It’s important to understand the difference between the ECN and the document that follows it sequentially in the engineering change management process, the engineering change order or ECO. Whereas the ECN captures the details behind the request for a change (and by its issuance partially validates the ECR’s reasoning) and starts it on its stakeholder rounds for review and feedback, an engineering change order is issued when the substance of the ECN is approved.

The ECO comprises formal permission to implement the change initiated by the ECN, and contains not only authorization, but detailed instructions for executing the change, as well as timelines and other salient information. A single ECO may address one or more change requests or may be issued without reference to a change request, depending on permissions set by system administrators.

What are the steps of an engineering change process?

There are several commonly recognized, logically sequenced steps to the general engineering change process. Note that the following subordinate process phases each include corollary stages of creation, review, and approval.

1. Problem report

When an issue that may require change is initially identified, the symptoms that define the problem are recorded. These may be identified by any stakeholder: an internal team, a customer, or even an end user. Similarly, opportunities for enhancement, though not technically problems, may arise and be documented for further consideration.

2. Engineering change request

An engineering change request (or ECR) precedes the ECN as described above and is the document by which the concerned party requests that a change be considered. It’s how the change management process is launched. The enterprise (or those departments potentially impacted) can then review and collectively decide whether to move on to the next step, the ECN.

3. Engineering change notice

As previously noted, an engineering change notice or ECN emerges from the ECR evaluation process when all parties agree on the change. It formally notifies the organization of a proposed change, documents in detail its driving rationale, and may outline expected benefits, including end-user benefits and business results—in short, what’s involved in executing the change, and why it’s worth implementing. Upon issuance of an ECN, the contemplated change has transitioned to a more formal stage of consideration and analysis.

4. Change tasks

Following from and complementing the ECN is the “change tasks” stage. This comprises a specific set of actions required for effective execution of the proposed change. Whether used formally or informally (depending on the organization) change tasks break down those actions specifically among the roles or teams—the “owners”—who will need to execute them to realize the proposed change. By allocating expectations and responsibilities as clearly and discretely as possible, change tasks fuel a more manageable, measurable, accountable, and trackable change process overall.

5. Final approval

After thorough review of all elements of the ECN and “change tasks,” an ECO may be issued indicating cross-disciplinary agreement on the change. This will list in full detail all the pieces, components, assemblies, processes, and related documentation to be changed, as well as support documentation like updated CAD files or manufacturing work instructions (MWIs).

Finally, the ECO is routed for final approval, often through a change control board made up of all interested stakeholders, internal and external. Once approved, the ECO is communicated to those responsible for making the change, who begin the process of execution using the ECO and associated documentation for guidance.

Picking the right PLM platform

Ultimately, the successful implementation of changes defined in an ECN, and the success of change management processes more broadly, will be largely determined by the PLM platform on which the changes are being managed. Choosing the right PLM platform will support changes that meet wide array of processes, from the simple to the complex. It will be easy to tailor its capabilities for the specific needs of the enterprise—according to product attributes, life cycle, layouts, and more, enabling the execution of changes across the entire digital thread.

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About the Author

Jeff Zemsky

Jeff is the VP for Windchill Digital Thread. His team leads Navigate, Visualization, Windchill UI and Digital Product Traceability. Prior to joining PTC, Jeff spent 16 years implementing and using PLM, CAD and CAE at Industrial, High Tech & Consumer Products companies including leading the first Windchill PDMLink implementation in 2002. He was active in the PTC/USER community serving as Chair for the Windchill Solutions committee and on the Board of Directors for PTC/USER helping to bring voice of customer input together and create a community where people could network for tools and processes. Jeff attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Lehigh University.