Engineering Change Management – Shouldn’t This Be Easier?


Engineering change managementAlmost daily I read about supply chain challenges and the increasing complexities driven in part by demand volatility and unexpected supply disruptions. As much as we strive to improve forecast accuracy, nobody can predict the future and the events that will throw plans out of balance. Managing and responding to unexpected change rapidly and effectively is a competitive advantage. However, dealing with engineering changes seems to be harder than it should be. Why? Because it’s one of the few changes we know about in advance that requires an engineering change management process.

Engineering changes are implemented for different reasons – everything from product enhancements, cost savings and meeting regulatory standards. In any case, regardless of the priority of the change, someone in the organization knows the change is on its way. That someone is the Engineer. Unfortunately, since engineers rarely talk to supply chain planners, this seemingly easy type of change causes headaches for both groups. Engineers typically don’t ask if there’s material and capacity available to hit engineering change dates, so it turns into a surprise when those engineering change notice (ECN) dates are missed. Supply chain planners are managing a change that to them, goes under the radar and causes excess or shortage conditions. While touring an aircraft assembly facility, I asked a production manager what the key was for hitting delivery commitments. Without hesitation he blurted, “stopping the engineering changes.” With shortages comes missed deliveries, and in most industries – particularly the aerospace industry – that means big dollars in late delivery penalties.

Well, what if engineers and supply chain planners had meaningful conversations? By that I mean more than just sitting together at the company holiday party. What if the data associated with engineering changes was connected to all the other supply chain data? What if there were alerts identifying risk associated with new ECNs or schedule changes on existing ECNs? What if you could simulate multiple cutover dates simultaneously and see impact on excess, shortage conditions, cost and delivery, then collaborate to drive a consensus on the optimal cutover date?

Bringing engineering and supply chain together would drive significant benefits, including improved inventory utilization, reduced expediting, and minimum impact to schedules and more accurate commitments to ECN dates. If the engineering data is connected to supply chain data and processes, then those meaningful conversations can happen. Engineering and supply chain can work together to identify the operational impact of selecting particular effectivity dates for selected engineering changes to determine the effectivity timing that maximizes alignment with performance objectives. There is no easy button for managing engineering changes, but connecting engineering to your supply chain data and processes is the start to a more valuable relationship between two very different groups.

What has your company done to foster collaboration between engineering and supply chain? Let us know in the comments area below.


Bill DuBois has enjoyed over 20 years with Kinaxis in a number of roles including his current position as Director of Product and Marketing Content. Prior to his move to Marketing, Bill was a Senior Business Consultant providing pre-sales support to the Kinaxis Sales Team. This included developing and delivering “stand-out” product demonstrations, delivering ROI analysis and conducting pilot projects for prospective customers. Prior to joining Kinaxis, Bill gained 12 years of manufacturing, supply chain and lean experience while with Boeing of Canada. Bill is APICS CPIM certified. And as a qualified APICS instructor, Bill has developed and delivered APICS courses in material planning, master scheduling, capacity management and just-in-time. Bill has also developed and delivered Lean education and training packages for all levels of personnel. Bill studied Electronics Technology at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Bill is also the host of our home-grown Stevie Award Winning Late Late Supply Chain Show. The Late Late Supply Chain Show videos can be found on the Just for Laughs section of the Supply Chain Expert Community. With top-ten list in hand, Bill keys up his late show antics appealing to a broad base of supply chain professionals — those who can laugh at the chaos of their daily lives. Bill has won the plaudits of critics — all one of them – and has proven himself in the ratings — first in Late Late Supply Chain shows! And Bill won’t stop until “this order has been filled.” Check him out for yourself!

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  1. I totally agree, currently supply chain improvement are stepwise only. I am working on a engineering design approach for supply chains and the product that travel then, and it is indeed very promising.
    Marcel Ludema

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