Engineering change orders (ECOs) are extremely important to the efficiency and successful communication of a manufacturing company. I knew why they were important in my work as a hardware designer, but not necessarily how useful they were to other departments. I did a little research and found out the manufacturing case and business case for why ECOs are so important.
Starting with the design perspective, ECOs are important because they contribute to the simplification of design, reduce costs, and improve quality and assembly.
For example, I designed our fan mount so that it could use either PSA adhesive tape or screws–just in case one method became more cost-effective than the other down the road. We realized later that it would indeed be easier and more cost-effective to manufacture if it just used screws. So we created an ECO for that innovation. Because our ECOs are centrally-located, the teams in manufacturing can easily look-up part changes, see the reason for the change, and understand what they need to do from there.
From a manufacturing perspective, the most important thing ECOs do is provide a history and log of parts and processes. If they’re having an issue with a part on the line, they can pull it up in the system, see if there’s an ECO for it, and quickly identify what’s causing the problem.
To continue the fan mount example from above, manufacturing was struggling to efficiently install the PSA adhesive tape. It was enough of a problem that an ECO was created to inform manufacturing that the tape had been eliminated, why, and that we would now be using screws instead.
From a business perspective, an ECO is a way to communicate to the entire company that a change has been made to an item. This communication is accessible to everyone in the organization who needs to know about it: purchasing, firmware, software, QA, receiving, engineering, manufacturing, etc.
As an example, let’s say purchasing finds another supplier that sells screws at a higher quality:price ratio. They’ll write an ECO to tell everyone that we’ve switched suppliers, and then I go in and make sure the screw functions exactly the way it’s supposed to.
I didn’t know about the differing perspectives of ECOs to other departments until I asked my colleagues for this blog post. Such interesting perspectives ensure clear long-term team deliverables. I’m sure product management and applications engineering have their unique reasons for valuing ECOs too. While we each work within our own workgroups, it’s fascinating to learn how all the things we do in our day-to-day jobs can contribute to, and affect, the work of our peers.