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Engineering Change Order (ECO) Management 101

An engineering change order (ECO) does a lot of things—it describes a change, identifies the impact of the change, and ensures that the right people have reviewed and approved the change.

To avoid potential design, manufacturing, and inventory errors or miscommunications with your teammates and suppliers, your ECOs need to exist in a clear, organized format that translates across departmental lines.

When it comes to ECO management, you have two main options. You can choose a manual or paper-based system typically involving spreadsheets (see exmple spreadsheet engineering change order template), folders, or other point-solutions to share documents or you can use an automated product lifecycle management (PLM) system.

Implementing an electronic ECO system can make vast improvements to change processes. Paper-based processes tend to be slow, requiring a change order to be “walked” from person to person for signoff, give very little visibility to teams across the organization about where a change is in the process, and introduce errors due to manual entry and information being out of sync.

Check out the table below to help you weigh the pros and cons of these two options.

Creating an engineering change order: paper vs. electronic

Managing Paper-Based ECOs

Managing ECOs with an Electronic System

Generally reviewed one person at a time. If multiple copies are distributed, edits must be consolidated and reviewed again. Many people can review at the same time and all edits are made to a single version, so no consolidation is needed.
Early approvers aren’t aware of later edits, so several rounds of review are required. All approvers sign off on the same set of documentation.
Individuals need to be tracked down to respond to new issues. Comments are easy to view and share, and hold-ups are resolved quickly.
Someone needs to print and manage a large paper file of documents and drawings. The ECO is easy to create and access because it’s managed in the same system as underlying product information.

If you’re already using an automated system, find out if your solution enables engineering change management. Arena PLM is designed to streamline new product development, new product introduction, and speed collaboration with your internal teams and supply chain partners through automated processes. Read about three very common engineering change challenges. Still not sure, check out some of Arena’s over 1,400 global customers who are using Arena PLM to streamline their ECO processes and speed engineering change approvals.