7 Pitfalls of Inefficient Change Management

In a recent blog post, we identified and proposed solutions for the top five engineering design challenges:

  • Frequent design changes
  • Changing design requirements
  • Projects are understaffed
  • Increased product complexity
  • Problems/errors are found too late

The process of change management is either directly or indirectly related to four of these challenges — all but the understaffing.

Here are seven pitfalls of inefficient change management.

Budget overruns

Design changes account for a substantial portion of the project budget.

One study found that engineering change orders can gobble up to half of engineering capacity and tool costs. Not all of these costs can be billed to the customer.

Often, the quantity and extent of changes can make the difference between making a profit and taking a loss. Don’t let inefficient change management put your project into the red.

Wasted time

Researchers in the University of Toronto’s Industrial Engineering department found that engineers spend about 20% of their time on documentation, and that documentation was the second highest source of frustration and wasted effort (behind the similar task of information acquisition).

That was in 1993!

With the huge jumps in project complexity over the past 20+ years, it’s hard to imagine that percentage has gone anywhere but up.

Change management is already demanding in terms of documentation. An inefficient process only makes it worse.

Mistakes

Many companies still use a manual system for change management. As in, an engineer opens a sheet and makes a change, then goes into all of the affected sheets and makes the same change, and then writes out an engineering change notice to document the change.

All of this manual work leaves a lot of room for error. And these errors are easily propagated. For example, if an engineer makes a change but then fails to update all of the affected sheets, you may find yourself with different teams working on different versions of a project. As you probably know, this will not turn out well in the end.

Rework

Inefficiency leads to mistakes and mistakes lead to rework. This can be expensive, and it’s often the fault of engineering.

One study of the construction industry found that late design changes, scope changes, engineering errors and omissions, and poor document control is responsible for about 60% of the costs associated with rework.

Decreased competitiveness

Inefficient change management slows everything down. It lengthens the product time to market, giving competitors the opportunity to gain an advantage.

If you’re designing a product for a customer and your inefficiency means that customer loses his competitive edge…well, let’s just say you probably won’t be getting repeat business.

Low quality

All design changes have the potential to impact the quality of the final product. Changes that aren’t documented properly or implemented consistently can decrease quality by quite a bit.

To avoid this pitfall, think of change management as part of the quality control process, and of documentation as an essential tool for maintaining the high level of quality your firm is known for.

Frustrated engineers

Finally, as the list at the beginning of this article shows, changes make life difficult for your engineers.

Of course, there will always be changes. Your purchasing department can’t get the specified parts or your customer decides a process takes too long. These types of revisions are par for the course on any project.

But changes that result from failures of communication or because someone forgot to update the relevant drawings can cause stress and frustration, especially if they lead to mistakes that require a lot of rework.

Talented engineers are worth their weight in gold. Don’t lose yours to poor change management.

Change management doesn’t have to be so hard. By providing automatic revision control, Engineering Base helps you avoid all of these pitfalls. Learn more.

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