Engineering Change Management: Extending and Controlling Access

Dec. 6, 2012
Allowing greater access to production and engineering information has become part of the business of providing better customer support for many manufacturers. But it’s not without its concerns. Hyland Software claims it has an answer with its OnBase document management software.

Here’s the scenario: A customer calls requesting a change be made to the design of one of the products you make for them. Who gets that call? Typically it's the salesperson — the person who deals with customer on the most regular basis.

This means it’s up to the sales person to convey the required change to engineering via email, phone call or in-person meeting. While this process can be very effective in terms of the final outcome, it puts a big burden on engineering to take over the task with information provided externally to the design software system they work in; plus they need to report back to sales with status updates regarding the change so that sales can keep the customer informed.

With its OnBase drawings management software, Hyland Software is looking to address this issue. Becca Toth, head of industry marketing for Hyland Software, says “we’ve found that engineers at most companies don't want sales people to have access to their CAD systems.”

Even if most engineers were OK with sales having access to their design software, there is also the issue of significant costs incurred for the deployment of additional seats so that sales can access the CAD system.

According to Toth, OnBase integrates with a company's existing CAD system to deliver read-only CAD drawings to sales. This way, sales can bring up the drawings in a meeting with the customer, review them, and make notes on the read-only file without affecting the source files that engineering uses. Using the OnBase system, the sales person can then send the marked-up, read-only files to engineering for action through the document management system’s workflow process.

“Then, as engineers follow the workflow steps to correct the issue, sales can look into the system at any time and know what’s going on and report back to the customer,” says Toth. With this kind of controlled access to documents, “we’re breaking down the barriers that can inadvertently exist between departments.”

Beyond enabling workflows for engineering change management and accounts payable tasks, Toth adds that the OnBase document management system can also play a role in reducing the risk of non-conforming parts being released. One way OnBase does this is through integration with a company’s time clock system. When an employee clocks in, Toth says the employee can be instantly notified that specific, relevant work instructions have been changed and need to be reviewed and accepted before starting work.