01 December 2002
To automate manufacturing changes, think ECM
Software provides a single point of control to assure consistency across multiple platforms.
By Mark Woodward
Enterprise change management (ECM) soft ware can help manufacturers manage the complexity associated with conducting e-business in Internet time, running plant operations, and complying with stringent industry and government standards.
From a technical perspective, ECM can provide manufacturers with the infrastructure they need to manage software changes across all their computing platforms, technologies, processes, and information technology (IT) organizations. From a business perspective, ECM can help manufacturers increase their competitiveness by ensuring quality and enhancing customer satisfaction.
According to a recent Yankee Group report, organizations using ECM software realize a 28% reduction in application downtime, a 23% improvement in time to market, and an 18% reduction in hard development costs.
HOW ECM WORKS
ECM allows manufacturers to automate development processes and manage changes consistently across platforms with a single point of control. By establishing more network- efficient architectures that interface with multiple platforms, developers can work in the environments they choose.
Manufacturers that want to launch quality initiatives in their software development environment would do well to put ECM to work. ECM can enable manufacturers to completely eliminate software development errors, en sure all software changes are made properly across an application's life cycle, and see to it they are incorporated into the final version.
Seven key benefits of ECM
Among other important benefits, ECM allows manufacturers to track and manage all their software and Web content assets and to synchronize their delivery to the Web. Man agers can at any point in time verify the status of all these assets and know who has changed them, why they were modified, and when they were revised-thanks to the audit trails provided by ECM software.
Manufacturers can monitor daily changes in their assets and reuse assets. With ECM, the assets are properly stored and can be located instantly by developers, who can assemble them in various fashions to create more services and options for staff and customers. This way of working ensures that manufacturers can deliver more Internet-based services faster while saving time and money.
Finally, ECM can simplify and streamline online publishing processes. Content contributors can make their own Web site updates, using templates provided by the tools. This allows manufacturers to post Web changes whenever they want.
In short, ECM can enable manufacturers to operate at Internet time, manage operations inside a plant, and comply with standards.
OPERATING AT INTERNET SPEED
Many manufacturers that want to harness the power of the Internet unfortunately still operate batch processing computing environments that will not allow them to extend services to the Internet at great speed.
To offset this challenge, many manufacturers' IT experts see ECM as an important battle horse that will allow them to establish the software development infrastructure they need to extend their mainframe, distributed, and Web applications to the Internet to deliver new services to employees and customers.
Operating at Internet speed means staffers can access up-to-date inventory information. As a result, they can work faster, be more productive on the job, and make more accurate business decisions.
Having inventory information readily available via the Web allows employees to better assess which products move fast in the supply chain and which ones do not sell as well. Staff can then communicate that information back to management and to the marketing department, which can better react to the changing marketplace demands with other choices and different ad campaigns, for example.
The capability to operate at Internet speed also enables customers to check the status of their orders online and learn when to expect product delivery. Operating in real time increases customer satisfaction.
Working at Internet speed also lets manu facturers quickly update Web sites to provide customers and staff with timely information-price changes, or new products, for example.
MANAGING INSIDE THE PLANT
ECM can also enable manufacturers to propagate software changes across manufacturing execution systems, which govern, for instance, capacity data, product tracking, asset management, statistical process control, electronic batch record, and scheduling.
This ensures all the applications within a given supply system are in sync and accurate. Sales changes can immediately be propagated across the supply chain.
ECM can also play an essential role managing the entire product development effort, including associated applications, documentation, software changes, certifications, quality assurance, and incident re ports. ECM provides a way to manage these changes on multiple platforms from a single point of control.
Moreover, ECM can play a critical part empowering manufacturers to operate continuous plants and can to prevent costly work stoppages by enforcing the development processes of these organizations and by automating the approval of software changes and switchover. It is estimated, for instance, that a disruption in a semiconductor plant's operations can cost $32,000 a minute.
MEETING STRINGENT STANDARDS
ECM also enables manufacturers to meet various industry and government standards. Pharmaceutical makers, for example, are striving to meet Title 21 Code of Federal Reg ulations Part 11, which provides standards for electronic records and signatures.
ECM's ability to track changes and prevent unauthorized revisions can also serve the cosmetic business and other industries considering whether to adopt Part 11. The Environ mental Protection Agency is also evaluating whether to develop the standard.
The Health Insurance Provider Accoun tability Act provides manufacturers with standards on how to deal with the security, privacy, and management of documents and software. ECM can help health care manufacturers comply with those regulations as well because it provides a mechanism for managing software and documentation.
Nowhere is the need for compliance with safety and reporting standards greater than in enterprises that manufacture hazardous materials.
If, for example, a contamination incident occurred, ECM tools would prevent an individual from deleting the electronic incident reports and application documenting the spillage. By enforcing the organization's processes, ECM prevents misuse of software and associated documents.
ECM provides a central management point of control that spans multiple platforms and can simplify concurrent development, incorporate quality assurance, and accelerate software change approvals.
There are subtle and not so subtle differences among the many ECM technologies available. Manufacturers should consider picking an ECM solution that is easy to use, accommodates platform expansion, and allows legacy, distributed, and Web applications to be delivered to the Internet in a synchronized way.
Properly integrated into business strategy, ECM can turn into the infrastructure manufacturers need to manage change across their computing platforms, technologies, processes, and IT environments to improve their competitiveness in global markets. IC