Truck maker uses change management to add efficiency and accountability to processes
Despite advances in process automation at many companies, product design often still relies on paper, manual approval processes, and disconnected communications. That's no longer the case at International Truck and Engine Corp., which recently overhauled process-change management within its engineering group.
The truck manufacturer, which had $6.8 billion in revenue last year, launched the product-development process to cut the time it takes to introduce models, as well as save money in the design stage. Using business-process-management tools from Action Technologies Inc., International Truck built a system to manage product changes that centralizes information about who made a change, who approved it, and when it was scheduled to be completed. Previously, this data was dispersed among several hundred desktop and legacy systems. Various departments, including engineering, finance, marketing, procurement, and manufacturing, now have visibility into product-change data.
"In the past, we didn't have a database that tracked why changes were made or our cycle times," says Bill Bailey, manager of engineering at the truck maker's process-development department. "We now have an architecture so we can understand what is being done to the different pieces of a product. That helps you understand, for example, why a product is late. There's a whole new level of accountability."
The company has increased productivity in its engineering department, in some cases by as much as 30%, and cut the design-process cycle time of at least two crucial steps by 60% to 75%. Now all work is negotiated and authorized via a system that includes workflow, checkpoints, and tracking, which should enable further savings by helping the company reduce the number of changes or identify those that should be combined with other efforts. It also helps International Truck reject change requests that don't add real value earlier in the process, before they become costly mistakes.
The system has four elements: the change request, which typically is initiated in response to a market opportunity or customers' demands; the change proposal, a detailed specification of the change; the change development, which establishes a team to handle the change; and the change implementation, where the change is put into production.
International Truck can move quickly to create process changes, Bauermeister says
International Truck began building the system about three years ago. The engineering team in the company's process-development department deconstructed the design process, identifying administrative and engineering processes that could be automated. "Each process took on the order of three to six months to complete," says Jeff Bauermeister, workflow automation manager in the process-development department. "As we got our feet wet, we got more and more comfortable and were able to move more quickly."
The most complex part of the overhaul--the release process, or the authorization process that allows for a change to move from request to implementation--took nine months. The release process is data-centric, and in the past the company relied on spreadsheets and flat files that had to be manually passed around. Now all the data has been integrated, and all the information moves through work-authorization workflows.
The change-management system has been so well received that International Truck is expanding its use beyond the engineering department. The process-development department has helped the company's reliability and quality group revamp and automate some of its processes, and it's now helping the manufacturing group and possibly the sourcing group. Says Bailey, "We're constantly looking for ways we can even be more efficient."
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