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PCM III Excerpt - Tailoring and Planning


Tailoring: The general rule in CM operations up to just a few years ago was that the CM organization usually did not get a chance to identify and quote their activities when a business responded to a potential customer’s Request For Proposal (RFP). System Engineering, Design Engineering, Drafting, Manufacturing, Quality Assurance, Product Support, Project and Program Management got to quote but poor old CM was often left out in the cold, and if, by chance, they did get to quote, they were usually the first to have their budget cut or their efforts (and funding) reduced when the chips were down. When CM activities inevitably became necessary during the conduct of a contract (often because of product failure and/or loss of knowledge of the design or product hardware or software), minimal change control and status accounting activities were usually instituted in a manual, labor intensive manner, and everyone blamed the whole mess on CM: “how could you have let this happen?”

Fortunately, times have changed, and most businesses that survived the sweep of the ‘merge mania’ scythe of the late 20th century have recognized the value of CM. The importance of capturing design baselines and controlling changes plus having visibility into the status of prototype and production hardware and the performance of formal audits to assure design compliance to system level requirements and to verify that a solid set of build drawings and manufacturing planning exists, has driven customers, both military and commercial, to demand that major aspects of CM be included in proposals for their products.

This new corporate attitude and marketplace mindset has increased the need for a consistent set of CM activities to be identified and quoted at the outset of a contract or program, regardless of the size of the program.

These CM activities may be articulated as a compilation of ‘best CM practices,’ which should be tailored to meet the unique requirements of individual contracts and products. This text presents ‘best practices’ for the CM activities of today plus those of the future and describes the transition process necessary to take us from today’s ‘paper intensive’ CM processes to tomorrow’s ‘paperless’ automated CM. The following chapters also describe best practices for either paper or automated CM systems that will reduce risks and provide the appropriate level of control necessary to deliver the product which you promised in your contract or advertising.

Military contracts have, in the past, relied heavily upon and have referenced Military Standards (MIL STD) and Military Specifications (MIL SPEC) to define the scope and level of CM disciplines to be enforced by DoD contractors and suppliers. Procurement reform has initiated the transition of the specification of CM activities from MIL STD and MIL SPEC to commercial guidelines such as the International Standards Organization’s ISO 10007-guideline document for CM and EIA 836, Industry Consensus Standards for Data Interoperability and Configuration.  The industry and government are currently struggling to maintain control of procurements while this transition is being accomplished. Both groups are also communicating and cooperating in order to arrive at a meaningful and cost-sensitive set of CM guidelines.

My point here is that customers have needs that they try to articulate in RFPs and document in contracts. Contractors and businesses wish to sell products that meet those needs, perform well and are reliable so that customers come back for more.

The CM Templates provided in Appendix A provide the basis for successful tailoring of CM “best practices” to fit the customer’s “real” needs, while satisfying the intent of today’s and tomorrow’s military and commercial standards. Hopefully, tomorrow’s military and commercial standards and guidelines will make this tailoring effort easier to handle. In any case, this first step, i.e., careful tailoring of requirements, will go a long way to identify those CM activities which give the most ‘bang for the buck’ and which will provide the basis for proper documentation of customer approval for these CM disciplines.

A sound CM program will assure compliance to your contractual requirements. As we shall see, the process of tailoring your CM program to a specific program’s needs and your own ‘best CM practices’, then negotiating this tailored CM program with your customer will get both your business and your customer off to a good start. You will both be ‘singing from the same sheet’, and there will be no surprises as your program evolves. Your CM audit process will assure compliance to your negotiated requirements.

Planning:  The first step in establishing the groundwork for a successful CM program is the planning activity. I am including planning in the same chapter as tailoring because they are so closely linked. They are built on the same foundation, like the living room and kitchen are built on the cellar of the same house.

If we think of the living room as the location where we invite the customer in to chat about how we are going apply CM disciplines and processes to meet his requirements, then the kitchen is the place where we cook the meal, i.e., put those processes to work after we assemble our team of cooks.

NOTE: Although I presented some of the information contained in the following paragraphs earlier in this text, I will intentionally repeat it here, with additional detail. This material is very important, and I want my readers to focus upon this subject matter and understand it thoroughly.

At this point in the planning process, the primary task for CM personnel is to identify and understand the customer’s requirements. Once the customer’s CM related requirements are identified and understood, the next step is to plan and articulate what your CM organization sees as the most effective ‘best CM practices’ to apply to this particular program. In would be quite a coincidence if the results of this activity matched exactly the requirements articulated by your prospective customer, so you must tailor your CM practices as appropriate to meet both the customer’s real needs and your business’ requirements for program control and visibility.

You must then negotiate your tailored ‘best CM practices’ with your customer in order to achieve a resolution on the issue and to finalize the definition of your CM Program Requirements. It is absolutely mandatory that your internal functional organizations agree to and that they support the results of your negotiations. Make sure that they are participants during the negotiation process. When you and your customer finally agree, document the results of your negotiations in your CM plan and spread the word to your internal organization.

Let’s go back to the analogy of our CM/product development kitchen. As in the case of a great meal, the courses of our CM ‘meal’ require ‘tasting’ along the way to assure that we haven’t strayed from our desired goal. In industry, we call these ‘tastings’ Design Reviews.

At each Design Review, we expect a certain amount of  ‘goodness’ in the design. See Figure 1. These events are also a good place to correct anything ‘bad’ that has found its way into our meal.

For the purposes of this book, four Design Reviews will be examined and integrated into the context of the development activity. See Figure 1, below. The following is a brief description of the expectations for each of these Design Reviews:

* Design Review #1 - The System Specification, which defines the system level requirements for the product, has been completed and signed off by your internal functions and your customer. Your Functional Baseline (system level) and Allocated Baselines (subsystem level) are established at this point.

* Design Review #2 - Your designers have developed the detailed design to the point where they are confident that the system level requirements have been met, and they are willing to sign the drawing which represents the product or the part or subsystem in question.  At this point, fabrication of the prototype is initiated. 

* Design Review #3 - The prototype build has been completed, and the design database has been updated to reflect changes made to the design and/or redlined changes have been made to the drawings. Your Development Baseline is established at this point. NOTE: It is important to note once again that the ‘master’ of the design is no longer the physical drawing, as in the past, but the “ones and zeros” in the design database, i.e., the electronic design files, themselves.

*Design Review #4 - The Functional Configuration Audit has been successfully completed. This process provides documented proof that the requirements identified in the System Specification have been met, i.e., the design works.

Various names have traditionally been associated with these Design Reviews (#1-Concept, #2-Detailed or Implementation, #3-Critical or Pre-Release, #4-Final or Customer). However, it is more important to identify the specific outputs of the Design Review as the relevant indication of the ‘goodness’ of the design at that point in time, rather than the name associated with the Design Review.

From the CM perspective, it is important to identify CM-related tasks and activities associated with each Design Review. Figure 2 provides a Design Review Checklist for CM. Each activity or procedure indicated must be signed up for by the participating team members prior to the completion of Design Review #1. In this way, everyone involved knows in advance what is expected of them at each succeeding Design Review and has ‘ownership’ of the process in their respective areas, i.e., roles and responsibilities have been assigned and agreed upon. 

The CM Planning Schedule is also completed at Design Review #1. This is the vehicle for recording the Design Review Schedule and, as a result, the schedule for the transition from one level of control to the next. Formal audits are also scheduled and the capture of baselines planned. This planning sheet is illustrated in Figure 3. 

Finally, a listing of all inputs to the CM process is presented in Figure 4. This CM Planning Checklist should be reviewed with the design-cognizant lead engineer as part of the checklist review at the time of Design Review #1.  The required inputs to the CM function or organization are identified and related to the CM process, which they enable or support. 

The thorough resolution and completion of these checklists and schedules provide the basis for the CM program to be established for your program or product. A good job here will produce a well-designed and reliably built product. A sloppy or incomplete job will spawn a freewheeling design activity, with a build process that is out of control, i.e., a disaster.

CM Plan:  The results of your planning and negotiations should be documented in your CM Plan. Your CM plan should show the composition, roles and responsibilities of your Configuration Control Board(s) and demonstrate the manner in which you will implement your CM ‘best practices’ to fulfill your contract requirements for the major CM areas of:

            * Configuration Identification

            * Configuration Control

            * Configuration Status Accounting

            * Configuration Audits

The remainder of this text will provide you with procedures and guidelines for establishing the ‘best practices’ for these CM activities. Appendix A provides templates, which make it possible for you to develop your own CM program with the assurance that you have covered all the bases and achieved that indispensable ‘buy-in’ from those individuals and function

s which must support your CM activities in order for your projects and programs to be successful. 

Appendix B shows you how to write a CM plan. The important thing to remember is that you must use the methodology discussed earlier in this chapter to assure that your key personnel and functions are aware of their roles and responsibilities early on in the program and that you have their buy-in of the process. Your CM plan will document these agreements and guarantee compliance to your contractual requirements in addition to setting the scene for the effective capture and control of your design baselines. It will guide your organization through the design and development, transition to production, production, delivery, support, and maintenance of your product and its design.

You need only to follow the templates provided in Appendix A to assure that you have covered all the bases and that you have translated your customer’s requirements into a documented set of activities and guidelines plus provided a definition of roles and responsibilities that lines up with the best CM practices as recommended throughout this text. This approach should start you off on the right foot, regardless of the size of your business.