What is it?
Configuration management (CM) is a systems engineering process for establishing and maintaining consistency of a product’s performance, functional and physical attributes with its requirements, design and operational information throughout its life. The CM process is widely used in defence, aerospace, software and many other industrial engineering segments.
The Need for Configuration Management
The configuration of a product (i.e. the release level of all the parts) needs to be managed and controlled so that all the parts fit together and ‘talk’ to each other correctly, and meet the requirements.
This is even more important if there are variants of a product, where the correct configuration of each variant must be maintained and if there is software in the product whose release level must match the release level of the hardware.
Configuration management is closely related to change management and the key in any new product development programme is to decide when items should be brought under formal configuration management and what that process looks like. In the early stages it is not productive to have too much in the way of change control, if any. While a designer is still struggling to come up with a viable design, he does not want to have to fill in a form every time he changes his drawing or CAD model.
However once other people become involved, especially purchasing and manufacturing, then it starts to become important, so that the correct release level of parts are bought and made. Thus a level of configuration management and change control is usually implemented once a part has been officially released.
Types of Configuration Management
Configuration management processes can take many forms and sometimes there is a different (less formal) process while a product is still in its prototype stages, compared to when it is in production. One type of configuration and change management that has gained traction over the years and seems to have quite a lot to recommend it is the CMII process from the Institute of Configuration Management. One very useful feature of this process is the use of ‘As Planned’ and ‘As Released’ baselines.
As products become more complex configuration management becomes more important
If you want to improve your configuration management for you new product development programmes contact us to see if we can help you to develop a better system.