Managing large engineering changes : the case of a high-tech microlithography equipment manufacturer

A.A. Alblas, J.C. Wortmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – In new product development (NPD), changes to the initial designs are often proposed for on-going design projects due to new insights. These engineering changes belong to a wide range from incremental to radical and, in their impact, even to discontinuous change. Consequently, the actual workload of development projects confronted with engineering changes does not match the initial work estimates for the project's work packages. Accordingly, the intended timing of readiness of development projects in an NPD program will drift away. This timing is one of the causes of change propagation to other projects which results in even more engineering changes. For larger changes, the effects on timing may be disastrous. The purpose of this paper is to reveal the cause-and-effect relationships triggered by various types of changes and explain the need for a more integrated approach to managing engineering change. Design/methodology/approach – A longitudinal case study was performed at a leading microlithography manufacturing company, in which almost 20,000 engineering changes were included. This study allowed the disclosure of the complexities of engineering change management and provides guidelines for handling the resulting problems arising from managing these various types of change. Findings – In the study, various sources of complexities in managing engineering change were observed, which hinder effective implementation of various types of engineering change. Based on the case observations, a number of improvement possibilities are proposed, such as: alignment of goals and impacts of engineering change on all organizational levels; and planning, monitoring and controlling discontinuous engineering changes as separate projects. Originality/value – Although further studies are needed to replicate the results, the paper gives a more thorough understanding of factors that could support the implementation of discontinuous innovation in incumbent firms by using the engineering change management process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1252-1280
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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