Configuration Management (CM) is a management discipline that applies technical and administrative support in developing, producing and supporting the lifecycle of a Configuration Item. This discipline can be applied in hardware, software, processed materials, services, and related technical documentation. Essentially, it involves managing changes throughout the lifecycle of a product
In other words, Configuration Management (CM) is the process of taking care of products, facilities and processes by managing all aspects of the data surrounding them. This includes all the changes and makes sure they are exactly what they are supposed to be. International Standard ISO 10007 provides the guidance of using Configuration Management which is included in quality control.
The aircraft industry is made up of high technical inspections and development content. In every new aircraft project, several complex processes are done. In these complicated processes, many disciplines such as aerodynamics, production, structure calculation, etc. are carried out. Configuration Management, therefore, results out of the requirement of guaranteeing control in the relationships of complex process.
Configuration Management Process
Product design mainly deals with the form, fit and function of a product. How a product will be manufactured or how much it will cost are factors that are not usually considered until the later stages of product development. At this point, the design may have to be reworked so as to solve problems of quality or production.
Configuration Management can be subdivided into four major processes that include:
Configuration Identification is a crucial element that determines the breakdown of the product’s structure to enable a proper Configuration Management process. It involves identifying several documents that are part of configuration baselines for the system and low-level items that make up the baselines.
After identifying an item, it is known as a Configuration Item (CI). Configuration Identification is made up of all the products including the related documentation. This function defines the features of Configuration Items and describes the product structure, configuration performance, documentation interfaces and numbering.
It is responsible for identifying all the components and subcomponents within their related documents to provide an accessible way to view all the information needed for involved organizations.
In developing a complex product such as an aircraft, configuration identification is responsible for identifying the aircraft structure and understanding the aircraft by its components and subcomponents.
Change Management enables change decisions to reflect accurate change impact, and limiting changes to only those that are necessary or provide worthy benefits.
In the ISO standards, change management is a part of configuration control that includes document and justifies the change, evaluates consequences, approves or disapproves, implements and verifies the change and process deviations control.
Configuration Control manages the change process, indicates all the steps that change goes through, monitors them with their decisions and deliverables, and ensures the process follows the protocol.
After a serious investigation of the change, the impact is conducted, and the change is successfully integrated, configuration management is responsible for controlling the implementation.
This responsibility is given to both Configuration Change Control Board (CCB) and the Configuration Identification manager. The Change Control Board is made up of stakeholders, clients and other involved teams. The CCB assesses the changes based on important factors like making safety a priority and other factors such as costs, savings, and trade-offs.
Configuration Management, therefore, controls the changes and maintains consistency between the changes and documentation.
Configuration Status Accounting
The Configuration Status Accounting records and reports the established configuration, the condition of the proposed changes and the implementation of approved changes.
The records and reports comprise of:
- A record of the connection between configuration functions.
- An establishment of the configuration of each item at any time in terms of its requirements, design release and product configuration baselines where any difference can be noticed and corrected.
- Gives information to users about the identity, status and locations of approved configuration documentation.
- Records the relationship between configuration documents and changes.
- Establishes the implementation status of the approved changes.
- Allows the traceability of full change.
Configuration Status Accounting gives the status of all the items in the design process that are used to indicate the development level data precision.
Configuration Audit ensures that every earlier stage has been correctly integrated into the organisation, thereby, generating an audit report. Configuration Auditing takes place in different stages of the product life cycle. Audits performed before the baseline complies with the requirements.
A functional audit is taken to authenticate the performance and functional characteristics accomplished for Configuration Identification. A physical audit is done as Built Configuration Identification to verify conformance to product Configuration Management documents.
A wider and clear understanding of Configuration Management was done by various researchers. It was showcased as a bridge between the Engineering department and the rest of the world.
The function of Configuration Management is to make sure that what is being transferred through the bridge is documented properly with the least restriction on communication between design engineering and the rest of the world. If there are changes in a product’s lifecycle, CM disciplines and process will provide the vehicle to communicate properly with the rest of the world.
Many aerospace companies are applying the latest practices in Configuration Management to cater for all the advanced capabilities. If Configuration Management is not properly applied, it can negatively impact the product quality, delay the product launch and increase the life cycle cost of all their products.
Configuration Management is suited to solving complex problems and enables the reduction of periods of integration and design so as to reduce delivery time to the clients. CM is suitable for complex projects such as aircraft design, and it can also be used to integrate other projects or programs that manage products built by components, using many activities or processes.
CM was designed to manage processes, relationships and deliverables between different organizations. CM corrects problems in the life cycle stages and shortens the time it takes to change versions and enables good management to avoid errors.